HARTFORD, CT — The two factions of the Independent Party are still waiting for a Superior Court judge to determine their fate, but there’s an election coming up and both factions want to endorse a slate of statewide candidates.
However, if they nominate different candidates then Secretary of the State Denise Merrill will have no choice but to leave both names off the ballot. That’s unless the court decides to weigh in on the vagaries of Connecticut’s minor party statutes and fills in the blanks.
The Waterbury faction of the Independent Party plans to hold its convention for statewide candidates on Sunday. The Danbury faction of the Independent Party will hold its convention for statewide candidates on Monday, Aug. 27.
The rules of the two factions are slightly different in who the delegates are to the convention. The Waterbury faction only allows registered party members, whereas the Danbury faction allows party members and past nominees of the party to participate.
Mike Telesca, chairman of the Waterbury faction, said a candidate will need to get 51 percent of the vote to win the endorsement. There’s a ranked voting system on the ballot and the person with the least amount of votes will fall off after the first ballot.
Only members of the Independent Party can be delegates to the Waterbury convention Sunday. Telesca expects about 120 members to show up.
“There’s a tremendous amount of interest,” Telesca said.
Republican Bob Stefanowski, Oz Griebel, who is also petitioning his way onto the November ballot, and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti are all interested in the nomination for governor. Lauretti didn’t receive enough support at the Republican convention to automatically qualify for the Republican primary ballot.
If Griebel wins the nomination then he would have to give up his petitioning line and his name would only appear once on the ballot.
If Stefanowski succeeds in winning the nomination at both conventions then his name would appear twice on the ballot in November—once as a Republican and once under the Independent Party line. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont has already secured the Working Families Party ballot line so his name will appear twice on the ballot.
Voters will only be able to vote for a candidate under one party.
The Independent Party has 25,000 registered members statewide. It’s the third largest party in Connecticut.
However, exactly what is means to belong to the party is part of the divide between the Waterbury and Danbury factions.
Telesca says the Danbury faction has been taken over by Republicans. He said his faction in Waterbury is truly independent in its selection of candidates.
The Independent Party was first established as a minor party statewide in Connecticut when it gathered signatures and nominated Ralph Nader for president in 2008, and he garnered 1 percent of the vote.
Representatives of the Danbury faction were unable to be reached for comment.
Matthew Grimes, an attorney who represents the Danbury faction of the Independent Party, said the trial ended on March 23, 2018 and the court had 120 days to issue a ruling. It didn’t. In July Superior Court Judge Susan Peck asked both side for a 60 day extension. She also asked all sides to submit briefs about why they felt the court had jurisdiction to issue a ruling.
The one thing the two sides agree on is that the court needs to rule on the case and it needs to do it quickly.
The statutory deadline for minor parties to submit their nominees to the Secretary of the State for inclusion on the November ballot is 4 p.m. Sept. 5.
The defendant in the case is Merrill, who has explained to the court that she has no jurisdiction in an intra-party dispute and is unable to weigh in on the internal control of a political party.
“As the Secretary is not a proper authority to resolve the intra-party dispute the parties have asked this Court to resolve, she cannot interject herself in a matter for which the legislature has not accorded her authority and where First Amendment interests caution limited governmental intrusion,” Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy Osborne wrote in a brief.
It’s unclear when Peck might issue a decision.
Telesca said that’s why they’re pushing forward and holding the conventions.
Connecticut voters might appreciate having more than the two major parties to choose from in November.
A recent Rasmussen Reports national phone and online poll found that 46 percent of likely voters believe it would be good for the United State is there was a truly competitive third party.