Utah's third parties hope to be first choice

More than a quarter of candidates are not Republicans or Democrats

Published: Sunday, Oct. 15 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Roger I. Price of Personal Choice Party attends a meet-the-candidates night in West Jordan. "I could maybe surprise people" with a victory, he says.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

The candidate has no money for bumper stickers. But, anyway, what would they say? "Hatch for U.S. Senate"? Already taken. "Julian Hatch for U.S. Senate"? Won't that look like a misprint?

Like other third-party hopefuls, the Green Party candidate for Orrin Hatch's Senate seat is having some trouble getting noticed in the dwindling days of the 2006 election season. His is such a long-shot race, says Julian Hatch, that he has turned away contributions for fear of wasting someone else's money. Instead he has put in about $2,000 of his own funds, mostly for gas and food on the campaign trail. That's compared to $4.5 million raised by the other, more well-known Hatch.

Those are 2,205 to 1 odds, if money is any indication. Julian Hatch figures he has no hope of winning — but he's running anyway. He says he wants to give voters a choice and he wants to get a different set of ideas into the public discourse.

"Why do we even need an election in Utah? We could just coronate Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett," he says. "But the reason to have an election is to have some kind of debate" — although probably not an actual debate, since the incumbent has yet to share a campaign venue with his third-party challengers.

There are four third-party candidates (if four entities can all be considered the "third party") running for Orrin Hatch's seat. In addition to Julian Hatch of the Desert Greens Green Party of Utah, there is Scott Bradley of the Constitution Party, Roger I. Price of the Personal Choice party and Dave S. Seely of the Libertarian Party.

There are also seven third-party candidates running for Utah's three congressional seats: a Libertarian and a Constitutional party candidate in each district, and one Green Party candidate running against Rep. Jim Matheson.

More than a quarter of candidates for state offices this year aren't Republicans or Democrats, a total of 63 third-party candidates for 238 spots. Some, like 2nd Congressional District Green Party candidate Bob Brister and 1st Congressional District Constitution Party candidate Mark Hudson, have never run for public office before. Others are veterans: Ken Larsen is giving it a go for the 11th time since 1972, despite a long string of defeats, this time running for Utah Senate District 2.

Common causes

They are, by and large, an impassioned bunch, rarely equivocal, less likely to be lawyers, more colorful than their Democratic or Republican counterparts, more likely to quote Founding Fathers and the Bible, less likely to talk about roads than about freedom. The U.S. Constitution is a favorite topic, although each of the third parties has its own spin.

At a recent meet-the-candidates night at Daybreak in West Jordan, 3rd Congressional District Constitution Party candidate Jim Noorlander attacked illegal immigration, pornography and gay marriage as "symptoms of a disease, the disease of socialism." He has produced a DVD outlining his philosophy that America is a nation whose founding was favored by God and whose constitution is based on "eternal, gospel principles." Democracy, argues the Constitution Party, is the worst form of government, because the majority doesn't always follow God's laws.

Although most third-party candidates don't have deep pockets, they do have the Internet, and each congressional candidate has a Web site (although some are still "under construction."). Third Congressional District candidate Philip Hallman, at 27 the youngest candidate, is campaigning via MySpace.

A personal incident that Hallman describes as "police misconduct/abuse" propelled him to think about "the implications of state power" and to run for office as a Libertarian. For other candidates, the impetus to run was more incremental: as U.S. Senate Constitution Party candidate Scott Bradley says: "I asked myself, 'Are we closer to the 'foundational principles' (of the Founding Fathers) than we were 40 years ago or four years ago or four months ago?"'

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