Get ready for the Independent Party of Utah: Merrill Cook and Greg Beesley are moving steadily toward creating such a third political party.
Cook, who ran an unsuccessful independent campaign for governor last year, and Beesley, father of the tax limitation movement, have been collecting signatures on a party petition for several weeks."We're leaning toward creating the party, although no final decision has been made," Cook said Tuesday. "We see it as a mainstream party, representing responsible tax reduction and helping the little guy through tying the state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage."
Cook and Beesley, renegades from the Republican Party, threatened a third-party movement last year. But they opted instead to go with Cook's independent candidacy and supporting either Republican or Democratic legislative candidates who supported their three tax-cutting initiatives.
Unfortunately for tax protesters, the tax initiatives failed at the polls, few legislative candidates supported the initiatives and no tax-limitation advocate won a seat in the Utah House or Senate.
Creating the Independent Party has two great advantages, said Cook: "We get an fair placement of our candidates on the ballot and we qualify for Check-A-Buck on 1989 state income taxes." The 1989 Check-A-Buck receipts will be paid to all official parties the summer of 1990, in time to be used in the 1990 fall campaigns. In 1987, Republicans got $50,025 from Check-A-Buck and Democrats received $39,890.
Cook filed suit against several counties last year when his name appeared at the bottom of the independent candidate column on their ballots, not close to where other governor candidates' names appeared. He lost that suit and believes he was "severely harmed" in those counties because of ballot placement.
Also, Cook, a millionaire, ended up giving more than $400,000 to his campaign. He's convinced his fund-raising abilities were harmed because he wasn't associated with a political party.
In June, Cook and Beesley must give the lieutenant governor's office petitions with at least 500 signatures of Utah residents. By July 1, Lt. Gov. W. Val Oveson will determine if the petitions are valid and, if so, certify the party.
The Independent Party will then have a column of its own on all ballots. Congressional, gubernatorial, legisla-tive and/or county candidates representing the party will appear on the same horizontal line as Republican, Democratic,American, Libertarian and Socialist Workers' Party candidates for those offices.
Cook said he and Beesley wanted to tie their latest initiative petition effort - the removal of sales tax on food - to the Republican or Democratic parties, or both. But it appears neither party will officially endorse the petition drive. "We can't get together with the Democrats, so we're moving toward an independent party," Cook said.
Last week State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi said he's stepping away from such a coalition - even though Democrats have long supported removing the sales tax from food - because of severe concerns by some Democratic leaders that the party shouldn't stand with Cook and Beesley.