Editorial: More political options a plus

Party of the Center fell short this year but should push on.

A group of Kansans pushing for the creation of a centrist party is right to continue their efforts despite coming up short in 2018. After all, Kansans can only benefit from additional political options, especially one dedicated to counter balancing political extremism on either side.

Organizers of the Party of the Center said they fell short of getting the 18,000 signatures required to get party candidates on this year’s ballot. The deadline was June 1.

Still, Scott Morgan of Lawrence, one of the leading proponents of the new party, said the group is encouraged about its prospects for 2020. “We’re in it for the long game,” Morgan said.

Morgan, who ran unsuccessfully for Kansas secretary of state as a Republican in 2014 and left the Republican Party last year to focus on the Party of the Center, told KCUR last week that the proposed party is focused more on process and good government than ideology.

“That unserved, untapped market of people who are lost without a party is just massive,” he said.

Polling shows large negative ratings for both Democrats and Republicans, and an increasing number of people who identify as independents. But despite the dissatisfaction with the two major parties, third-party efforts have largely been unsuccessful on state and national levels. Even if a majority of voters identify more with the general philosophies of the center, most feel strongly about one or two issues that can drive alignment with one of the two major parties.

That creates an uphill battle for third-party efforts.

Under Kansas law, in order for a new party to be recognized and have its candidates listed on the ballot, organizers must collect petition signatures equal to 2 percent of all the ballots cast in the last election for governor. That’s 18,000 signatures based on the turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial race. If the signature drive is successful, the party must nominate at least one candidate for a statewide office each gubernatorial election cycle, and its candidates must get at least 1 percent of the vote in order for the party to keep its recognition.

The Party of the Center does have the assistance of the Serve America Movement, a national 527 political organization founded in 2017. One of SAM’s primary missions is to reform the nation’s political system by ensuring voters have more choices on the ballot in general elections and chose Kansas as a pilot state for its efforts.

“Nearly a third of Kansans identify as unaffiliated,” said SAM organizer Sarah Lenti, who previously served in the George W. Bush administration. “We believe that this sizeable group of unaffiliateds — and yes, even some self-identified Republicans and Democrats — are looking for new and different options when it comes to candidates.”

Kansas’ recent history is evidence that while ideology and extremism have appeal in campaign cycles, they often don’t foster good government. A party dedicated to supporting moderates focused specifically on good governance would offer Kansans a welcome alternative to some of the options they’ve had in the past.

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