Originally published on AZ Central at 12:52 p.m. MT March 20, 2023Updated 12:53 p.m. MT March 20, 2023 Author: Mary Jo Pitzl Arizona Republic
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Arizona’s swing state turf has attracted interest from another political party that’s hoping to appeal to voters fed up with extremism and division.
The Forward Party, launched by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, announced plans Saturday to seek ballot status in Arizona, which would allow it to have candidates running under its banner.
The push comes on the heels of the No Labels Party gaining ballot status as Arizona’s newest political party earlier this month. Both upstart efforts hope to appeal to independent voters as the crucial 2024 presidential election year nears, but whether either party would field a candidate for president or endorse a candidate from another party is unclear.
At a crowded, buzzy launch in downtown Phoenix, Yang called Arizona “ground zero for democracy.”
“This is a genuine swing state that’s going to determine the future of America,” he said.
He was joined on stage by Secretary of State Adrian Fontes — an “act of courage,” Yang told the crowd, given Fontes, a Democrat, is an elected official.
Fontes, while describing himself as “a proud Democrat,” pledged to keep partisanship out of the election oversight his office is tasked with. But the current two-party system tends to produce candidates from the extremes of the Democratic and Republican parties, often leaving voters with unappetizing choices, Fontes said.
Yang said the Forward Party will work to ensure all voices are heard.
One way to do that is through ranked-choice voting, a policy the Forward Party promotes, though Yang did not specifically mention it in his rally speech.
To mimic how the policy would work for elections, party organizers provided free flights of beer at the event and encouraged attendees to rank them in order of preference.DIG DEEPER
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Chris Hendrickson is leading the party’s efforts in the state. Initially, the goal is to gather about 50,000 voter signatures to qualify the party for the Arizona ballot. That effort has yet to begin, but Hendrickson said the group wants to submit petitions to the Secretary of State’s office by November.
For now, Hendrickson said there is no intent to run candidates. But the party intends to elect candidates, regardless of political affiliation, who will reshape the voting process to allow voters more choice than the current two-party dominant system provides.
To that end, four Arizona House Democrats attended Saturday’s launch to announce themselves as “Forward Democrats,” meaning they support many of the aims of the Forward Party but will not change their party affiliation.
They are representatives Alma and Consuelo Hernandez of Tucson, Lydia Hernandez of Phoenix and Keith Seaman of Casa Grande.
Jim Calle drove from Tucson to learn more about the party. In his view, the Forward Party seems more interested in bipartisanship than in developing an issues platform.
“They want to start a party, but they don’t have a platform,” he said. “Frankly, I think it’s backwards.”
Yang has said the people who join the party will be the platform.
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Vamsi Krishna Pappusetti came to Saturday’s event primarily because he’s a fan of Yang.
“I don’t know if I’ll join the Forward Party,” said Pappusetti, who describes himself as a moderate conservative. But, he added, he likes their philosophy, largely because of ranked-choice voting.
Grassroots effort Voter Choice Arizona is working to bring a measure to the 2024 ballot that would create ranked-choice voting.
Khzz Fernandes, acting executive director of Voter Choice, was at Saturday’s launch and said the ranked-choice system is key to making third parties viable.
A Republican-backed bill in the state Legislature would bar the practice, although a voter referendum, if successful, would overrule any legislative action.
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