Evan Falchuk, the first candidate to run under the newly formed United Independent Party (UIP) in Massachusetts, knew when he started campaigning that he had little chance of becoming the next governor.
But even though he lost the bid, he still won, as his real accomplishment on Election Day – an accomplishment shared amongst most independent-minded Massachusettsians – was gaining the 3 percent of the vote needed for his party to become officially recognized by the state.
He earned 3.3 percent – 71,144 total votes – in the governor's race and with that gave a much needed voice to the 53 percent of Massachusetts voters who are registered as independents.
It was an arduous journey for Falchuk, who faced campaign finance and ballot access laws designed to unjustly benefit the two-party system. There were even members of the press who “willfully wouldn't cover” his campaign, according to Falchuk:
“There was a debate that we were excluded from, and I ended up filing a lawsuit against one of the TV networks, a major newspaper, and the Chamber of Commerce because they invited me to the debate, and then decided to exclude me after seeing my performance.” - Evan Falchuk
Now, Falchuk and the UIP are switching gears to accomplish their next, equally important goal leading up to the 2016 elections: keeping UIP's official party status.
“We've managed to re-purpose our organization from being a campaign for governor to being all about party building,” said Falchuk. “We have six full-time staff and dozens of volunteers across the state waiting for the next step.”
In order for the UIP to retain its official party status, Massachusetts law says that the party must do one of two things:
- Receive at least 3 percent of the vote in the next statewide election, or
- Sign up 43,000 voters as members of the UIP.
But because the only statewide race in 2016 is the presidential race, and UIP isn't running a candidate, Falchuk and his party are planning massive efforts to sign up voters.
“Our next goal is to ensure that by the end of 2015, we've got 50,000 people enrolled to make sure we are well above the numbers that are required," said Falchuk. "And we will continue to build out our organization and our team and really create something that will be lasting.”
UIP can't begin enrolling voters until Massachusetts' secretary of state certifies the election results, which is expected to be done on December 3.
Along with their efforts to build out the UIP voter base, Falchuk says he and his staff are also beginning to consider which candidates they will run in 2016.
“What we've been telling people for over a year is that we've got the opportunity to build a framework that will support many new smart candidates for our legislature and can bring about real permanent change to the way our system works -- make it really represent people again. And that's what we are building with UIP,” Falchuk said.“We're going to run candidates for state legislative races and we're going to make a real impact, and this is just the beginning,” he added.
Falchuk says more than 20 people have reached out to UIP, expressing a desire to run on its ticket in 2016 for one of the many open state legislative spots. And while he can't confirm any of them will actually be running as UIP candidates, Falchuk says the party will be “picking some really interesting people” over the next year and a half. However, he insists it's unlikely that he will run again in 2016.
“I'm not planning to run in 2016,” he said. “I'm going to be helping field these candidates in 2016. We need a lot of really great legislative candidates and so my focus is on enrolling people, helping find those great candidates, getting them out there, and having them win. These races are important and we want to make a real impact.”
It may seem somewhat contradictory for an independent to belong to a political party, but Falchuk stressed that in order to fight the two-party duopoly, “having an organized structure to support candidates” is essential. It's the “only way to have an impact and to win elections, as there is so much work and administrative back office tasks you need to run a successful campaign.”
“What we need to have is a structure that allows for people to make brave choices and bring about positive change missing in our politics. And you can only do that within the confines of and with the power of an organized structure. That's really what UIP is about. It's possible – it's hard, but it's possible,” Falchuk said.
Image: Evan Falchuk / Source: United Independent Party