Will the Real Third-Party Candidate Please Stand Up?
Horse logger and peace activist Boots Wardinski, a longtime member of the Liberty Union party, is entering the race for lieutenant governor -- as a Progressive.
Wardinski (pictured left in the photo) said he's running to earn the Progressive Party label because some elected officials in the third party are considering bids for office in the Democratic primary in 2010. Specifically, Wardinski points to State Rep. Dave Zuckerman (P-Burlington) and his potential bid for lieutenant governor as a Democrat.
"The fact that Zuckerman wants to cozy up to the Democrats is an important reason to give people a real alternative," Wardinski told Seven Days.
Zuckerman said he's not yet decided on whether he'll run.
"I am going to be making my decision based on the feedback I gather from across the state as well as my family and business considerations," he said.
The nearly perennial statewide candidate made his announcement on the blog Broadsides, authored by fellow horse logger and activist Michael Colby. Colby and Wardinski were arrested in St. Johnsbury and, after fighting their arrest all the way to the Supreme Court, they were cleared of the charges earlier this year. The charges?
In 2006, while the U.S. director of National Intelligence John Negroponte was delivering the commencement address at St. Johnsbury Academy, his son’s school, Colby and Wardinski repeatedly interrupted him. The pair were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
The high court said the state didn’t prove the men had caused “a substantial disruption of a lawful assembly.” And without a “substantial disruption,” the justices said, “we would be punishing them for speech in violation of the First Amendment.”
The pair were also among several others arrested for refusing to leave Rep. Peter Welch's office in protest of ongoing Congressional support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hey, at least they stand for something.
In fact, Wardinski said, unlike Congress, he would cut off all state funds and support for the military and the national guard in Vermont and turn it into a civilian corps.
"I am a pacifist," said Wardinski, who served as a Marine in Vietnam from 1963-1967. "I was thrown out of the Marine Corps because I was deemed unfit to be an officer. I had applied for non-combative service in the Marine Corps and they said I couldn't, and was thrown out."
He supports a single-payer health care system and socialized medicine. "The doctors need to be on salary -- there can be no fee for service. We can't control costs if doctors are allowed to simply charge what they want," he said. "That would be a major step in controlling costs."
Wardinski is also in favor of legalizing all drugs, and making them available via state-owned outlets -- similar to the way in which the state oversees liquor stores.
He believes Vermont Yankee should not be relicensed, and that no further layoffs should be issued to state workers.
For his part, Zuckerman said on a number of these issues -- shutting down VY, advocating for no more state layoffs, and promoting single-payer health care -- he has been a strong advocate. He also said his approach to run in the Democratic primary isn't going to sit well with some partisans.
"What I am considering is going to make some folks on all sides of the partisan divides uncomfortable, but I believe that far more voters would prefer to elect someone on the issues rather than getting mired down in party labels," said Zuckerman. "I have the one of the strongest records among elected officials in my stance on the need for more parties and electoral options for voters. I will continue to work for election reform to allow for that to occur."
Zuckerman took his campaign quest to the Progressive Party's blog on Thursday.
The question is if the Progressives will find someone else to run in the primary against Wardinski. They've done it before.
In 2004, Wardinski lost a bid to carry the Progressive banner in the race for attorney general. Instead, Sue Davis won the primary as a write-in candidate after party leaders decided to try and block Wardinski's candidacy. That year, he did win the Liberty Union nomination.
Progressive Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott said she is not concerned about Wardinski's candidacy in 2010, and said her party is trying to walk the fine line between maintaining their identity while remaining relevant in the dominant two-party system.
"Our challenge is to maintain our identity as a party that represents the interests of working Vermonters of middle and low income (including farmers), as distinct from the big-tent Democratic Party (where those interests get compromised away in an attempt to be on all sides of an issue), but also to cooperate with the Democratic Party when the stakes are significant," said Abbott in an email to Seven Days. "At the same time, we must not marginalize ourselves -- as many third parties have and as Mr. Wardinski and others would have us do -- by running in every race regardless of the stakes or the other candidates."
Wardinski said the Progs run the risk of disenchanting supporters by playing political footsy with their adversaries.
"If you start cozying up to either the Democrats or the Republicans, you compromise your principles, and it's important for people to get that message and for people to be disenchanted with that approach," said Wardinski. "Because otherwise you just become another sheep in the pasture of major candidates."