Upton backs No Labels bid to add third party to Michigan ballot ⋆

Starting as early as next month, Michigan voters may be asked to create a third political party that can offer an alternative choice for president in 2024 that critics say would function as a spoiler to help the GOP nominee.

Led, in part, by former U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), the No Labels Party would need to collect more than 45,000 signatures to get on the ballot in Michigan next year. While a daunting task, Upton said No Labels has the money and volunteers to make it happen.

“Unlike the petitions or the ballot proposals for abortion and marijuana, where you need 280,000 signatures, to be on Michigan’s ballot you need 45,000 people to sign on to propose for a third party ticket,” Upton told the .

The bipartisan initiative to get the new political party on the ballot in Michigan and across the country is being led by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit No Labels organization that promotes centrist policies. Created in 2009 by Democratic operative Nancy Jacobson, it was instrumental in creating the Problem Solvers Caucus in 2017. That group includes both Democratic and Republican House members who seek to create bipartisan cooperation in Congress.

Upton served as a vice chair for the Problem Solvers Caucus while in office until he retired in 2022 following backlash from some Republicans for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump. Upton said the group is moving forward with the initiative in all 50 states based on polling he said indicates across-the-board dissatisfaction with the status quo.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton | Andrew Roth

“Seventy percent or so of the American public doesn’t want a rematch of [President Joe] Biden and Trump,” said Upton. “We’ve done some pretty extensive polling, tens of thousands of people, and we actually think that there is a pathway to get 270 electoral votes to not be a spoiler like Ross Perot in 1992, but our polling actually shows that we take equally from both sides who are really not happy with the likelihood of a Biden/Trump rematch.”

When questioned about that polling, Upton demurred from specifics.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I’m just a volunteer. In the polling that I saw at the end of March, beginning of April, despite the indictments, Trump actually expanded his lead over Biden, which makes our point that people, on both sides, really don’t want to see a rematch.”

An online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted May 25 and 26 by NewsNation and Decision Desk HQ found just under 50% of those questioned said they were either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to consider voting for a third party candidate in the 2024 presidential election if the choice was Biden or Trump.

When asked who that third party candidate would be if they had to select someone other than Biden or Trump, progressive U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who ran for president twice as a Democrat and has endorsed Biden, was the top name at just over 20%. The only other candidate to reach double digits was former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who lost her seat in 2022 after being a vocal Trump critic, with just over 10%. 

Meanwhile, some moderates fear a No Labels ticket that includes someone like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) will pave the way for Trump to retake the White House.

One of those naysayers is U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), the current vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus.

“If No Labels runs a Joe Manchin against Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I think it will be a historic disaster,” Phillips told The New York Times. “And I speak for just about every moderate Democrat and frankly most of my moderate Republican friends.”

That disaster scenario was experienced by Democrats in 2016 when presidential candidates like Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein from the Green Party siphoned off votes from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to help flip Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to Donald Trump, allowing him to win the White House.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to reporters outside of the U.S. Capitol on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate is expected to pass a short term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

With that in mind, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), also a Problem Solvers Caucus member, is reticent to risk a repeat.

“Congresswoman Slotkin supports President Biden and believes Democrats need to stay united heading into 2024,” Slotkin spokesman Austin Cook told the Advance. “As we saw in 2016, running a third party candidate risks the very thing these activists claim they want to avoid: electing Donald Trump.” 

But Upton is adamant that the group’s purpose is strictly to offer a viable alternative to a Biden/Trump rematch, likening it to a game of Euchre.

“I love Euchre, and often if you get four nines and a 10, you can throw it in,” he said. “That’s how I describe this process. If it’s not Biden and Trump, we likely throw in the cards on this effort for a third party.”

Upton said the signature collection effort could start next month, but also possibly later in the summer. Either way, he said the group has the resources to get it done, not only in Michigan, but in all 50 states. No Labels plans to raise $70 million for the nationwide effort and has already secured spots on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon.

When asked about those resources, specifically where the group’s funding is coming from, he again couldn’t provide details.

“I can’t tell. I’m not involved in that. I’m only a volunteer,” he said, although he later clarified that while he is not being paid by the group he does participate in weekly Zoom meetings with the group’s leadership, while also participating in many of the planning sessions.

The group’s website is not much more informative about their donors, only saying they come from across the country, and across the political spectrum.

“We never share the names of our donors because we live in an era where agitators and partisan operatives try to destroy and intimidate organizations they don’t like by attacking their individual supporters,” states the website

The New Republic, however, reported in April that one of those donors is billionaire Harlan Crow, who has made headlines recently for his financial connections to right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. 

The New Republic said it had obtained a document indicating that between 2019 and 2021, Crow donated over $130,000 to No Labels. 

“Crow was considered a “whale”-level donor by the organization—an august status reserved for only the most generous donors,” reported the magazine. “Crow referred other donors to No Labels, ones who earned the “whale,” “dolphin,” and lesser “minnow” status.”

By 2021, The New Republic said Crow had steered nearly two dozen other donors to No Labels.

Influence Watch, a conservative-leaning funding watchdog, also notes numerous other major donors that have contributed to No Labels include Louis Bacon, a hedge fund manager and donor to Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and billionaire Nelson Peltz, a major Trump donor who ended up disavowing the former president after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The effort by No Labels to get on the ballot in Michigan comes at the same time another third party effort is underway. As the Advance was the first to report last month, a group of former Republicans plans to petition the Board of State Canvassers to form the Michigan Common Sense Party.

New: Former Republicans seek to create new centrist party and utilize fusion voting in Michigan

Organizer Jeff Timmer, who is a senior advisor to the anti-Donald Trump Lincoln Project and co-founder of Republicans and Independents for Biden, told the Advance that the effort is not about lodging a meaningless protest vote, but instead utilize fusion voting to provide additional votes for those candidates who respect the outcome of elections.

As for No Labels, Timmer was clear in his criticism.

“A third candidate has zero chance of winning,” he said. “Zero. Period. End of story. It’s childish unicorn fantasy to think otherwise.”

Timmer said No Labels is the polar opposite of what the Common Sense Party is looking to do. 

“We want to be a force multiplier, elevating pro-democracy rule of law candidates,” he said. “They will only play a spoiler by siphoning votes from Joe Biden and aiding Donald Trump’s reelection.”

Upton said he’s aware of the Common Sense Party, but sees a distinct difference.

“It seems like that’s an offshoot of the Lincoln Project, which was in essence solely an anti-Trump organization,” he said. “I think they’re more a reaction to just Trump, not necessarily Biden/Trump.”

If No Labels ends up fielding a presidential ticket, Upton was clear that he wasn’t interested.

“I’m not going to be like Dick Cheney, and pick myself to be on the ticket,” he said, laughing, referring to Cheney heading up George W. Bush’s VP search committee in 2000 and then getting the job. “I’m not going to Iowa anytime soon.”

authored by Jon King
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F06%2F13%2Fupton-backs-no-labels-bid-to-add-third-party-to-michigan-ballot%2F

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