Long-time Democrat Scott Harshbarger, who held the office of Attorney General and ran for Governor as a Dem, has handed in his registration card and has joined Evan Falchuk’s (and jconway‘s) United Independent Party. From a post at Commonwealth Magazine:
[A]s a lifelong Democrat, honored to serve in public office for 16 years, and as an advocate for good government and citizen engagement, I’m joining the United Independent Party (UIP). My goal is to help the UIP reach its legally-required benchmark of 43,000 enrollees by this November….
Harshbarger’s main point is that uncontested elections are a bad thing: “once again, a majority of our legislators are unopposed for re-election, not just in the primary but also in the general election. As a result, even common sense proposed reforms such as public financing, independent redistricting, and overturning Citizens United are all political non-starters. We all know that this is wrong!” He continues:
[I]n Massachusetts, neither my Democratic Party with its overwhelming majority, nor the on-life-support Republican Party solicits or encourages citizens to run for office against any incumbent of either party. As an official party, the United Independent Party will offer us challengers in races across the Commonwealth under a banner of independent thinkers promoting nonpartisan public policies that deserve to be heard and debated. That fact alone will begin creating the climate for reform.
Ensuring contested elections is the single most important reform we can implement right now to encourage citizen engagement and renew our democracy. That is why it matters that enough of us – Democrats, Republicans, and the unenrolled – register and join the UIP by November so it can be a vehicle for contested legislative elections.
I’d call this an interesting development. Harshbarger is, to my knowledge, now the highest-profile member of the UIP. If he were to undertake a serious recruiting effort, one can certainly imagine that UIP would find it easier to reach official party status.
Certainly, the embarrassing prevalence of uncontested elections year after year is a serious problem. So, good for Harshbarger for making it a priority and putting his own party registration in the service of addressing it.