Joe Lieberman’s phoenix-like recovery from the ashes of his astonishingly bad primary effort has left him (rather ironically) freer than ever to pursue his destiny as he sees fit. He has left the door open to caucusing with Senate Republicans; hired as his chief of communications a man who has probably the most eclectic vitae on the national scene; and talked openly about the potential for a viable third major party in this country. He demonstrated that even a candidate from his own party with a silver bullet issue, a fervent base of support, and unlimited funding could not take him out and, as the truism goes, what doesn’t kill you in politics makes you stronger.
Joe Lieberman is now a franchise like no other in US politics, never mind Connecticut politics. This is not Bernie Sanders. This isn’t Lowell Weicker. This isn’t Ross Perot. Lieberman did what he chose to do and he won.
What if Joe decided to act on his public rumination (if that is all it was) and sought to build on his victory for the Senate? Could he set up shop as a true kingmaker in ’10 in Connecticut? One might wonder if the author of The Power Broker is nurturing a desire to take up the role that John Bailey crafted – first in Connecticut and ultimately nationally – updated for the twenty-first century.
What would it take to do that? As things stand right now, Connecticut for Lieberman is technically a minor party, because it got 1% of the vote in the Senate race, and cannot endorse a candidate for Governor or any office other than United States Senate. “Minor Party status is conferred office-by-office, election-by-election,” according to Michael Kozik, Managing Attorney for the Secretary of the State’s office. “The steps for becoming a Minor Party [are]… first you have to petition onto the ballot under that Party name for some office. Then, you run a candidate and your candidate running under your Party gets at least one percent of the vote. That makes you a minor Party. Then the next time that office appears on the ballot, you can simply endorse a candidate by filing a certificate.”
CfL has a line the next time United States Senator appears on the ballot and not for other purposes. “That’s the basic difference between a Major Party and a Minor Party,” Kozik said “Minor Party you only get your status one office at a time.”
Could CfL become a Major Party in Connecticut? There are two paths to that. “Either your candidate for Governor gets at least twenty percent of the vote, or you have enrolled as members of your Party at least twenty percent of the total number of enrolled party members in all Parties, statewide.” In other words that doesn’t include the Unaffiateds. Although a number of people have randomly told me that they are going to change their registration from Democrat “because you guys threw Lieberman out”, that is an awful lot of Party registration changes.
However, Kozik added this bit of history “It was done this way because the year that Weicker won the Governorship there was concern that the Democrats wouldn’t get twenty percent of the vote. Right after that election, they amended the Statute to put in the 20% of registration provision to keep Major Party status.” Democratic nominee Bruce Morrison got 24% in that election. Figure the “yellow dog” vote is probably lower than that today.
We’ve discussed the widespread disaffection that Connecticut Republicans feel with the national GOP. Lieberman got a significant percentage of the Democratic vote statewide, and Unaffiliateds turned out for him, splitting their tickets after voting for Governor and then coming all the way back up the ballot to vote in the Congressional races. The Legislature is dominated by Democratic caucuses that have significant representation from both the “progressive” and the “moderate” wings of the Party. And political threats have already been made by some activists against some Democrats who refuse to bend to their views.
Lieberman is a man who has thought globally and acted locally from the very beginning of his career, has the ambition of a Presidential contender and world leader and, thanks to his decisive and broadly based victory three weeks ago, owes fealty to no party nor group. Connecticut ain’t New York or California. It is a small state with no clear political pole. If you wanted to undertake a Teddy Rooseveltian project, you might just look for a place like Connecticut to get started.
What would you do if you were in his position?