More than a win, Constitution Party candidates want ballot access

J.R. Myers has secured a spot on the November ballot. (J.R. Myers for Alaska Governor 2014)

J.R. Myers has secured a spot on the November ballot. (J.R. Myers for Alaska Governor 2014)

Alaskans will have one more option in the governor’s race: The Division of Elections will allow Constitution Party candidate J.R. Myers to appear on the ballot.

The Alaska Constitution Party has just over 200 members, and it was first recognized by the state in 2011. Because the organization is so new and small, it doesn’t qualify as a political party under statute. Instead, it’s lumped in with the Green Party and Veterans Party as “political group,” a sort of electoral purgatory where candidates have to collect signatures to get their names on the ballot.

Myers and his lieutenant governor running mate Maria Rensel each turned in over 4,000 names, exceeding the 3,017-signature threshold set by the Division of Elections to run for office.

Rensel says they’re not looking to beat incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell. Instead, they’re aiming for a more manageable 3 percent of the vote in a fight for ballot access. That would upgrade them to official “party” status, and guarantee them an automatic spot on the ballot next cycle.

“I’ve been telling people from the very beginning that we don’t have a snowball’s chance to take the race,” says Rensel. “It’s really about establishing this party.”

Rensel, who is also vice chair of the party, adds that signature gathering was a good exercise, even if they want to avoid going through it again. The Constitution Party started collecting signatures in February, and they’ve upped their number of registered voters by 40. While that’s not a lot in the context of the Republican and Democratic parties, it amounts to a 25 percent increase in membership for them.

“To me, it was a whole opportunity to get out and talk to people and see how many people were ready for this party,” says Rensel.

The Constitution Party also has one legislative candidate who will appear on the ballot. Pamela Goode got the necessary 50 signatures to run in House District 9, which stretches from Delta Junction to Valdez. She will face Democrat Mabel Wimmer and Republican Jim Colver, who unseated incumbent Rep. Eric Feige in the primary.

The Constitution Party is politically conservative, with an explicitly Christian worldview. Its goal, according to its platform, is to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” It has achieved some success in other states. In 2010, former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo ran for governor in Colorado as a Constitution Party candidate and took nearly 40 percent of the vote.

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