The Liberty Union Party wrested enough votes in this week’s general election to earn major party status.
Liberty Union candidate Mary Alice Herbert won 13 percent of the vote in the Secretary of State’s race — far more percentage-wise than other minor party candidates in other races. Jim Condos, the Secretary of State, ran for the Democrats, the Progressives, Working Families and the Republicans.
If a political party wins more than 5 percent of the vote in any single statewide race, it qualifies as a major party for the next election cycle.
That means that in 2014, there will be an additional primary ballot for Liberty Union candidates, along with ballots for Democrats, Republicans and Progressives.
It also means Liberty Union candidates could be invited to more debates.
Ed Stanak, widely praised as a credible Progressive candidate for attorney general, secured 6 percent of the vote in his race. Lieutenant governor candidate Cassandra Gekas, who ran as a Progressive first and a Democrat second, captured 41 percent of the vote, and assured continued major party status for Progressives.
Widely viewed as a candidate who ran unopposed, Condos said he didn’t find it surprising that Herbert won 13 percent, or 34,000 votes, against him.
“A lot of the Republicans, that really were not happy with me being on their ballot, representing the Republican Party, probably voted for her,” said Condos. “It was the only other alternative that they had, other than a write-in.”
Condos said Hebert ran an invisible campaign, and declined an October debate invitation from Channel 17 in Burlington, where she would’ve faced off with Condos. According to a Secretary of State biographical publication about statewide candidates, Herbert is a retired 77-year-old Putney school teacher.
“In a sense I was standing rather than running,” Herbert said. She attributed her success to “voters who kind of want to keep Liberty Union going, but don’t want to risk upsetting a race they’d consider more important. They’ll choose a race like Secretary of State or auditor of accounts, something that seems less vital, than lieutenant governor or governor.”
Herbert ran regularly for Secretary of State in the 1980s, and in 1996 ran for governor, against Howard Dean, pitching herself as “the Kindergarten Teacher who wants to teach the Governor a lesson.”
Jessica Diamondstone, a Liberty Union treasurer candidate and daughter of party co-founder Peter Diamondstone, said, “Of course we’re thrilled to have major party status again.”
She added that the party had been a major party on and off several times since its establishment, so that the status wasn’t particularly new or exciting. She also called the minor-major party distinction “really a tool for keeping the governing body an elitist community.”
Liberty Union last held major party status in 2008. Sen. Bernie Sanders began his political career as a Liberty Union candidate in the 1970s before becoming an independent candidate.