When California Secretary of State Debra Bowen released the names of presidential candidates to be listed on the ballot for the June 5 state primary, she omitted two of four candidates submitted by the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) electoral coalition: Stephen Durham of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
The decision met with immediate objections from all three parties, who demanded that Bowen reverse course and add the names to the list, as she is legally required to do. Thus far she has refused and the Freedom Socialist Party is pursuing a legal challenge.
Durham, who is running for president on a Freedom Socialist Party ticket with Christina López for vice president, called Bowen’s decision “an act of political censorship.” Durham mused, “It makes you wonder if the Democrats are afraid of real socialists taking on Obama.” Bowen is a Democrat.
Durham, 64, who has previously run for New York state office, is on the FSP National Committee and serves as the party’s organizer in New York City in addition to representing the party in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In an unsigned Feb. 17 reply to a letter of protest by the San Francisco Durham/López campaign coordinator, Bowen’s office listed a series of requirements as an apparent explanation for Durham’s exclusion. The criteria included “having a campaign office, a campaign website, making Federal Election Commission filings, participating in debates, and being referred to in the news media.”
Kevin Akin of the PFP California executive committee answered this argument in a comprehensive response to the anonymous official in the Secretary of State’s office.
Akin pointed out that, first of all, the state’s criteria for each party are different and specific. The state elections code only requires a PFP candidate to be “generally advocated for or recognized throughout the United States or California as actively seeking the presidential nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party.” This, wrote Akin, is verifiably true for both Stephen Durham and Peta Lindsay.
As Aiken explained, the Durham candidacy meets most of the stipulations the anonymous official outlined, even though they were designed for other parties. While the campaign for Durham/López will be primarily a write-in effort outside of California, it has offices around the country, including two in California. It filed with the FEC shortly before Bowen’s announcement and will be participating in upcoming debates. Since the campaign’s launch in mid-January, it has already received significant coverage online and in independent media.
López linked Bowen’s stand to the larger issue of new restrictive voter ID laws. She pointed out that “Bowen is not only violating the rights of the three parties involved, she is denying California voters the right to choose their representatives. Across the country, people are being required to produce birth certificates and even proof of residency to vote. It points to the fact that this is not what a democracy looks like when minor parties are excluded from the ballot and laws are passed targeting groups that are already underrepresented at the polls: the poor and homeless, immigrants, people of color and prisoners.” López, 43, is president of Seattle Radical Women and a leader in a three-year grass-roots campaign against budget cuts in Washington state.
Among those who agree with Durham and López is Unite Left! of New York. This group has initiated an on-line petition demanding that Bowen conform with the law. Doug Barnes, Durham/López national campaign manager, is asking those who support greater political diversity on the ballot to sign the petition. You can do so by clicking here.
Additionally, he would like to see Bowen deluged with letters, phone calls, emails and tweets. Her office can be reached at www.sos.ca.gov/.
Contact: Doug Barnes, campaign manager
Freedom Socialist 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee
4710 University Way NE, Ste. 100
Seattle, WA 98105
Phone 206-985-4621, email VoteSocialism@gmail.com
Los Angeles campaign office: phone 323-732-6416,
San Francisco Bay area campaign office: phone 415-864-1278,