What is the Independent Party?

As voters prepare for the upcoming election on Nov. 6, they will notice a line on the ballot called “Independent Party.”

The Independent Party is the third-largest political party in the state with approximately 28,000 active voters. But its numbers pale compared to the approximate 771,000 registered Democrats and 453,000 Republicans as last recorded by the secretary of the state in 2017.

While voters who are are not registered as Democrats, Republicans, or any other political party, often refer to themselves as “independents,” they are actually deemed “unaffiliated” and are not members of the Independent Party.” Unaffiliated voters top the list of registered voters with 861,000 recorded in 2017.

Some voters have expressed confusion about the Independent Party line on the Nov. 6 ballot because all the candidates are cross-endorsed Republicans.

That’s because to be considered by the Independent Party for spots on the ballot, interested candidates, of any party, were required to collect petition signatures. The petitions were then voted on at an Independent Party caucus in Danbury, which approved the petitions. In this election, the caucus approved Republican candidates.   

The Republicans who were cross-endorsed by the Independent Party will appear on two lines on the ballot. The vote totals of both lines will be added together.

Having a candidate’s name appear on two lines on the ballot can be pivotal. In 2010, Democrat Dannel Malloy was cross-endorsed for governor by the Working Families Party, and his name appeared on two lines. The vote tally from that second line propelled him to victory in the governor’s race.

This year, a number of Democrats are again cross-endorsed on the Working Families Party line, which as its name implies, endorses candidates supportive of working families. The Connecticut branch of the party was founded in 2002 and is an offshoot of the national Working Families Party. The party bills itself as a “growing progressive political organization that fights for an economy that works for all of us, and a democracy in which every voice matters.”

However, what the Independent Party stands for is currently under litigation. Two factions of the party — one from Danbury and the other from Waterbury — are vying for control to see who is the real “Independent Party,” and which group gets control over the ballot lines.

The Danbury faction believes its caucus nominations are a valid way to determine candidates. The Waterbury faction, led by Michael Telesca, claims its 2010 bylaws are the true way the party should be governed. Telesca further claims the Danbury faction is basically just a “proxy” for Republican candidates.

In August, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Waterbury faction. That decision is under appeal and awaiting judgment.

“The Independent Party is a ballot access party and provides candidates a choice,” Telesca said in an interview with The Bulletin.

He said the party may endorse Democrats or Republicans, or offer up its own candidates at their nominating caucuses. “As leader of the party, I don’t care who wins the caucus as long as the caucus is run legitimately,” he said.

But the Danbury faction of the Independent Party, he said, does not follow the Waterbury faction’s bylaws and instead is just rubber-stamping Republican candidates.

Telesca said he expects the court decision about control of the Independent Party to be rendered soon.