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In-Depth Interview: Former Congressman, and Former Republican, Tom Campbell, Wants to Start New Political Party

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The number of non-aligned voters in California almost equals the number of registered Republicans, and former Republican Tom Campbell wants to start a third political party.Is California ready for a “Bear Flag” party? Former Congressman Tom Campbell wants Californians to have more choice in statewide elections, and is pushing a plan to create a third party for the state.

In this conversation with PBC, who has known Campbell for more than 25 years, the former lawmaker talks about the need for a new party and the benefits it would offer to voters and candidates.

The creation of a viable third party in California might also inspire a national movement to shake up the two-party system that now dominates US politics.

In recent years, California voters approved initiatives to end gerrymandering and limit the role of political parties in primary elections: An independent redistricting commission draws the lines for legislative and congressional districts, and the nonpartisan blanket primary — also known as the “jungle primary” or “top two primary”— has reduced the control of party leaders in selecting primary candidates.

This podcast was first posted at WhoWhatWhy, where a full transcript is available.     

Campbell served five terms in the House of Representatives, and was the last Republican elected from Silicon Valley since 1998. He twice ran for the US Senate, served in the state senate, and was finance director to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is also a well-known academic who taught law at Stanford, served as dean of the business school at UC Berkeley, and presently teaches law and economics at Chapman University.

As a moderate Republican, Campbell lost to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) in the general election of 2000; in 2010 he lost the GOP Senate primary to Carly Fiorina. In 2016, he resigned from the Republican Party after it nominated Donald Trump. These combined experiences have led him to call for a new, third party in California.

Registered voters in California include about 8 million Democrats, 5.2 million Republicans, and 4.9 million who are tagged “No Party Preference” or NPP. Campbell wants to create a new party from the last group as well as the dominant two parties, and says the law allows a new party to be recognized if about 60,000 people statewide register for it. Campbell thinks he can achieve that number with a budget of about $100,000 to educate voters.