Working Families Party

Working Families Party of New York
Chairman Sam Williams (co-chair)
Bob Master (co-chair)
Founded 1998
Headquarters 2 Nevins Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Ideology American Progressivism
Political position Fiscal: Center-left
Social: Center-left
International affiliation None
Official colors Blue and White
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The Working Families Party (WFP) is a minor political party in the United States founded in New York in 1998. There are "sister" parties to the New York WFP in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont and Oregon, but there is as yet no national WFP. It seems likely that the state WFPs will form a federation of sorts before 2012, but nothing definitive has been announced.

New York's Working Families Party was first organized in 1998 by a coalition of labor unions, ACORN and other community organizations, members of the now-inactive national New Party, and a variety of public interest groups such as Citizen Action of New York.[citation needed] The party blends a culture of political organizing with unionism, 1960s idealism, and tactical pragmatism. The party's main issue concerns are jobs, health care, education and energy/environment. It has usually cross-endorsed Democratic or Republican candidates through fusion voting, but has occasionally run its own candidates.

In the 1998 election for governor of New York, the party cross-endorsed the Democratic Party candidate, Peter Vallone. Because he received more than 50,000 votes on the WFP line, the party gained an automatic ballot line for the succeeding four years.[1] In 2000, Patricia Eddington of the WFP was elected to the New York State Assembly. In the 2002 election, the Liberal Party, running Andrew Cuomo (who had withdrawn from the Democratic primary), and the Green Party, running academic Stanley Aronowitz, failed to reach that threshold and lost the ballot lines they had previously won. This left the WFP as the only left-progressive minor party with a ballot line. This situation will continue until at least 2011 following the party's cross-endorsement of Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 election, in which he received more than 155,000 votes on the Working Families Party line, more than three times the required 50,000. The Working Families Party endorsed the then U.S. Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.[2]

As of 2006, the executive director of the WFP is Dan Cantor. The party's Co-Chairs are Sam Williams, UAW Region 9 CAP director; Bertha Lewis, ACORN's executive director; and Bob Master of the Communications Workers of America. The WFP also has a powerful alliance with Dennis Rivera and Local 1199/SEIU (Service Employees International Union). The intensely activist union is known to contribute more than $100,000 a year of the party's $1.4 million annual budget.


Electoral strategy

Like other minor parties in the state, the WFP benefits from New York's electoral fusion laws that allow cross-endorsement of a single candidate by multiple parties. This allows sympathetic voters to support a minor party without feeling like they are "wasting" their vote. Usually, the WFP endorses the Democratic Party candidate, but it has occasionally endorsed Republican Party candidates in Westchester, Nassau, and Erie counties, often as a strategy for spurring bi-partisan action on its policy priorities. The party's sometime-position at the balance of electoral power and the threat of Republican endorsement has allowed it to influence the politics of local Democratic candidates and the state Democratic party. The support of the WFP is sometimes quite important in Democratic primaries, especially in areas where the WFP has a lot of volunteers, such as Binghamton.

In unusual cases, the WFP has put forward its own candidates. In the chaotic situation following the assassination of New York City councilman James E. Davis by political rival Othniel Askew, the slain councilman's brother Geoffrey Davis was chosen to succeed him in the Democratic primary. As it became clear that Geoffrey Davis lacked his late brother's political experience, fellow Democrat Letitia James decided to challenge him in the general election on the WFP ticket and won Brooklyn's 35th City Council district as the first third-party candidate elected there in 30 years. In 2003, the WFP had candidates in over 500 races throughout New York State, the majority of them cross-endorsed. As of April 1, 2010, the Working Families Party had 35,753 enrolled members [1], who are eligible to vote in party primaries, 0.34% of registered voters statewide.

In 2006, the party began ballot access drives in California,[3] Delaware, Massachusetts,[4] Oregon, and South Carolina.[5] South Carolina is one of the few states, aside from New York, to permit fusion and the Labor Party had also completed a recent ballot access drive there. Oregon's Working Families Party has gained ballot access with the stated goal of creating a New York-style ballot fusion system.

2006 candidates

In South Carolina, WFP cross-endorsed Democratic party congressional nominees Randy Maatta, (District 1) and Lee Ballenger, (District 3).[6] In the SC State House elections, the WFP cross-endorsed Democratic Party candidates Anton Gunn (Kershaw, Richland), Eugene Platt (Charleston).[7] In New York, the WFP cross-endorsed the statewide Democratic Party slate.

In Massachusetts, Rand Wilson won enough votes in the general election for State Auditor to guarantee the Working Families Party ballot access in the following election. Wilson garnered 19% of the vote in the head to head race against Democratic incumbent Joe DeNucci, allowing ballot access in 2008. However the ballot initiative, "question 2", that would allow candidates to be nominated by more than one party failed. The WFP in Massachusetts dubbed the question 2 campaign, "Spinach for Democracy."

2007 victories

The WFP elected two party members to the city council of Hartford, Connecticut.[8]

2008 candidates

On May 10, 2008 the South Carolina Working Families Party convention endorsed five candidates for state and local office.[9] All candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination via the June 10 primary. The convention instructed the incoming party leadership to nominate the eventual Democratic nominees for President and Vice-President. One candidate, Eugene Platt, running SC State House District 115, was also nominated by the South Carolina Green Party.[10] The nomination of Michael Cone for the US Senate race, opposing incumbent Lindsey Graham, marked the first time the party nominated anyone for statewide office.[11] Cone was defeated by Horry County Republican Committee member Bob Conley in the Democratic Primary. The SCWFP failed to file paperwork with the South Carolina Election Commission confirming Cone's nomination by the September 5, 2008 deadline. Therefore Cone will not appear on the November ballot.[12] Although WFP did not have its own presidential nominee for the 2008 presidential election, Senator Barack Obama was cross-listed on the Working Family Party's ballot line E on the New York State ballot.[2] Oregon's Working Families Party has primarily endorsed Democratic candidates (such as Ben Westlund and Kate Brown) and liberal nonpartisan candidates Brad Avakian and Kitty Piercy, but has used its ballot line to nominate J. Ashlee Albies for Attorney General.[13] Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy of CT-05 was also endorsed by the party, and won reelection.

2009 candidates

For the elections taking place in November, 2009, the WFP endorsed several candidates for local offices. Among them were Bill Thompson for New York City mayor and Corey Ellis for Albany mayor.[14]

In 2009, the WFP endorsed two candidates for the Board of Education in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Both candidates won election and are now members of the board. [15]


The WFP was launched with the agenda of well-paying jobs, affordable housing, accessible health care, better public schools and more investment in public services.

On December 6, 2004, the WFP saw the enactment of one of its highest legislative priorities, an increase in the New York State minimum wage, which it had supported since its inception. On that day, both the State Assembly and the State Senate joined to override Governor George E. Pataki’s veto of an original bill passed in July, 2004. On January 1, 2005, the state's minimum wage raised to $6.00 an hour from $5.15, before two additional annual steps have now reached $7.15 an hour.

Another major platform of the WFP is to defeat the "Rockefeller drug laws" in New York State, remnant from when Nelson Rockefeller was Governor. On election day, November 2, 2004, the WFP contributed largely to the victory of David Soares to Albany County District Attorney. Soares' platform was based on reforming drug policy, while generally taking a less punitive approach to criminal justice. On December 8, 2004, the most significant reform package of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 30 years was passed by the State legislature and later was signed by Governor Pataki. While failing to advocate for more judicial discretion, drug treatment over incarceration, and retroactive sentencing reform (meaning the ability to apply these changes to those who have already been sentenced), the reforms are applauded by most as a long overdue, good first step. The reforms do effectively reduce minimum sentences for drug charges, and allow for those convicted of such charges to enter medical treatment centers more easily.

Election finance laws controversy

  • In August 2009, the publication City Hall News raised questions as to whether the WFP pays rent erratically.[16] Political parties are required to pay rent in order to ensure that no party is getting an unfair monetary advantage over others, and the parties are required to report all money paid out for expenditures.
  • In the same month, various media raised questions about the relationship between the WFP, a non-profit political party, and a for-profit private company called Data and Field Services (DFS).[17][18][19] In particular, the New York Times, in an editorial piece, questioned whether DFS may be charging select clients below market rates for political services. This would be a campaign contribution and would need to be reported as such.[20][21]

2010 - New York gubernatorial election

Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for Governor of New York, accepted the Working Families Party cross-endorsement. The U.S. Attorney General's office had been investigating the WFP for over a year since 2009, and in August 2010, they were said to be clear of any wrongdoing. Cuomo ran with the WFP's endorsement, because the WFP accepted his policy positions.

See also


  1. ^ NYS Board of Elections Governor Election Returns Nov. 3, 1998. 51,325 votes for Vallone on the WFP line.
  2. ^ a b "Working Families Party Endorses Barack Obama". National Working Families Party. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  3. ^ Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » Working Families Party Qualified as “Political Body” in California
  4. ^ Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » Working Families Party of Massachusetts
  5. ^ Ballot Access News - June 1, 2006
  6. ^ search |
  7. ^ search |
  8. ^ Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » Working Families Party Elected Two Members of Hartford, Connecticut City Council
  9. ^ WFP Convention Update
  10. ^
  11. ^ Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » South Carolina Working Families Party Nominates
  12. ^ SC Electoral Commission, 2008 General Election: OFFICIAL list of all candidates for Federal, State, & Multi-County Offices.
  13. ^ "Oregon Voter Guide" (PDF). 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Caught in the act: Working Families Party pulls election funding scam". Daily News (New York). September 3, 2009. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Questions for Data and Field". The New York Times. August 22, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Working families charade". New York Post. September 8, 2009. 
  • Newfield, J., "Working Families Party Takes Place at the Table", The New York Sun, 11 Nov, 2003.

External links

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