May 10, 2022 - Politics

Andrew Yang's plans for the Forward Party in Minnesota

Photo illustration of Andrew Yang and the Forward Party logo.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The prospect of his new political party being called a spoiler doesn't seem to bother Andrew Yang.

The big picture: The former presidential candidate, who launched the Forward Party late last year after leaving the Democratic Party, told Axios in an interview that his effort reflects a need for the nation to "evolve to a dynamic, more representative multi-party system."

Yes but: The debut of the effort in Minnesota has sparked grumbling from Democrats, who worry Yang's endorsed candidates, including gubernatorial hopeful Cory Hepola, will draw from their pool of possible voters in close races this November, tipping the scales to Republicans.

What he's saying: In an interview with Axios during a swing through Minnesota Friday, Yang said that giving voters more choices beyond the "creaking duopoly" of the two-party system is a net positive.

  • He questioned "knee-jerk" assumptions that Hepola, who supports abortion rights and says he voted for President Biden in 2020, will win more voters who would otherwise go for Democrats versus Republicans.
  • "People should be focused on delivering for the people of Minnesota," he added. "If you are able to do that, you'd be less concerned about someone running who might excite a certain set of voters."

Between the lines: Yang argued that expanding ranked-choice voting, one of the Forward Party's key goals, would render those complaints moot.

  • "Would I prefer it that ranked-choice voting was implemented, such that no one has to complain about this spoiler effect? 100%," he said. "Do I think it's realistic that we get there without candidates running? Probably not."

Driving the debate: Third-party candidates won a notable share of the vote in a number of recent Minnesota races decided by razor-thin margins, including the 2nd Congressional District and the 2018 race for attorney general.

The response: Yang said those alleged ballot strategies underscore the need for electoral reform and having more, not fewer, political parties in the mix.

  • "This kind of nonsense right now makes tactical sense because any voters you get, you're subtracting from your opponent," he said. "And people are allowing it to continue because they think it works in their favor."

What's next: Yang said the party is talking to at least two more potential contenders ahead of the start of the filing period, which runs May 17 to May 31.

  • He declined to specify whether they're focusing on statewide, congressional or state legislative seats, saying it's a "combination" and he's more focused on individual credentials than recruiting for specific contests.

Of note: Getting at least 5% of the vote for a constitutional office would secure the effort to achieve major party status moving forward, which would make it even easier to get on the ballot.

What to watch: Whether the Forward Party can deliver cash and other support to help elevate candidates' profiles could go a long way in determining their performance in November.

  • Yang declined to provide a dollar amount he plans to invest in Minnesota. But he told Axios the national effort "will be supporting candidates in various ways, including financially," noting that they have a "significant" national fundraising list.
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