Democratic lawmakers are backing legislation aimed at cutting down on third-party spoiler candidates after former Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez lost his seat last November.
Sen. Tina Polsky (SB 830) and Rep. Kristen Arrington (HB 457) are behind the new bills. The legislation would require nonparty affiliated candidates to sign an oath stating they were not recently members of another political party.
The measure states that “any person seeking to qualify for office as a candidate with no party affiliation shall, at the time of subscribing to the oath or affirmation, state in writing that he or she is registered without any party affiliation and that he or she has not been a registered member of any political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying preceding the general election for which the person seeks to qualify.”
For state Senate and House races, the 2022 qualifying period begins June 13, 2022. That means an NPA candidate would need to sign an oath stating they did not belong to another political party for at least a year prior to that date.
“Our elections are the bedrock of the democratic process and we must ensure the highest integrity from every candidate who runs,” Polsky said in a Wednesday statement.
“There is a reason you must be a member of a political party for a year prior to running and likewise, an NPA should be held to the same strict standard. It’s past time that we even the playing field and eliminate fraudulent candidates.”
Added Arrington, “I’m proud to sponsor this legislation as my first bill as a Freshman Representative, and thankful to Senator Polsky for her companion bill. This legislation will create more transparency in the election process and provide a more even playing field for all future candidates.”
Former Sen. Rodríguez accused Republicans of recruiting a spoiler candidate in the Senate District 37 contest this past cycle.
Nonparty affiliated candidate Alex Rodriguez — who shares a surname with the former Senator — garnered nearly 6,400 votes in that contest. Republican candidate Ileana Garcia ousted the Democratic incumbent by just 32 votes, according to the official tally. More than 215,000 were cast in total.
Now-Sen. Garcia has pushed back against outcry over the NPA candidate, asserting she won the race fair and square.
It’s unclear whether anything illegal occurred, and the legislation from Polsky and Arrington wouldn’t completely foreclose the possibility a similar situation could play out in the future. It would, however, put up an extra hurdle for parties to play such tricks behind the scenes.
If approved, the legislation would take effect on July 1, 2021.