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What's Happening

The New York Times
January 15, 2001



By Michael Janofsky

DENVER, Jan. 14 - Frustrated by their low profile around the state, Colorado's four minor political parties have agreed to combine their efforts and pool some of their limited resources to raise their visibility and get more of their candidates elected.

During a meeting at the Denver Press Club on Saturday, representatives from the Green, Libertarian, Natural Law and Reform Parties, about two dozen people in all, approved plans for a coalition of party leaders that would focus on mutually beneficial activities like trying to gain access to debates, sharing mailing lists and publishing a newsletter.

Although third parties in other states have informally discussed helping one another, party leaders here say they know of no other state where four of the country's larger minor parties have come together to address mutual problems.

"We're not competing against one another," Ronald N. Forthofer, a Green Party candidate who won 4 percent of the vote in Colorado's Second Congressional District last November, told the group. "The real enemies are Republicans and Democrats. They're the ones who have gotten us into the mess we're in now. That's why we have to collaborate to build third parties."

The participants conceded that working together had limitations, given the policy disagreements among them. No one suggested that the efforts would lead to a merger.

But national leaders applauded the collaboration.

"This is a good thing if it's limited to access, procedural and fairness issues," Ralph Nader, the Greens' presidential candidate, said in an interview from Washington. "We each need each other's help here; we should do it on a larger scale."

Harry Browne, the Libertarian presidential candidate, who received less than 0.5 percent of the vote, agreed, saying, "We could never merge ideologically, but from the national to the local level, we could cooperate on procedural issues."

Kingsley Brooks, chairman of the Natural Law Party, took a longer view, suggesting that party leaders in some states might favor a merger in specific state and municipal elections as a way to improve their chances of winning.

"Everybody realizes that the one thing that unites us as third parties is the real stranglehold the duopoly of Republicans and Democrats has on the system," Mr. Brooks said. "The only way we can all make progress is to come together." . . .

The meeting on Saturday, arranged by Victor A. Good, a member of the Reform Party and an also-ran in Colorado's Third Congressional District election in November, featured a free-flowing discussion of how to combat the power of the Republicans, the Democrats and the media outlets that virtually ignore third parties.

The party leaders agreed to meet every two months or so and, at the next session, to discuss candidate training, fund-raising and publishing the newsletter.

The meeting ended with what some participants viewed as the first symbolic act of their combined efforts: They passed around a hat to collect $100 to pay for the room.