Maryland has a new political party ― but social distancing precautions mean it may take a while for the Working Class Party to form an official state central committee.
The party was certified by the State Board of Elections in March, after submitting more than 10,000 valid petition signatures to the state elections office. However, a founding convention to establish party bylaws and a platform, among other organizational tasks, is on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, said David Harding, who was the chairman of the petition effort.
“We feel both the Democrats and the Republicans are not really representative of ordinary working class people,” Harding said. “And working class people need their own party.”
He ran for Baltimore’s 14th District City Council seat as an unaffiliated candidate in 2016, but associated himself with the Working Class Party and garnered 8.3% of the general election vote.
Jill Leonard, a College Park resident who helped Harding’s 2016 campaign and in the current petition effort, said running as an unaffiliated candidate creates a significant disadvantage.
“It doesn’t tell you anything about what they stand for. So we wanted to get a party on the ballot called the Working Class Party,” Leonard said. “There are a lot of people set up with the two-party system. And we think working people need their own party separate from Democrats or Republicans.”
In general, Harding said the leftist party presses for better pay and better jobs, infrastructure to support workers, and adequate health care.
The party also has ballot status in the state of Michigan. In 2018, Working Class Party candidate Sam Johnson garnered 11.4% of the vote in the U.S. House race for Michigan’s 13th District, which includes part of Detroit and its suburbs. Democrat Rashida Tlaib won the race.
A few dozen volunteers collected almost 14,500 signatures to help the party get official recognition in Maryland.
Cathy White, a Bethesda resident who works at a photo finishing plant, traveled throughout Montgomery County and the state to gather signature petitions at parades and other community events.
While the coronavirus has stalled the party’s founding convention, she said the spread of the disease underscores the party’s importance.
“Working people, we’re the ones who do the work. And now we’re out there on the front lines with this virus and not getting any help,” White said. “And I think our voices need to be heard.”
Those who want more information about the party can contact [email protected].