No Labels enlists former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to beef up state ballots access

By: - July 31, 2023 5:10 pm

Then-Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks on Oct. 21, 2014, in St Louis. Nixon has joined the national No Labels campaign as ballot integrity director. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A national campaign to field a third-party presidential candidate in 2024 enlisted former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon as director of its effort to make the ballot in all 50 states next year.

Nixon, a Democrat who was governor from 2009 to 2017 following 16 years as state attorney general, has generally stayed out of politics since leaving office. He was pushed in 2021 to make a third run for a seat in the U.S. Senate but decided to sit out the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt.

The No Labels organization was founded in 2009 by former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a one-time Democrat from Connecticut who ended his political career as an independent. The group has advocated for bipartisan solutions and prior to the current effort has not tried to nominate candidates for any office.

National co-chairs include former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, and Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade association for Black-owned community newspapers.

Nixon will direct the organization’s Ballot Integrity Project. No Labels has gathered over 700,000 signatures and qualified for the ballot in five states, the news release announcing Nixon’s new role states.

No Labels needs 10,000 signatures from registered voters, submitted no later than July 29, 2024, to make the 2024 ballot in Missouri.

“Americans have the constitutional right to put any person or party on the ballot and to vote for whomever they want,” Nixon said in a news release. “Anyone who is against that isn’t standing up for democracy. They are standing in the way.”

Nixon did not respond to messages seeking comment.

After leaving office, Nixon became a partner in the Dowd Bennet law firm.

No Labels created the position for Nixon because of increasing efforts to block the new party from accessing state ballots, the news release said.

In Arizona, Democrats are suing to keep No Labels off that state’s ballot and in Maine, the secretary of state accused No Labels of misleading voters with their signature push.

Starting a new party, or chasing the presidency via third party effort, has been almost universally unsuccessful in American politics.

“No Labels is a movement dedicated to democracy, and democracy can’t stop because the powers that be think it’s ‘dangerous’ to have competition,” Chavis said in the news release announcing Nixon’s role..

The Republican Party was considered a third party when Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election and that victory is viewed as the only time a third party has put its candidate in the White House. The second-best showing by a third party presidential candidate came in 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt, running on the Progressive Party ticket, ran second to Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson with incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft running third.

No third-party candidate has won any electoral votes since 1968, when segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace carried several southern states running on the American Independent Party label.

The best recent popular vote showing by a third party was the 3.28% received by Libertarian Party nominee William Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, in the 2016 election. The most recent third party presidential candidate to exceed 10% of the vote was Ross Perot, who polled 19% in the 1992 election.

Leaders of the No Labels organization have said their polling shows there is a path to electoral college victory in 2024. The party will do polling in early 2024 to determine if that path still exists prior to gathering in Dallas.

“No Labels will gauge the mood of the American public and their openness to an independent Unity ticket and will offer our ballot line to a ticket if and only if such a ticket has a viable path to victory in the 2024 presidential election,” the news release announcing Nixon’s appointment stated.

No Labels believes it can attract moderate voters put off by the extremes dominating the two major parties. A recent town hall meeting in New Hampshire was headlined by Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and former Republican Gov. John Huntsman of Utah, raising speculation that they could be the No Labels ticket for 2024.

That path likely closes if the Republican Party does not nominate former President Donald Trump, a No Labels leader said recently.

“From the polling and modeling that we see today, if it’s any Republican other than Trump, those voters probably” back the GOP nominee, Ryan Clancy, chief strategist for No Labels, said during a recent Zoom interview with Politico.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.