Bill would eliminate ‘fusion’ candidates

A bill that would prohibit political hopefuls from running for an office with multiple political parties is headed to the Delaware State House for a vote, but not before a change in some of the language.

House Bill 11 would require that a candidate filing for office in a primary must be a registered member of the party whose nomination they are seeking. The bill essentially eliminates “fusion” candidates, which are political candidates who run on multiple tickets despite only being registered with one political party.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow) noted that most states have abolished fusion candidates and federal courts have upheld those states’ laws.

The issue came to a head last fall, when two Libertarian Party candidates filed to run in Democratic and Republican primaries.Jaques explained the proposed law in its simplest form:

“Say a person — John Doe — runs against me in the primary and I win,” Jaques said, “they shouldn’t be able to go and run with another party in the general election again. That’s called two bites of the apple. That’s what this bill is attempting to do.”

But while in committee Wednesday at Legislative Hall in Dover, the measure met with some opposition.

Former Kent County Chairman John Davis agrees candidates need to pick one path and stay on it. But he says the parties need to have more flexibility.

“My biggest concern is that it (the bill) doesn’t allow major parties — under state law that’s Democrats and Republicans — to nominate individuals after the primary deadline who are not registered with that party,” Davis said.

Immediately following the committee hearing, Davis, lawyers, bill sponsors and other concerned citizens began talking about ways to tweak the bill’s language.

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