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The Forward Party won’t run a presidential candidate in 2024. It still plans on influencing the election

By running down-ballot candidates, Forward candidates will help ‘hold the line,’ Christine Todd Whitman says

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Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who is national co-chair of the Forward Party, meets with members of the Utah Forward Party in Salt Lake City on Feb. 9, 2024.

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who is national co-chair of the Forward Party, meets with members of the Utah Forward Party in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Ever since the Forward Party’s inception in 2022, its founders were clear about one thing: it would be some time before a Forward candidate appears on a presidential ballot. The party — a mix of disillusioned politicos of all stripes, attempting the latest disruption of America’s two-party duopoly — would begin by seeking ballot access in individual states and running candidates in local races.

One of those states, Utah, officially recognized the Forward Party late last year. This year, the party will run candidates in six races across the state, from county councils to the state legislature.

To Forward Party brass, running down-ballot candidates could help the party have more influence in the 2024 presidential election than by running a presidential candidate. During a breakfast meeting with Utah Forward Party leadership on Friday, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman — a Forward Party co-founder and co-chair — explained that Forward Party candidates winning elections across the state could help ensure a secure election.

“Regardless of who wins (the 2024 presidential election), there will be lawsuits,” Whitman said. In a contested election, it will be integral that local officials who deal with administering elections — like secretaries of state or county commissioners — act with integrity. “They are the ones holding the line,” Whitman said.

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Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who is co-chair of the Forward Party, center right, meets with members of the Utah Forward Party in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“What you want is officers in those positions who are nonpartisan, not making these decisions based on partisanship, but based on what’s correct,” she continued.

Unlike other political parties, the Forward Party doesn’t have a policy platform. It welcomes members of all political stripes, allowing each state chapter to determine its own policy areas of focus. (In Utah, for example, the party is focused on implementing ranked-choice voting and securing independent redistricting commissions). It does require any individuals wishing to run on a Forward Party ticket to sign a candidate pledge, vowing that they will always defend a “vibrant democracy.”

Forward Party members think they can instill just the “collaborative forward thinking” that is missing in Washington. If Forward Party members were in Washington this week during the meltdowns over border legislation and foreign aid for Israel and Ukraine, Whitman wouldn’t say how they would vote, but she assured me that they would “be working to find a solution.” Whitman, who served as a Republican governor in New Jersey, said Senate Republicans who backed out of a deal they helped negotiate displayed “hypocrisy.”

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Utah Forward Party’s Phil Boileau listens to former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who is national co-chair of the Forward Party, in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“If they negotiated in good faith toward a bipartisan solution, you don’t walk away from that, just because the leader of your party says so,” Whitman said. “That’s appalling to me.”

A Forward Party candidate winning a U.S. Senate or House race is unlikely. For now, the party is focused on other races. Around the table with Whitman were a handful of declared candidates running for local office: Miles Pomeroy, for Utah treasurer; Josh Smith, for the state House; David Hinckley, for the state Senate; Laura Johnson, for the state school board. In many races across the state where the party doesn’t run a candidate, the party may endorse others.

“We can have public officials who are not tied to an ideology, but are just trying to enact good government policies,” said Smith. “The degree to which that turns down the temperature and engages people who didn’t want to be part of the partisan food fight — I think it’s going to be revolutionary.”

To earn recognition as a political party in Utah, it had to submit 2,000 signatures from registered Utah voters to the lieutenant governor’s office. The party submitted 2,525, and in the process, pitched each one on the Forward Party’s mission.

“The Republicans and Democrats have a couple hundred years head start on us,” state chair Adam Teuscher said. “So we’re going to try to catch up, but it may not happen all right away this year.”

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Utah Forward Party’s Adam Teuscher talks with former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who is national co-chair of the Forward Party, in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News