‘People’s Party’ organizing to push more area candidates

A Jasper man is getting signatures to restart The People’s Party to provide more candidates for local positions on the Nov. 6 ballot in Walker and Winston counties. Bill Cleghorn, who set up the party during the 2016 elections and said he got a couple of Walker County constables elected, is actively trying to submit names by the June 5 primary, the state deadline for getting third party ballot access on the General Election ballot. “People are very interested with getting some candidates on the ballot this fall,” said Cleghorn, who is known for sitting in on the Walker County Commission. He said he has been in repeated contact with Ed Packard, the director of elections for the Secretary of State’s Office, and Walker County Probate Judge Rick Allison, who would receive the petition signatures and check them. “I think the state of Alabama needs a two-party system. Right now we don’t have that,” Cleghorn said, adding U.S. Sen. Doug Jones was elected last December not because he was a Democrat, but because people voted against Republican nominee Roy Moore. He also said Alabama party stands have been different than ones taken in Washington by the national parties. “The people we want to get elected are the people that the people know,” he said. “If you feel like you want to send someone to Montgomery to do what they want to do instead of give some party line, let the people represent the people.”  He said many officials in Washington and Montgomery talk more about wanting to “keep our jobs.” “I’ve heard that quote from our representatives and legislators, both state and federal,” he said. “They should have made the statement, ‘We want to represent the people.’ They didn’t do that. They didn’t say that. Now, we have people in Montgomery passing, ‘He can and you can’t.’ The people want to be represented by the people,” instead of by special interests. He said 10 Peoples Party candidates ran in 2016, although two additional candidates were disqualified (one due to their residence, and the other because more than one party candidate was listed for a race). The party had Walker County Commission candidates for each district. He said more of the party’s 2016 ticket would have been elected had it not been for the sweep for President Donald Trump that night in the area.

“I’ve got 200 names already” in a matter of days to get on the ballot this year, he said, noting he needed as many as Mike Cole is needing for his independent candidacy for sheriff. The party needs the number of signatures equallying 3 percent of the last governor’s election. Figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show 17,097 people voted for governor in Walker County in the 2014 General Election, including 30 write-ins. Three percent of that figure would be 513. Cleghorn said 206 names are needed in Winston County, where he also hopes to get the party on the ballot. The reason he is starting up the party this year is the same one as in 2016. “We didn’t have an option in the fall election to vote for anybody,” he said. “This fall you don’t even have to got to the polls, the way it stands now. I’ve always been a firm believer if you want to have an election, you’ve got to have two candidates running.”  Democrats did not put up candidates for local offices in Walker County, although the 4th Congressional District race and some top state races will have Democratic challenges. Cleghorn said an organizational meeting will be held — likely this month — and then a convention will be needed to pick local and district candidates whose races will be on the local ballot (including legislators). Eventually a filing will be made with the Secretary of State’s Office. At the urging of officials, he said he does not plan to wait until the last minute to turn in names, adding he has also been advised to get more than he needs in case some signatures don’t qualify to be accepted. He said, hypothetically, with 35,412 signatures, a statewide organization could be started. People who were involved with the party in 2016 have expressed interest in trying again, he said, including “several” potential candidates. On the petition, people will be asked for their signature, their date of birth, address and precinct or voting place, Cleghorn said. Anyone wanting more information may call Cleghorn at 205-522-3866 or write to him at The People’s Party, 1905 Indiana Ave., Jasper, AL 35501. His email is Cleghorn.i.ded@gmail.com.