OK, we’re gonna get pretty far down in the weeds on this one, but hey, we’re all political junkies, right?
Chelene Nighingale, 43, a conservative anti-illegal-immigration activist and former nonprofit executive and small business owner from Palmdale, was asked by national Constitution Party leaders to run in California as an American Independent Party candidate for governor. Also seeking that nomination was AIP Chairman Markham Robinson, 66, a financial-planning software company owner from Vacaville.
With many vote-by-mail ballots yet to be counted, results as of Wednesday afternoon show Nightingale beat Robinson, 58.2 percent to 41.8 percent.
This is interesting – I hope? – because of the schism that this party has seen in recent years. The split happened in 2008 as one faction recognized Jim King of Montebello as AIP chairman and the other recognized Ed Noonan of Yuba City; the factions disagreed on foreign-policy issues and on the influence of national Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips on the state party.
King’s faction chose to remain affilated with the Constitution Party, but the Secretary of State’s office didn’t recognize it and so its candidates didn’t appear on California’s ballots; Noonan’s faction pulled out of the Constitution Party and joined a new national party – America’s Independent Party – founded by perennial candidate Alan Keyes, who went on 2008’s ballot as the AIP’s presidential candidate. Robinson later succeeded Noonan as the state AIP chair.
So if a Constitution Party-backed candidate just beat the sitting AIP chairman for the AIP’s gubernatorial nomination, it seems fair to say the battle for this party’s soul continues. In fact, King won the AIP’s nomination for lieutenant governor unopposed.
However, Noonan – also the founder of the “California Mormon Battalion,” who posted an anti-major-party article Monday entitled “Are you the devil’s prostitute?” – did vanquish the Constitution Party-supported Don Grundmann – a San Leandro chiropractor and herbalist bent on eliminating the Federal Reserve, the IRS and gay rights – and Al Salehi of Beverly Hills this week for the AIP’s nomination for U.S. Senate: Noonan with 39.4 percent, Grundmann with 33.9 percent and Salehi with 26.7 percent.
Perhaps the fighting is so fierce because the stakes are so small – the AIP as of May 24 had 397,136 registered voters statewide, 2.34 percent of California’s registered electorate. That does make it the largest of the state’s “third parties,” well ahead of the Greens and Libertarians, though some believe the AIP’s ranks are perpetually inflated by voters who want to be “independent” and accidentally register under the American Independent Party rather than signing up for decline-to-state status.
At any rate, however, the AIP seems unlikely to win any state or federal races anytime soon. But it sure is interesting to watch…