Former Democratic Rep. Arcuri calls for ‘a viable third party’

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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On the heels of New York Republican Rep. Richard Hanna condemning his own party as “incapable of governing,” his Democratic predecessor, Michael Arcuri, told The Daily Caller that he shares his one-time opponent’s frustration and would like a centrist third party.

“He seems to clearly articulate the frustration that so many feel,” said Arcuri. “With each passing year it is becoming more and more evident that the only workable option to save government from constant gridlock, incessant finger pointing and the influence of big money is campaign finance reform and a viable third party made up of moderates from both sides of the aisle.”

Hanna was elected in 2010, defeating Arcuri, who was first elected in 2006 to represent western New York’s 24th Congressional District. In 2008, Arcuri had narrowly fended off a challenge from Hanna.

“I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes,” Hanna said in an interview with The Syracuse Post-Standard last week.

“If all people do is go down there and join a team, and the team is invested in winning and you have something that looks very similar to the shirts and the skins, there’s not a lot of value there,” said Hanna. “I would say that the friends I have in the Democratic Party I find … much more congenial — a little less anger.”

In his first term, Hanna has voted against defunding Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio, and against extending sunsetting provisions of the Patriot Act. Unlike nearly all of his Republican colleagues, he has refused to sign Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” and he endorsed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in the GOP presidential primaries.

In March, Hanna memorably told a crowd of Equal Rights Amendment supporters to donate to Democrats, saying: “I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems. So many of your rights are under assault. I’ll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side — my side — has a lot of it.”

Hanna’s staff has been mum about the possibility of switching parties, amid goading via Twitter from Washington Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott. Hanna’s spokeswoman has not responded to TheDC’s requests for comment, but in June he was renominated by the Republican Party.

Arcuri, who has returned to work as a lawyer, told TheDC that he remains a member of the Democratic Party and is not supporting a third-party candidate for president. He said that a centrist third party, however, “would be refreshing and something I would like to see.”

As a congressman Arcuri infuriated fellow Democrats by voting against President Barack Obama’s health care reform law — he cited three justifications that didn’t neatly conform to partisan banter: the bill didn’t allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, didn’t remove anti-trust exemptions for insurance companies and added a tax on premium insurance plans.

Political theorists often explain the lack of a viable third party in the U.S. with Duverger’s law, which says that plurality-based electoral systems, as opposed to proportional ones, tend to favor two major parties.

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