Working Families Party

Working Families Party
Founded 1998 (1998)
Preceded by New Party
Headquarters 1 Metrotech Center North, 11
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Membership (July 2017) 52,748[1]
Ideology Social democracy[2]
Left-wing populism
Democratic socialism
Political position Left-wing
Colors           Blue, White (official)
     Purple (customary)
Seats in the Senate
0 / 100
Seats in the House
0 / 435
0 / 50
State Upper House Seats
1 / 1,972
State Lower House Seats
1 / 5,411

The Working Families Party (WFP) is a minor political party in the United States, founded in New York in 1998. There are active chapters in New York, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Nevada, West Virginia, New Mexico, Ohio, and Illinois.[4][5]

The Working Families Party of New York was first organized in 1998 by a coalition of labor unions, community organizations, members of the now-inactive national New Party, and a variety of advocacy groups such as Citizen Action of New York and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.[6] The party's main concerns are jobs, healthcare, raising the minimum wage, universal paid sick days, the student debt crisis, higher taxes on the rich, public education, and energy and environmental reform. It has usually cross-endorsed progressive Democratic or Republican candidates through fusion voting, but will occasionally run its own candidates.


WFP follows the ideals of progressive politics,[7] describing itself as a "grass roots independent political organization".[8] Right-wing writer Seth Lipsky of the New York Post describes WFP as "quasi-Marxist"[9] and some publications refer to WFP as the Tea Party of the left.[10][11][12][13]

Electoral strategy

Like other minor parties in the state, the WFP benefits from New York's electoral fusion laws that allow the party to support another party's candidate when they feel it aligns with their platform. This allows sympathetic voters to support a minor party without feeling like they are "wasting" their vote. Usually, the WFP endorses the Democratic Party candidate, but it has occasionally endorsed moderate Republican Party candidates as a strategy for spurring bi-partisan action on its policy priorities.

In some cases, the WFP has put forward its own candidates. In the chaotic situation following the 2003 assassination of New York City councilman James E. Davis by political rival Othniel Askew, the slain councilman's brother Geoffrey Davis was chosen to succeed him in the Democratic primary. As it became clear that Geoffrey Davis lacked his late brother's political experience, fellow Democrat Letitia James decided to challenge him in the general election on the WFP ticket and won Brooklyn's 35th City Council district as the first third-party candidate elected there in 30 years.

Some of the party's endorsed candidates include Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, Chicago Mayoral Democratic Candidate Jesús "Chuy" García, US Senators Chris Murphy (CT) and Jeff Merkley (OR), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.

In 2006, the party began ballot access drives in California,[14] Delaware, Massachusetts,[15] Oregon, and South Carolina.[16] In 2010 Oregon joined South Carolina and New York as states that allow fusion voting.

Edwin Gomes, running in a February 2015 special election for the Connecticut State Senate, became the first candidate in the nation to win a state legislative office running solely as a nominee for the Working Families Party.[17]

In 2015, NY WFP ran 111 of its candidates, winning 71 local offices.[18]

In 2015, the WFP endorsed Bernie Sanders in his campaign for U.S. President, its first national endorsement.[19] In 2016, after Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee, the WFP endorsed her for president.[20]

In 2017, Joshua M. Hall, running in an April 2017 special election for the Connecticut House of Representatives, became the second candidate in the nation to win a state legislative office running solely as a nominee for the Working Families Party.[21]


The WFP was launched with the agenda of well-paying jobs, affordable housing, accessible health care, better public schools and more investment in public services.

In 2004 in New York and 2014 in Connecticut, the WFP saw the enactment of one of its highest legislative priorities, an increase in the state minimum wage, which it had supported since its inception.

Paid sick days were enacted statewide in Connecticut in 2011, and citywide in both New York City and Portland, Oregon in 2013.

Another major platform of the WFP is to defeat the "Rockefeller drug laws" in New York State, a remnant from when Nelson Rockefeller was Governor. The WFP contributed largely to the victory of David Soares to Albany County District Attorney whose platform was based on reforming drug policy, while generally taking a less punitive approach to criminal justice.



In the 1998 election for governor of New York, the party cross-endorsed the Democratic Party candidate, Peter Vallone. Because he received more than 50,000 votes on the WFP line, the party gained an automatic ballot line for the succeeding four years.[22]



Patricia Eddington of the WFP was elected to the New York State Assembly. In the 2002 election, the Liberal Party, running Andrew Cuomo (who had withdrawn from the Democratic primary), and the Green Party, running academic Stanley Aronowitz, failed to reach that threshold and lost the ballot lines they had previously won. This left the WFP as the only left-progressive minor party with a ballot line. This situation will continue until at least 2011 following the party's cross-endorsement of Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 election, in which he received more than 155,000 votes on the Working Families Party line, more than three times the required 50,000.


In South Carolina, WFP cross-endorsed Democratic party congressional nominees Randy Maatta, (District 1) and Lee Ballenger, (District 3).[23] In the SC State House elections, the WFP cross-endorsed Democratic Party candidates Anton Gunn (Kershaw, Richland), Eugene Platt (Charleston).[24] In New York, the WFP cross-endorsed the statewide Democratic Party slate.

In Massachusetts, Rand Wilson won enough votes in the general election for State Auditor to guarantee the Working Families Party ballot access in the following election. Wilson garnered 19% of the vote in the head to head race against Democratic incumbent Joe DeNucci, allowing ballot access in 2008. However the ballot initiative, "question 2", that would allow candidates to be nominated by more than one party, failed. The WFP in Massachusetts dubbed the question 2 campaign "Spinach for Democracy."


The WFP elected two party members to the city council of Hartford, Connecticut.[25]


The South Carolina Working Families Party convention endorsed five candidates for state and local office.[26] One candidate, Eugene Platt, running for SC State House District 115, was also nominated by the South Carolina Green Party.[27] The nomination of Michael Cone for the US Senate race, opposing incumbent Lindsey Graham, marked the first time the South Carolina party nominated anyone for statewide office.[28] Cone was defeated by Horry County Republican Committee member Bob Conley in the Democratic Primary.

The Connecticut WFP helped elect congressman Jim Himes, defeating long-term Republican congressman Chris Shays.

The WFP endorsed Barack Obama for U.S. President on all their state lines.


The WFP endorsed several candidates for local offices, Bill Thompson for New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate, and Corey Ellis for Albany mayor. Ellis did very well in the Albany mayoral election, 2009, coming in second ahead of the Republican candidate. The WFP also backed eight new members of the city council, including Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, who helped create the New York City Council Progressive Caucus.

Two candidates for the Board of Education in Bridgeport, Connecticut were also WFP-supported and are now members of the board.[29]



Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for Governor of New York, accepted the Working Families Party cross-endorsement. Cuomo ran with the WFP's endorsement, because the WFP accepted his policy positions.

In the same year, the Connecticut WFP endorsed Dannel Malloy for governor. He received 26,308 votes as a Working Families candidate, putting him ahead of his Republican opponent, and securing ballot access for the party in that state.[30]


In Connecticut, the WFP won all three minority seats on the city council of Hartford, completely eliminating Republican representation. As of 2016, the WFP continues to hold all minority seats on the Hartford City Council.[31]


In Connecticut, the WFP backed Chris Murphy's successful race against billionaire Linda McMahon for the US Senate seat that was vacated by Joe Lieberman, supported SEIU/CCAG[32] leader and organizer Christopher Donovan for Connecticut's 5th Congressional seat,[33] as well as defeated a ballot initiative in Bridgeport, Connecticut that would have abolished the elected board of education. In Oregon, the WFP backed Jeff Reardon for state house, a challenger who defeated Democrat Mike Schaufler in the primary. The party opposed Schaufler's conservative record on taxes, healthcare and the environment.


In November 2013 the Party endorsed the successful New York City candidates Bill de Blasio for Mayor, Letitia James for Public Advocate, and Scott Stringer for Comptroller, as well as a dozen WFP-backed candidates to the City Council, dramatically growing the Progressive Caucus. The Working Families ballot line contributed 42,640 votes to de Blasio's total of 795,679 votes, and 53,821 to James's total of 814,879 votes.


After considering Zephyr Teachout, the party re-endorsed Cuomo for New York Governor despite some dissatisfaction and frustration with his first term. However, Cuomo resisted the party's influence and sabotaged the party electorally.[34] In 2010 more than 150,000 of his votes came on the WFP line.[35] As of November 7, 2014, 120,425[36] votes came on the WFP line for Cuomo, less than in 2010 likely due to "dissatisfaction and frustration" dropping the party from fourth to fifth, behind the Conservative Party and the Green Party.


In February, Edwin Gomes was elected to District 23 of the Connecticut State Senate in a special election. He became the first candidate in the nation to win a state legislative office running solely as a nominee for the Working Families Party.[17] Gomes defeated Richard DeJesus (D), Quentin Dreher (R), and the non-affiliated Charles Hare and Kenneth H. Moales, Jr. in the special election on February 24. However, Senator Gomes previously served the district as State Senator as a Democrat and caucused with the Democrats upon assuming office.


In the fall of 2015, the Working Families Party conducted a combined membership-drive and open poll among its enrolled members on whom to endorse for President in 2016; the result being Bernie Sanders.[19] Official numbers were not disclosed but party spokesman and co-founder Dan Cantor said the results were "overwhelmingly" in favor of Sanders, with some sources stating it was a 87 to 12 to 1 percent vote with Sanders over Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley respectively.[37]


On April 25, 2017 a special election for State House district 7 in Connecticut resulted in Joshua M. Hall winning under the Working Families ticket, which allowed the party to pick up a seat in the lower chamber of the State Legislature.


In April 2018 an endorsement of Cynthia Nixon over incumbent Andrew Cuomo in Cuomo's bid for a third term as New York governor caused a schism in the party in which labor unions including New York's biggest union Service Employees International Union and Communications Workers of America to indicate they would not support the party in the election. The withdrawal was believed would significantly hurt the party's finances which in 2018 was $1.7 million and statewide staff of about 15 people. The battle received considerable attention since there were concerns that Nixon might drain enough votes from Cuomo in the general election to allow a Republican to be elected.[38][39] However, Joe Crowley was nominated by the Working Families Party even though the party withdrew support from him.


The state directors of the WFP are Bill Lipton (NY),[40] Lindsay Farrell (CT),[41] Analilia Mejia (NJ), Brandon Evans (PA),[42] Karly Edwards (OR),[43] Jay Hutchins (MD),[44] Delvone Michael (DC),[45] Marina Dimitrijevic (WI),[46] Ryan Frankenberry (WV),[47] and Georgia Hollister-Isman (RI). WFP's national director is Dan Cantor.[4]


Some left-wing commentators have criticized the WFP for being insufficiently committed to progressive principles. Following the 2010 New York State gubernatorial election, Billy Wharton argued that Andrew Cuomo obtained significant concessions from the WFP by initially refusing their endorsement (and thus jeopardizing their ballot access).[48] Likewise, the editor of the World Socialist Web Site has called the WFP an "opportunist" party for its close work with the Democrats.[49]

In August 2009, various media raised questions about the relationship between the WFP, a non-profit political party, and a for-profit private company called Data and Field Services (DFS).[50][51][52] An editorial in The New York Times questioned whether DFS may be charging select clients below market rates for political services.[53][54] In August 2010, the federal investigation into the party ended with no charges being filed, and no charges being referred to other law enforcement agencies.[55]

In 2011 Connecticut WFP director Jon Green received a $10,000 fine for failing to wear his badge identifying him as a lobbyist while performing lobbying efforts.[56][57]

See also


  1. Winger, Richard (27 July 2017). "New Voter Registration Nation Totals". Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  2. "Meet the Working Families Party, Whose Ballot Line is in Play in New York". 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  3. "About Us - Working Families". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  4. 1 2 Ball, Molly. "The Tea Party of the Left". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  5. Rouan, Rick. "The City: Left's answer to the Tea Party wades into council race". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-06-13.
  6. "Dan Cantor's Machine". The American Prospect. 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  7. "Can the Working Families Party succeed in America?". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  8. "Maryland - Working Families". Working Families. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  9. Lipsky, Seth. "Cuomo embraces risky popular vote campaign". New York Post. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  10. "If the Left Had a Tea Party…". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  11. Glauber, Bill. "Working Families Party seeks to tap Dimitrijevic as leader". Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  12. "Harry Siegel: The party pulling Democrats back to the left". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  13. "Cuomo caves to the Tea Party of the left | CNT". Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  14. "Working Families Party Qualified as "Political Body" in California | Ballot Access News". 2006-05-17. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  15. "Working Families Party of Massachusetts | Ballot Access News". 2006-06-20. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  16. "Ballot Access News - June 1, 2006". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  17. 1 2 Torres, Keila (2015-02-24). "Former state Sen. Gomes reclaims Senate seat - Connecticut Post". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  18. Press, Associated. "Working Families Party goes local to broaden reach". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  19. 1 2 "Working Families Party Endorses Bernie Sanders for President". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  20. Working Families Party. "WFP Endorses Hillary Clinton – Working Families Party – Medium". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  21. "Working Families wins in Hartford, GOP in Watertown - The CT MirrorThe CT Mirror". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  22. "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 23 August 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  23. "2006 State House Candidates -". 18 October 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  24. "Working Families Party Elected Two Members of Hartford, Connecticut City Council | Ballot Access News". 2007-11-25. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  25. "Working Families Party -- The MINOR party with MAJOR possibilities". 21 November 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  26. "Platt Wins Big Endorsements; Broad Appeal Crosses Party Lines". Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2008.
  27. Posted on (2008-05-21). "South Carolina Working Families Party Nominates | Ballot Access News". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  28. Keila Torre (2009-11-04). "Working Families candidates score Bridgeport breakthrough - Connecticut Post". Retrieved 2013-08-30.
  29. Email (2010-11-24). "With Malloy as governor, Working Families Party pushing paid sick days". The CT Mirror. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
  30. "Working Families Party Celebrates 2011, Looks To 2012 | WNPR News". 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  31. "Connecticut Citizen Action Group - Home". 2016-08-29. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  32. "My Left Nutmeg:: CT 05: CT Working Families Party endorse Donovan". 19 April 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  33. 1:43 p.m. (2014-11-05). "How Cuomo Played the Working Families Party". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  34. "Cuomo Works to Mend Fences With Liberals". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  35. Rubinstein, Dana. "Working Families Party endorses Sanders 'overwhelmingly'". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  38. "Working Families Party still wants Warren to run". Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  39. "Working Families Party Names New Executive Director". tribunedigital-thecourant. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  40. Hurdle, Jon; Steinhauer, Jennifer (2015-02-13). "Democrats' Convention Choice for 2016 Reflects a Philadelphia Resurgence". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  41. "Oregon Working Families Party: Minor party strives to be a major player in Oregon - nwLaborPress". nwLaborPress. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  42. Vail, Bruce (2014-06-30). "Working Families Make Promising Debut in Maryland Elections". Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  43. DeBonis, Mike (2013-10-30). "D.C. Working Families coalition launches, targets minimum wage hike". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  44. Glauber, Bill. "Dimitrijevic to lead new Wisconsin Working Families Party". Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  45. "Announcing the West Virginia Working Families Party! - Working Families". Working Families. 2017-08-26. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  46. "Election Money Flows in 2010, But Voters Stay Home: Where is Everybody?". Counterpunch. November 5, 2010.
  47. "An exchange of letters on the Working Families Party". World Socialist Web Site. June 3, 2002.
  48. "Caught in the act: Working Families Party pulls election funding scam". New York Daily News. New York. September 3, 2009.
  49. "The Working Families Party Scam | Room Eight". Retrieved 2013-08-30.
  50. "CITY HALL SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: Six Council Campaigns, de Blasio Campaign, Discovered Using Working Families Staff, Resources In Test Of City Finance Limits". 13 August 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  51. "Questions for Data and Field". The New York Times. August 22, 2009.
  52. "Working families charade". New York Post. September 8, 2009.
  53. Nicholas Confessore (2010-08-20). "No Charges Against Working Families Party". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  54. "Working Families Official To Pay $10,000 Ethics Fine - tribunedigital-thecourant". 2011-11-17. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  55. Stuart, Christine (2011-11-18). "WFP Director Fined For Lobbying Without Badge". CT News Junkie. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
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