MONTPELIER, Vt. — Every two years for almost half a century, Vermont’s Liberty Union Party has been fielding candidates to run for statewide office with little to no expectation that any will get elected.

But electoral victory is not the goal, said Peter Diamondstone of Brattleboro, who describes the party as the voice of socialism. He is running for governor this year – his 23rd total run, he thinks, for five statewide offices since he helped found the party in 1970.

Neither he nor any other Liberty Union candidate has ever come close to winning a statewide office. But in many years, at least one of the candidates has received 5 percent of the statewide vote, a key provision for major party status.

Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, said the Liberty Union Party’s greatest legacy to Vermont might be some of the other politicians who got their start there.

“I think the Liberty Union has not had a particularly significant influence on public policy in Vermont,” Davis said. “Long-term, perhaps the influence of the Liberty Union is that is where Bernie Sanders first got his start.”

Sanders ran for U.S. Senate and governor twice each in the 1970s under the Liberty Union banner, never receiving more than 6 percent of the vote. But in 1981, Sanders ran as an independent and was elected mayor of Burlington. In 1990, he was elected as the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House and, in 2006, the Senate.


Over the years, 79-year-old Diamondstone and other Liberty Union candidates have touted the party’s position at candidate forums. He’s also been arrested for crashing forums to which he wasn’t invited, and he’s been escorted from other events for using profanity.

When Diamondstone arrived in Vermont from New York in 1968, it was still overwhelmingly conservative, he said. Now Vermont is considered one of the most liberal states in the country.

Diamondstone doesn’t claim the Liberty Union Party is the only reason Vermont changed, but he says it was part of the process.

The party still manages to win major party status, which gives its candidates access to candidate forums and debates.

This year, Liberty Union candidates are the only alternative to Democratic candidates for secretary of state and attorney general, Davis said.

“People who for whatever reason don’t want to vote for (Attorney General) Bill Sorrell or (Treasurer) Beth Pearce, they’ll vote Liberty Union,” Davis said.

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