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When SEIU hatched this idea to start a third party in North Carolina, I was skeptical of their chances at success. Turns out I was right about that – it was too daunting a task to up and start a party in a couple of months, in time to qualify for the November ballot. However, SEIU didn’t quit with their plans at accountability for Democrats they feel betrayed them, and as a result, they are seeking to qualify a third-party candidate to run against Larry Kissell in NC-08.

SEIU submitted more than 34,000 signatures in North Carolina to qualify Wendell Fant as a candidate against Kissell. Only 17,000 were needed to qualify Fant to run this coming November.

The House Democrat earned the ire of the union after he voted against the healthcare reform bill in March this year. Kissell is a freshman lawmaker who was elected with labor support. Fant is a former aide to Kissell. The lawmaker has filed an ethics complaint against Fant for using a government computer for personal use.

Fant was Kissell’s deputy district director until last month. The ethics complaint, oddly enough, came on the same day that Fant turned in his signatures. It claims that he used his official title and a government computer to work on a personal VA case (Fant is an Iraq war vet).

However, later in that Charlotte Observer article, a spokesman for SEIU and the North Carolina Families First party (it’s not a real party, but sort of an entity for this campaign) makes it sound like Fant is just being recruited and hasn’t committed to running:  . . .

Spokesman Greg Rideout said Wednesday the group will turn in the last of 30,000 petition signatures required for an independent run in the 8th District this morning at the Mecklenburg elections board.

“Once the petitions are verified,” Rideout wrote, “NCFF hopes the voices of these voters will persuade Wendell Fant to run as an independent candidate in the district.

An SEIU spokesman I spoke with described this as a draft effort. So what if he ends up on the ballot and doesn’t want to run? I’m trying to get some clarity on that.

If it does succeed, Kissell will have to face a Republican (to be determined by a runoff June 22) and Fant in the general election. The state GOP has tried to stop Tim D’Annunzio, who sounds literally crazy, from winning that runoff, and there’s credible speculation that D’Annunzio, if he loses, would bolt and run a FOURTH-PARTY race, backed by teabaggers, against Kissell, Republican Harold Johnson and possibly Fant. That scenario, with Democrats and Republicans both splitting their votes, might actually give Fant a shot at victory here.

Regardless, SEIU is showing that they’re not prepared to stop seeking accountability against candidates who they’ve previously backed but now don’t feel represent their interests. I guess that kiss and make up meeting didn’t hold.

David Dayen

David Dayen