PHOENIX — More than 15,000 people in Arizona have registered to join a new political party with a possible “unity formula” against Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Although it is less than the population of each of the state’s 40 largest cities, that number would be enough to decide the election in a crucial battleground state. And it alarms people who want to prevent Trump from returning to the White House.
The No Labels group’s very existence has Democrats worried about Trump’s chances against a president questioned on his age and record. Although No Labels has not committed to running for president and vice president, it has gained ballot access in Arizona and 10 other states. Organizers say they are on track to roll it out in 20 states by the end of the year and in all 50 states by Election Day, Nov. 5, 2024.
“If they put up a candidate with the intent of unifying the country, that obviously takes votes from Joe Biden, not votes from Donald Trump,” said Rodd McLeod, a Democratic strategist in Arizona.
Biden’s allies are waging an aggressive pressure campaign against No Labels and politicians who meet with the group.
In Arizona, which Biden won by 10,000 votes in 2020, the state’s Democratic Party sued Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, to block No Label registration. Democrats are now putting pressure on Fontes to force No Labels to reveal its donors, suggesting the group is backed by conservatives seeking to thwart Biden’s re-election. So far, No Labels has refused to identify its donors, saying it follows federal law and wants to protect donors’ privacy.
Fontes has not made any public statements but is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks after telling No Labels that he could take legal action because the group is not registered under the state funding law. It is likely that his decision will be challenged in court.
Some of the efforts against no labels are quixotic. A perennial candidate from outside Phoenix registered as the group’s candidate and declared himself president of the party’s Pinal County branch, in part to run for state office and attempt to force the party to register under state law.
Biden’s narrow victory in 2020 was thanks in part to the votes of anti-Trump Republicans, right-wing independents and voters who viewed Biden as the lesser evil. In the event of a rematch, he will need your votes.
In Arizona, Biden had the support of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, a lifelong Republican who publicly clashed with Trump.