After logging more than 1,000 members earlier this week, the Unity Party officially became a minor party in Colorado, Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced, and its founder couldn’t be happier.

“This is very exciting,” said Bill Hammons, who has appeared on the ballot four times on the ticket and is running for governor in next year’s election. He’s also the state and national chairman of the party.

The Unity Party joins the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the American Constitution Party as legally sanctioned minor parties in Colorado, while the Republicans and Democrats are the state’s major parties.

“This latest development reflects that, as Coloradans, we treasure our ability to make our own decisions,” Williams said in a statement.

“This is a first for us,” Hammons told Colorado Politics, adding that the centrist party — its motto is “Not Right, Not Left, But Forward” — has members in 38 states and the District of Columbia but, until this week, hasn’t been legally recognized as a political party in any of them.

Before achieving the status, the Unity Party was what’s known as a “qualified political organization,” allowing residents to choose the party on voter registration forms and have the party designation appear next to their names on ballots. As a minor party, however, the party will be able to nominate candidates the same as other parties, rather than its candidates having to petition their way onto the ballot.

Hammons recalled the party’s origins in Colorado on the day after the 2004 general election.

“Along with a number of friends, family and some folks from the Wes Clark campaign,” he said, “we took a vote, and we founded the party.”

Although he stresses that the party’s founders didn’t have any affiliation with Clark, a retired Army general who sought the Democratic presidential nomination that year, Hammons added, “We saw the need for a third party, partly based on my experience with the Democrats and the Wes Clark campaign.”

He said the party plans to “solidify our organizational status” by meeting in the next few months, electing officers and adopting bylaws. It’s likely, he added, that there will be a Colorado Unity Party convention in early spring next year, when candidates can win nomination “with just a show of hands.”

Potential candidates will have to be registered with the Unity Party by Jan. 1, 2018, to qualify for nomination for next year’s election, he said.

Hammons, who lives in Thornton and sells life insurance, has been the Unity Party nominee twice for Congress — he challenged U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in 2008 and 2010 — and twice for the U.S. Senate, petitioning onto the ballot each time.

In the 2016 U.S. Senate election, Hammons came in fifth behind Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, who won reelection, and his Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, Libertarian nominee Lily Tang Williams and Green Party candidate Arn Menconi, ahead of independent candidates Dan Chapin and Paul Noel Fiorino. With 9,336 votes, Hammons wound up with 0.3 percent of the total vote.

Hammons had the same share of the vote in the 2014 U.S. Senate election but ranked sixth in that race with 6,427 votes.

The Unity Party calls for a federal balanced budget amendment, term limits on federal judges and lawmakers and a strict ban on gerrymandering “at all levels,” said Hammons, who wrote the original party platform.

“But we’ve always welcomed ideas from people online,” he said. “We’ve gotten some great original ideas that might not have occurred to me. There’s a lot of crowd-sourcing in our platform.”

One recent example, Hammons said, is a plank supporting a “strong space program to send members of humankind out to different parts of space.”

“Think of it,” he added, “as a lifejacket for humankind.”

— Ernest.Luning@coloradopolitics.com

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