Whitewater's startup political party derails

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published August 28, 2006, 11:08 a.m.)

Bernie Dalsey had big aspirations for the political party he started out of his town of Whitewater home last December.

The Justice Party was going to compete with the Democrats and Republicans by offering a mix of "common sense" ideals from both sides of the political spectrum, Dalsey said.

Well, the infant Justice Party never made it that far. It officially died earlier this summer when Dalsey sent in party termination papers to the State Elections Board and Federal Elections Commission.

The failure of the Justice Party was a combination of things - the stress it put on Dalsey's marriage and candidates who dropped out of their races, the party creator said.

Dalsey put 20 to 30 hours a week toward the party after coming home from his full-time job.

"In early May I was putting a lot of hours into it," Dalsey said. "My wife thought over 30 hours a week. It caused a lot of marital stress and I had to make a decision to back away from it."

Two of the three candidates decided to back away from it, too.

Dalsey never intended to run as a Justice Party candidate himself. He was going to create the party platform and help get candidates started.

Rick Melcher of Fort Atkinson dropped out of the 13th Senate District race for personal reasons and Larry Drake of Racine withdrew from the 61st Assembly District race due to family commitments, Dalsey said.

That leaves Ben Bourdo as the lone Justice Party candidate in the November election. Bourdo, of East Troy, is running for the 31st Assembly seat against incumbent Steve Nass, R-La Grange, and Democrat Scott Woods of Delavan.

Bourdo wants to keep the party running no matter the outcome of the election. He is working on re-registering the party with the state and federal governments.

Bourdo says he will maintain many of Dalsey's common sense goals for the party.

"We'll have limited goals, ones that need to be addressed without getting way out there," he said. "We'll keep it practical. Something that makes sense."

Dalsey's only regret to starting the party was taking too much time away from his personal life.

"She said, 'I really can't deal with this,'" Dalsey quoted his wife of eight years. "When given the choice between the health and happiness of my marriage and my political views, the health and happiness of my marriage is going to win 100 times out of 100 times."

Keeping the party on track with his platform wasn't easy either.

Dalsey had been butting heads with people who showed interest in the party, but didn't follow all of the ideas or planks the party revolved around.

His advice to keep the party going is to have everyone agree on a small set of about 10 big issues and try not to be all-inclusive, like he was when he started.

Also, he wishes he would have built up the philosophy of the party and made it known to the masses before finding candidates.

"It lacked traction," he said. "I spent too much time on a handful of people when I should have been taking time distributing literature and meeting more people."

"It takes time to build party unity and know the people you have on board," Dalsey added.

Dalsey won't take an active role in the party, or any similar start-up party, but he would act as a consultant to anyone who wishes to offer another political option to the Republicans and Democrats.

"I think it's important for people to think outside the box and create some other choices," he said. "It's unfortunate that people feel limited by having just two choices."

For more information

Thinking of starting an alternative political party? Bernie Dalsey says he can help. E-mail him at commonsense@ameritech.net.

The Justice Party

Blending ideas from both sides of the political spectrum is what made up the Bernie Dalsey's Justice Party. From the left; getting special interest money out of elections, developing a national health-care system, getting out of international trade deals, using the military only for self defense and having a progressive tax on wealth. From the right; closing borders to illegal immigrants, supporting gun rights, opposing same-sex marriages.

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