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Cornel West, independent presidential candidate, likely to make Oregon ballot

Cornel West speaking at a microphone.
Andrew Harnik
FILE - Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. The 2024 presidential election is drawing a robust field of independent, third party and long shot candidates. Scholar and progressive activist Cornel West is now running as an independent.

A rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump appears certain in November, after Trump clinched contests in Iowa and New Hampshire this month. Now a third name is looking just as likely to land on Oregon’s presidential ballot.

The Oregon Progressive Party said Thursday that it will tap Cornel West as its presidential nominee this year, a move that would ensure the prominent intellectual and progressive activist vies for votes alongside Biden and Trump.

The party announced its decision after West appeared at The Old Church in Portland on Sunday, alongside rock music band Portugal. The Man.

“We are proud to support Dr. West,” the party said in a release Thursday. “He embodies the principles we stand for — health care as a human right, free public education, environmental justice, and a peaceful approach to foreign policy.”

West’s independent campaign for president — “rooted in truth, justice, and love” — aims to offer left-leaning voters an alternative to Biden. His candidacy has rankled some Democratic critics who worry that the well-known figure could siphon enough votes in tightly contested states to swing them to Trump.

That’s not likely in Oregon, where Biden prevailed over Trump by 16 percentage points in 2020.

“I think we would agree with that,” said David Hess, treasurer of the Oregon Progressive Party, who argued the people who vote for West would sit out of this year’s election rather than vote for Biden. “Even on a national scale, it’s hard to believe that Cornel West is going to be a spoiler for Biden.”

The Oregon Progressive Party’s 2020 presidential nominee, Dario Hunter, claimed just 0.2% of the vote.

As of this month, just 3,671 Oregonians are registered with the Oregon Progressive Party, representing 0.12% of all registered voters in Oregon.

The party touted West’s opposition to Israel’s war with Hamas, his support of a state-run public bank and campaign finance reform in Oregon, and his belief in universal health care as reasons for its support.

West on Sunday signed the nominating paperwork that will land him on the ballot, though the Oregon Progressive Party can’t file with state elections officials until June. Oregon appears to be the second state where West is likely to secure a ballot slot in November. His campaign said in December it is also planning to appear on Alaska’s ballot.

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for KLCC. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.