America’s Third Party starts here

David Jon Sponheim and Sarah Hart know how to dream big. From a home on North Whidbey, they’ve started a uniquely grassroots effort they hope will do nothing less than change the world.

Sponheim for president, Hart for state senate

David Jon Sponheim and Sarah Hart know how to dream big. From a home on North Whidbey, they’ve started a uniquely grassroots effort they hope will do nothing less than change the world.

They created a new, centrist political party, which they call America’s Third Party. They are trying to strike a balance between the Democratic and Republican philosophies, often taking the best ideas from each camp and marrying them with technological innovations.

“We are trying to unite the nation from the ground up, starting right here in Oak Harbor,” Sponheim said. “A lot of people are fed up with the two parties fighting each other. They’ve had their time. Enough is enough.”

Moreover, Sponheim is running for president of the United States of America, albeit as a write-in candidate. Hart is running for state senate against Mary Margaret Haugen.

The two candidates, who call themselves business partners, have a significant presence on the Internet, which is the foundation of their grassroots effort. They have two Web sites, www.americasthirdparty.com and www.coolrock.com, a myspace.com page and they do a radio show on BlogTalkRadio.

They originally called their new party “Cool Rock” in order to appeal to younger people, but they got some negative feedback about the name. So they later changed it to “America’s Third Party,” or ATP for short. They are keeping the Cool Rock name for their technology business.

Sponheim is a 47-year-old, self-employed advertiser and Web developer who has lived on Whidbey Island for 14 years. He’s realistic about his chances of ending up behind the big desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, though he said it’s certainly possible for a write-in candidate to be elected to the highest office. While it’s a serious effort, he also sees his run for presidency as a way to draw attention to America’s Third Party.

“Realistically, we are trying to just build a coalition of people who want to change America,” Sponheim said. “We truly want this to be America’s party.”

Hart, 30, works with Sponheim and is also a substitute teacher in the Oak Harbor School District. She believes she has a good shot at unseating Democrat Haugen, especially in light of the ferry fiasco. Hart said Haugen, as head of the Senate Transportation Committee, should have done a better job of ensuring that tax dollars were spent where they were most needed.

Hart pointed out that the state Department of Transportation will spend $160 million from 2005 and 2012 to improve Highway 20 between Coupeville and Burlington.

“That’s $1 million for every accident that occurred on that road over the last five years,” she said. “I believe in safe roads, but we need to spend our money more wisely.”

Hart lives in the Rolling Hills neighborhood, in the area of a somewhat-controversial Highway 20 widening project. She said it wasn’t smart to spend all that money, and move the power lines, “just to add a foot to the road.”

Sponheim and Hart developed a long list of ideas and opinions, especially about national issues. Some are unique, some are borrowed, and to the cynics out there, some may seem very naive. But the co-creators of the new national party are very earnest and obviously put a lot of thought into their proposals.

They want a flat tax, even for corporations. They are in favor of banning assault rifles. They propose restricting Social Security payments based on income. They want to lower taxes and get rid of government waste. They don’t want to outlaw abortion, but they are strongly in favor of educating women about the realities and options prior to the procedure.

Protecting the environment and forestalling global warming are top priorities for the fledgling party. The two candidates believe the government can encourage conservation by mandating fuel efficiency, supporting sustainable agriculture, increasing recycling incentives, signing the Kyoto Accords, along with many other measures. They hope to encourage the development of technological solutions. On the Web site, Sponheim presents a proposal for a seawater pipeline project in Egypt, which would use a passive desalination technique.

“We want a sustainable future,” Sponheim said. “Having a sustainable future will make us a stronger nation.”

Hart said investing in renewable energy, including tidal power, will create new jobs in the region.

Sponheim and Hart even have very specific proposals for dealing with the Iraq war. While they were against invading Iraq, they say the U.S. now has a responsibility to the Iraqi people. They propose creating weapons-free safe havens run on renewable energy and protected by the latest technologies for both U.S. troops and Iraqi refugees. They say the military should be smaller, but more technologically savvy.

But for America’s Third Party, the biggest issue of all is challenging the political system itself, particularly the stranglehold of the two parties. Hart and Sponheim are not alone in their quest, as there has been a proliferation of new “third parties” in the last decade. There’s the Centrist Party, the Moderate Party, the Independence Party of America, the Marijuana Party and the Party of Socialism and Liberation, according to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

“People want to see progress in government, not partisan bickering,” Sonheim said. “They want an average American for president, not someone who has been bought off.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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