No Labels, a Centrist Group, Moves Toward a Third-Party Presidential Bid

The centrist group No Labels said on Friday that it would move forward with plans to nominate a presidential ticket, a move that, if it comes to fruition, would add another complicating factor to the November election.

Leaders of the group announced the plan after an online meeting of its members. The group said it had 800 delegates who voted “near unanimously” to nominate a ticket. No Labels has yet to announce a candidate who might run on its ballot line, however, and several of the best-known politicians it has courted have ruled out a presidential run on a third-party ticket.

“Even though we met virtually, their emotion and desire to bring this divided nation back together came right through the screen,” said Mike Rawlings, No Labels’s national convention chair.

The meeting came at a pivotal moment for No Labels. As state deadlines approach for getting on the ballot for the November election, the group had to move quickly to decide whether to begin a third-party bid, and name its ticket.

No Labels’s evolution from a bipartisan, think tank-like organization to a would-be third party, with aspirations of a presidential candidacy, has alarmed many Democrats, who worry that the group could pull critical votes away from President Biden in battleground states.

“No Labels has put their dangerous, reckless thought experiment ahead of the rights and freedoms of millions of Americans and the future of our democracy,” said Rahna Epting, the executive director of MoveOn, the liberal activist group. “Any candidates who join the No Labels presidential ticket will be complicit in making it easier for Donald Trump and MAGA extremists to win a second term in the White House.”

No Labels’s operations have been cloaked in secrecy. The national group is technically not a political party but a nonprofit social welfare organization, so it does not have to disclose its donors or provide details about its activities.

Last year, its leaders were trying to raise $70 million for ballot access efforts. At the time, they said they would hold a national convention in Dallas in April, but that plan has since been jettisoned. The group’s delegates expect to vote on a ticket selected by the group’s leaders, people involved with the group have said.

Even the means by which it would pick a ticket are unclear. The group has said it has 800 “delegates” in all 50 states who would play some role in selecting the candidates, but their names have never been disclosed, and the number could not be independently verified.

No Labels leaders have said they will nominate a ticket if Mr. Biden and former President Donald J. Trump are the main parties’ nominees, as is now all but certain. The group’s leaders have said that their so-called “unity ticket” would have a Republican presidential candidate and a Democratic running mate.

But the group is running low on potential contenders.

As recently as January, the group was still courting or considering prominent current and former politicians including Jon Huntsman Jr., the Republican former governor of Utah; Larry Hogan, the Republican former governor of Maryland; and Senator Joe Manchin III, the conservative West Virginia Democrat, who has said he will not seek re-election.

In February, Mr. Hogan announced that he would run for Maryland’s open Senate seat. A week later, Mr. Manchin ruled out running for president. “I will not be seeking a third-party run,” he said.

Another problem for No Labels: As of January, the group was on the ballot in just 14 states, although it said it was “active” — gathering signatures and filing for ballot access — in more than a dozen others.

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