Taylor Batten

For bedrock conservatives, an alternative to the Republican Party

Al Pisano of Charlotte is the chairman of the N.C. Constitution Party.
Al Pisano of Charlotte is the chairman of the N.C. Constitution Party. News & Observer

Al Pisano has lived in Charlotte nearly 30 years. He is a recently retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, and he calls himself just an average guy.

Maybe so, except in at least one way: The average guy doesn’t feel so deserted by the two main political parties that he spends 10 years trying to establish his own.

Those efforts finally paid off for Pisano this week when North Carolina officially recognized the Constitution Party, and Pisano is its chairman. Starting at gun shows and expanding to other events and through neighborhoods across the state, Pisano and his colleagues successfully secured the 11,925 required signatures. Up next: A state convention in Charlotte next Saturday to nominate candidates for November’s ballot, from county commissioners to (perhaps) Congress.

It’s part of an acceleration of dissatisfied voters leaving the Democratic and Republican parties. Unaffiliated voters made up 17.7 percent of N.C. voters in 2004. Today they make up 31 percent of the electorate and are the fastest growing “party” in the state. In March, the state recognized the Green Party as an official party, and now the Constitution Party. They are the first new parties in North Carolina since the Libertarian Party first appeared on the ballot in 1976.

The recent surge was catalyzed by a law the General Assembly passed last year that reduced the number of required signatures to become an official party and cleared the way to recognize the Green Party because it was on the presidential ballot in 38 states in 2016.

So what’s this Constitution Party all about? It believes the federal government routinely takes actions well beyond what the Constitution permits. Its party platform singles out protecting gun-ownership rights, banning abortion including in cases of rape and incest, ending required vaccinations, encouraging heterosexual marriage, carrying out the death penalty within 60 days, repealing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, ending U.S. membership in the United Nations, and giving tax relief for parents who take their children out of public schools, among other things.

I doubt I agree with them on a single public policy issue. But I do, like Pisano, believe in the free market of ideas, vigorous public debate and that a lot of us are not being well represented by the two major parties.

If the Constitution Party has any success at all, it might steal voters from Republican candidates and help Democrats get elected. (The Greens could do the same to the Democrats.) That doesn’t bother Pisano, who says he’s just concerned with giving certain voters a party they can truly believe in.

“If the Republican Party was not thumbing its nose at a strong conservative base, we wouldn’t be here,” Pisano told me. “They’re the ones who have shunned a lot of N.C. voters. That’s why we could get on the ballot so quickly.”

Pisano knows the Constitution Party is not likely to win many, if any, races this fall. But he has big ambitions down the road.

“I don’t think we’re going to be a third party,” he says. “The others are going to be the third party.”

Reach me at tbatten@charlotteobserver.com