Of the 1.9 million voters in Connecticut, only 15 are registered with the Working Families Party.

"I don't know who any of them are," said Jon Green, executive director of the party.

Is he one?

"No," he said, laughing.


What the Working Families Party does have is a progressive economic agenda and a valuable asset: its own line on every ballot in Connecticut.

The party practices fusion politics — cross-endorsing supportive candidates from other parties, typically Democrats — on a broad scale.

A change in state law last year eased the rules for cross-endorsements, setting up the Working Families Party as potential kingmaker in close races, such as Democrat Jim Himes' challenge of U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District.

Himes and the state's four Democratic congressional incumbents will appear twice on the ballot this fall — on the Democratic and Working Families lines.

So will about 50 state legislative candidates, including two Republicans, Sens. John Kissel of Enfield and Leonard Fasano of North Haven.

Two years ago, when Democrat Chris Murphy unseated U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th District, he garnered an extra 5,794 votes on the Working Families line.

That was more than Shays' 5,747 plurality.

Working Families was founded 10 years ago in New York, where fusion voting is common. After a slow start in Connecticut, the party is establishing a reputation as an important ally for Democrats.

The increasing role of Working Families in Connecticut, one of the relatively few states that allow fusion voting, provokes concern among Republicans.

"They've taken a loophole in the law and, with 15 people, they have managed to establish themselves as a fringe party whose sole purpose is to confuse voters that Democrats have support from a phantom party," said Chris Healy, the Republican state chairman.

Composition Of Party

Working Families is less of a party than a coalition of labor unions and community activists who are trying to convince politicians that support for their causes can translate into measurable votes.

Their causes include universal health care, mandatory paid sick days and a livable wage.

With its own ballot line, the party is hoping to get credit for electing progressive, pro-labor candidates, just as Ralph Nader's presence on the presidential ballot in Florida earned him blame for Al Gore's narrow loss in 2000.

Green said the party's polling shows that many of the votes on their line come from voters who could not bring themselves to vote for a Democrat or a Republican.