Peter Allen of Riverview has fought for what he refers to as “We the People” for almost 25 years. Starting with a bid for a county commission seat twice in the 1990s, he has since run for governor and founded the Independence Party of Florida.
He is the only South County businessman who has made efforts to change the political system by running for offices despite the fact he says the system we have won’t let him win.
“Unless you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you can’t get media coverage, into debates, and most people feel they’re throwing away their vote if they stick by you,” he said in a candid interview Oct. 3.
By the time he ran for governor in 2010, the party he founded in 1999 with 10 people had grown to more than 65,000 Florida members with almost 3,000 in Hillsborough County alone.
Nationally, the Independence Party is often confused with the American Independent Party — but they are not the same.
When Allen — owner of Peter Allen Electric in Riverview since 1986 — began to run for politics, he learned he wasn’t allowed to do many things because he was considered “third party.”
“Third immediately makes you less than first or second, and in the minds of voters, that’s not a good place to be,” he said. “Referring to candidates as being from ‘minor’ parties or ‘grassroots’ parties is also misleading.”
It costs so much time and money for anyone to run that Allen had to take a lot of time from his businesses to gather signatures; put together a group of volunteer helpers; and at the same time, organize a party that was built on “planks” voted on by those he planned to represent.
But then in 2014, Allen, then 65, had to pull back from it all, including some of his businesses, because of his health.
“That’s when things began to fall apart,” he said. “The membership voted my vice-chair, Shauna Ayers, to the office of chairman of the state party executive committee [to replace him].”
Unfortunately, however, soon after that, Ayers also had to leave office because of personal reasons.
Now Allen’s health is better, and he wants to reinvigorate the party. “People don’t like the stalemates caused by the two-party system. We need a lot more voices,” he said. “The current political climate is showing most people are very dissatisfied with insiders who have made a living off them far too long.”
But just as he began reinvigorating the party, seeking some new state executive committee officers and trying to locate his member’s emails, Allen received a letter from the Florida Department of State that said it had to cancel the party’s registration (appearance on the ballot) because of a lack of activity and financial activity during the previous year.
Yet he is determined to fight back.
“The people need to be represented and this system just isn’t working,” he said.
A family man, married to wife Penny for 25 years, with three grown children and three grandchildren, he said he wants a better country for the next generations.
Another thing he strongly objects to is news media covering only certain candidates in local and state races. “How will people ever find out what the others are about if we can’t get our ideas out?”
This has become so prevalent that people do not think they can change it, which results in apathy.
“I have openings for several offices at the state level, including chairman and treasurer,” he said.
Allen has moved himself down to vice-chair so he will be better able to control his health.
Computer crashes and changes of address have caused even more problems.
“When you don’t have huge party war chests, you can’t rely on stamps and regular mail so when an email list is lost, it’s critical,” he said.
“I am trying to reach out to my members,” he said. “I need them to email me their email addresses and contact each other,” he concluded. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.