Labor and Farm Party Records, 1982-1987


The Labor and Farm Party (also known as Wisconsin Labor and Farm Party, Labor-Farm, and LFP) was a left-wing independent party active in Wisconsin politics from 1982 to 1987. This collection in particular comes from the files of Mary Kay Baum, who was a senior member of the party for most of its history. The party arose in reaction to the resurgence of conservatism as a political force in the 1980s. Combined with the economic ascendancy of the East and West coasts in this period, and the relative stagnation of farms and industry in the American Midwest, the Labor and Farm Party operated with a platform that demanded more government intervention in particular to preserve factory and farm operations, protect the welfare of workers and farmers, check the excesses of multi-national corporations and the military, and focus on the civil rights issues of the “Rainbow Coalition” of feminists, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual lobby, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans.

The Labor and Farm Party during the 1984 election fielded Kathryn Christensen against Cliff Russell (Republican - R) and Fred Risser (Democrat - D) for State Senator of the 26th District. During the 1986 election they fielded: Kathryn Christensen against Anthony S. Earl (D) and Tommy Thompson (R) for governor; William Kerley against Jerome Lacke (R) and Greg Nielsen (D) for Dane County Sheriff; John Graf against Les Aspin (D) for the 1st Congressional District Representative seat; Mary Kay Baum for the Madison School Board; Rosa Escamilla for alderperson of the Madison City Council; Sarah O'Brien for judge of the Dane County Circuit Court; and Daniel Grossberg for Register of Deeds.

An attempt to field William Hart, one of the party's founders, as a presidential candidate in 1984 failed and resulted in his resignation from the party. The context and aftermath of this event are well documented in this collection. In 1986 the party concentrated a great part of its effort in an attempt to defeat Les Aspin, then a Representative from Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District, for his approval of the controversial MX missile. With the exception of its nonpartisan races, the Labor and Farm Party did not meet with much success, which led to its dissolution in 1987. However, many party members did go on to help form the new Progressive Party as well as the Green Party in Wisconsin in the early 1990s.

At the party's founding convention, Chairperson William Osborne Hart appointed Michael Sack as Treasurer; Dennis Boyer as Executive Secretary; Jean Darling as Co-Vice Chair for Membership Services; Owen Coyle as Co-Vice Chair for Communications; and Conrad Amenhauser as Co-Vice Chair for the Issues Task Force. The party's administration was largely informal. While some material exists documenting the party's major conventions in 1983, 1984, and 1987, there is no centralized “minute-book,” and its record-keeping practices were idiosyncratic and fragmented (in fact, a note found during the course of processing called for the hiring of a volunteer to help organize the party's records). The party was led by William Hart for its first two years, and after his resignation from the party in 1984, Kathryn Christensen became its de-facto head. Mary K. Baum herself was a major figure in the party, running for minor offices in 1986 on its ticket and as an independent in 1988 for the governor's election. The collection consists largely of Baum's records; she may have been the unofficial historian for the party.