Meet Peter Sonski, the Catholic you’ve never heard of who’s running for president

Meet Peter Sonski, the Catholic you’ve never heard of who’s running for president



Peter Sonski, presidential candidate for the American Solidarity Party, delivers a speech at the Catholic University of America. / Credit: Bernadette Dalgetty

CNA Staff, Jan 9, 2024 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

As the U.S. presidential race heats up ahead of the November general election, numerous contenders are throwing their hats in the ring to challenge the likely Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, and Democratic incumbent Joe Biden. 

While the race features several prominent Catholics already —  including governors Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie — there remains one Catholic presidential hopeful who has yet to be invited onto the debate stage or splashed across the front page of the New York Times. 

Peter Sonski, along with his running mate, Lauren Onak, is the 2024 presidential nominee for American Solidarity Party, a young, small, but growing pro-life political party with a platform based largely on Catholic teaching. 

With an electoral victory all but impossible, Sonski is running to make a statement, to be sure — but he also says he wants to provide a means for Catholics to vote in accord with their conscience rather than for the “lesser of two evils.” 

“I’m hopefully at the beginning of that genesis of political change, where we can introduce or reintroduce a real centrist vision that voters can confidently look to and change the direction of government,” Sonski told CNA. 

Peter Sonski and Lauren Onak, the presidential and vice presidential nominees for the American Solidarity Party for 2024. Courtesy of Peter Sonski

Sonski, 61, previously worked for eight years as director of communications for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and previously as an assistant editor at the National Catholic Register (a sister publication to CNA owned by EWTN).

Sonski was born in Massachusetts in 1962. He grew up in a working-class Catholic family in Connecticut and attended college at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He registered as a Democrat at age 18, largely following the example of his parents, who had been loyal blue-collar Democrats for years. 

Around the mid-1990s, Sonski said, he became disenchanted with both of the two major U.S. political parties. Republicans didn’t seem, at least in Sonski’s eyes, to be fulfilling the Christian mandate of caring for the poor, while the Democratic Party appeared to be going in an ever more pro-abortion direction. Despite no longer being a registered member of either party, Sonski still largely voted pragmatically, for whichever candidate, Democrat or Republican, best fit his views. That was until the 2016 general election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — an election that featured for Sonski “no viable option.”

“That’s when I really began to search in earnest for alternatives,” he said. He was introduced to the American Solidarity Party around 2018. 

*Formerly the Christian Democracy Party*

The American Solidarity Party (ASP) was founded in 2011 as the Christian Democracy Party USA. Mike Maturen, a Catholic, ran for president on the party ticket in the 2016 election. Four years later, the ASP’s 2020 presidential candidate was Brian Carroll, an evangelical Christian, former teacher, and (except for a brief 2018 congressional run) a political novice.

American Solidarity Party presidential candidate Brian Carroll speaks at the Free and Equal Elections Second Open Presidential Debate on Oct. 8, 2020, in Denver. Jonah McKeown/CNA

“The American Solidarity Party is based in the tradition of Christian democracy,” the party’s website proclaims.

“Our platform is founded on the belief that all people are created with an equal and inviolable dignity before God. Our shared nature as image-bearers is the source of our rights as individuals; it also demands that we pursue justice together, at whatever level of government or society responds best to the needs of our families and communities.”

Today, the platform of the ASP rests on Catholic ideas, such as solidarity with the poor and marginalized, the sanctity of human life, and the primacy of the family. The party platform calls for an end to legal protection for abortion — coupled with increased support for mothers in need — as well as opposition to euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.

The party’s policy positions on care for the environment, access to health care, and immigration are more closely aligned with those of other parties that might be considered “socially liberal.” Distributism, the favored economic theory for the party platform championed by notable Catholics such as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, is a model that favors less concentrated economic ownership and more emphasis on small businesses. 

Rather than being a silo exclusively for Catholics, Sonski noted that the party platform has attracted interest from people of a wide variety of backgrounds — Jews, Muslims, agnostics, and more. 

“There are many within the American Solidarity Party who are not Catholic. Even though Catholic social teaching is the foundation of its platform and its guiding principles, Catholic social teaching is not exclusive to Catholics. It is for the good of all society, for the common good,” Sonski explained. 

“It tends to appeal to people of faith, because these are values that people of faith hold in common. But it is certainly not a party that I think needs to be defined as a party that is exclusive to Catholics or even to Christians, because there are many people that hold the same views that we do.”

A father of nine adult children, Sonski said his personal pro-life convictions are a centerpiece of his platform. He has been involved in anti-abortion work for decades and has advocated for an end to capital punishment. According to his campaign platform, Sonski favors robust tax credits and incentives that support family unity and basic needs, such as living wages, affordable and stable housing, quality medical care, educational opportunities, and good nutrition. Sonski chose his running mate, Lauren Onak, in part because of her pro-life credentials — she’s a Catholic mother and natural family planning (NFP) instructor.

As a lifelong student of political science, Sonski said it is clear to him that many Americans are more moderate in their beliefs than the platforms of the Republican or Democratic parties would have you believe. The Democratic Party’s dogmatic adherence to “reproductive rights” excludes many pro-life Democrats, for example. 

“There are many Catholics of the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century that have identified with the Republican Party, whereas my parents and earlier generations, as Catholics, identified more with the Democratic Party. [But] I would offer that neither party has possession of the truth entirely,” Sonski said. 

“To be sure, there were a number of other smaller parties, but none that I ever identified with and really felt that I could sign on to with the confidence that I did with the ASP.”

Though some of the terms used in Catholic social teaching and in the ASP’s platform may be unfamiliar to a lot of voters, Sonski said the concepts tend to have broad appeal. Take subsidiarity, for instance. The term refers to the idea — a feature of Catholic teaching — that policy decisions ought to be made at the level closest to the people they affect. 

What this means in practice, Sonski said, is “decisions that affect the family should be left to the family to decide. Decisions that affect communities should be left to communities to decide.” 

Sonski said as a former local politician, he understands the importance of making decisions at a local level in order to best serve a community’s needs. 

“It’s always appealed to me that when you are serving at the local level, you’re serving people that are your neighbors, people with whom you reside … You attend church together, you perhaps were students together in school. You are consumers of the same merchants in the area, et cetera,” Sonski said. 

“So there’s an appreciation, a sense of what the needs are and what the values are in the area. So I think that serving in government at a local level is most desirable because you have a keen sense of the local needs, and it’s also the closest to the people that you are actually serving, your neighbors.”

Peter Sonski, presidential candidate for the American Solidarity Party, greets a fellow presidential candidate, pro-life Democrat Terrisa Bukovinac, following a speech at the Catholic University of America. Credit: Bernadette Dalgetty

Like Carroll before him, Sonski’s path to presidential victory is exceedingly slim. The ASP is working to get on the ballot in states nationwide, and so far only one, Arkansas, has committed to putting Sonski on the ballot, though he hopes to ultimately appear on more than a dozen more. 

Unlike Carroll, Sonski is not entirely new to politics — he’s held three different local elected offices, including a board position in a successful Connecticut school district. On his campaign website, Sonski describes his previous political experience as an “uncommon asset to the American Solidarity Party.”

But still, the question remains: Why bother running at all?

Sonski said he wants to offer Catholics like himself, and others who share the ASP’s vision of the common good, a candidate they can vote for in good conscience. 

“If I represent views and values that voters are looking for, my hope is that I can begin a trend toward people accepting those options, embracing those options, voting for those options, and maybe some of those options ultimately being accepted by those candidates that do win if they see that there is movement by the electorate toward third party candidates,” he said. 

He also said he hopes he will inspire more Catholics to enter politics, ideally at their local level. 

“The ASP even fielding a presidential candidate is in some ways a strategic move. There’s visibility in having a presidential candidate. It’s the highest office in our land, and it receives typically the most attention in this four-year cycle of general elections. And so it’s a great opportunity for the ASP to introduce itself to the electorate,” he explained. 

“I hope that I will attract individuals to either seek office at a local level, a municipal or a county level, whether it’s elected office or a political appointment, or just be a more active member of civil society, to show up for city council meetings, for board of education meetings, to make your opinions known, and to share views that you think should be considered by your local leaders.”

In 2020, Carroll appeared on eight state ballots and was a certified write-in candidate in more than 30 additional states. Sonski said his ambition is to double those figures, appearing on roughly 16 state ballots and be an option as a write-in in every other. 

Each state has its own requirements to get on the ballot, some of which are relatively simple and others that are onerous. He said in some states they should be able to rely on volunteers to make the effort to get the ASP on the ballot, but in others they may have to resort to hiring professionals. In the meantime, Sonski has been campaigning via social media, through speaking engagements on college campuses, and through media appearances. 

Sonski acknowledged that a common refrain in American political discourse is that a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote wasted. Sonski said in his opinion, the only truly wasted vote is one that isn’t cast at all. 

“There is this common notion that should you vote third party you’re going to be harming one or another candidate, so that you’ve got to vote defensively — even if you don’t agree completely with one candidate, you’ve got to vote for the lesser of two evils,” he explained. 

“My feeling is that if you’re voting for the lesser of two evils, you’re still voting for something that is evil and something that doesn’t represent your values. And I wanted to provide voters with one more option that they could consider that might represent their values that they could vote for with confidence.”

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