Gotham Gazette Fri, 17 Aug 2018 07:54:42 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race howie h gov

(photo via Facebook: @HowieHawkinsForGovernorPolitician)

That didn’t take long. On Saturday, April 13 the Working Families Party endorsed Democrat Cynthia Nixon for New York Governor. By the following Tuesday, the WFP said they didn’t really mean it.

“We will not be a spoiler,” said Bill Lipton, the WFP’s political director, indicating that the WFP will take Nixon off its ballot line if she loses the Democratic primary against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Perhaps the WFP will offer Cuomo their ballot line for a third time if he wins the Democratic primary – if he will take it.

I feel for rank-and-file WFP progressives. It’s an abusive relationship. They got double-crossed by Cuomo in 2014 when they endorsed him. This year they got strong-armed by Cuomo when they didn’t.

I would like to reassure WFP progressives that, whatever happens in the Democratic primary, the Green Party gubernatorial ticket will offer a progressive alternative in the November 6 general election.

Only three parties – Democratic, Republican, and Green – created their ballot lines by running their own candidates. The other five ballot-qualified parties got the 50,000 votes for governor needed for a ballot line by cross-endorsing the Democrat or Republican. These so-called “fusion” parties function like political clubs inside the major parties, not independent parties.

When the WFP endorsed Cuomo over Zephyr Teachout in 2014, Cuomo’s double-cross began immediately. He backed away the next day from promises he made to get the endorsement in his so-called hostage video to the WFP convention. At the Celebrate Israel Parade the morning after, Cuomo told reporters, “It’s very simple at these political conventions: you either win or you lose. Uh, and I won…At the end of the day I won the endorsement, and that’s what’s really relevant.”

On that morning after, Cuomo broke his promise of the night before to allow municipalities to raise the minimum wage. Asked about his promise to help Democrats take control of the State Senate, Cuomo said, “This is about electing people who support an agenda. I also will oppose Democrats who have opposed things that we have tried to pass."

Over the next nearly four years, Cuomo spent none of his political capital to pressure the Independent Democratic Conference to break its governing coalition with Senate Republicans. Cuomo used the Senate to deflect blame for his failure to enact so much of what he had promised the WFP, including full funding of public schools, the Dream Act, abortion-rights protections, government ethics reform, and public campaign financing. Cuomo played the WFP and took their votes for granted.

So this year the WFP was right to endorse a progressive challenger. Cuomo’s response, according to WFP leaders, was a power play to pull the unions out of the WFP and threaten to cut union and state funding for WFP-affiliated community organizations.

Then there are the scores of WFP-endorsed “Working Families Democrats,” as this nominal third party refers to them, who are running for the State Senate and Assembly. No doubt these Democrats feel pressure from the Democratic machine, and particularly the big Democratic donors who back Cuomo, to endorse Cuomo...or else.

Such are the contradictions of fusion balloting. It would be confusing for the WFP to run Nixon against Cuomo in November when it is also supporting Democrats whose ticket would be headed by Cuomo. Organizing working people to vote for the corporate-sponsored Democrats is like organizing workers into a company union run by the bosses.

The Green Party takes a different approach. We organize working people and progressives into a party that is independent of the Democrats’ corporate donor swamp of real estate barons, Wall Street bankers, media and movie moguls, military contractors, and big pharma and insurance. Our political independence forces Democrats to compete for progressive voters instead of taking them for granted. The Green vote gives us political leverage. We try to win, but we don’t have to win the office to make a difference.

The 184,419 votes for 5% in the general election that the Green gubernatorial ticket received in 2014 reinforced the 192,210 votes that Zephyr Teachout got in the Democratic primary. Cuomo, who had wanted to run up his vote for a presidential run, received a smaller percentage than he had in 2010. Seeking those votes to his left after that election, Cuomo adopted a number of Green demands, from the fracking ban and paid family leave to partial implementation of the $15 minimum wage and tuition-free public college.

Greens will demand more this year, including single-payer health care, fully-funded public schools, a stop to fracked-gas infrastructure, 100% clean energy by 2030, and public campaign finance. And we will still be on the ballot in November.

Howie Hawkins, a recently retired Teamster from Syracuse, was the Green Party candidate for Governor of New York in 2010 and 2014 and is seeking its nomination again this year. On Twitter @HowieHawkins.

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The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race Wed, 09 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Fusion, Spoilers, and New York's Many Ballot Lines Cuomo voting 2017 primary

Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Governor's Office)

New York’s unique fusion voting system is again in the spotlight this year, with renewed attention in the wake of Cynthia Nixon’s insurgent challenge for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination against Governor Andrew Cuomo, with the potential for vote-splitting on the left leading to a Republican victory in November. Cuomo and Nixon have each now been endorsed by a minor party with automatic general election ballot access, even as they vie for the big prize of the Democratic nomination.

Fusion voting, which allows candidates to combine the votes they receive from appearing on multiple ballot lines, is used in only eight states. But it takes its highest profile in New York, where numerous minor parties can cross-endorse rather than all having to run their own nominees, and still keep their own line on the ballot. Parties can secure a ballot line by having their gubernatorial nominee secure 50,000 votes statewide in the general election.

In New York, fusion voting has often led to individual candidates appearing on multiple ballot lines, whereby the minor parties do not threaten to play a spoiler role by costing a major party nominee victory by siphoning a determinative number of votes. For example, the Republican and Conservative parties often back the same candidates for various offices, and they appear set to do so again in this year’s gubernatorial race, behind Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Governor Cuomo has appeared on several ballots lines in his runs for office over the years, including on the Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality, and Independence Party lines during his 2014 reelection. This year, however, the Working Families Party has backed Cynthia Nixon, who hopes to defeat Cuomo in the Democratic primary, but may appear on the general election ballot regardless and therefore risk pulling a decisive number of votes from Cuomo in the general election. Having earned the backing of the Independence Party this year, Cuomo could do similarly if Nixon has the Democratic Party nomination.

The Green Party, which typically fields its own candidates, could also play a role, pulling some voters on the left. This year it is again nominating for governor Howie Hawkins, who received over 184,000 votes in 2014. The Reform Party and Women’s Equality Party have yet to settle on a nominee.

The practice of fusion voting was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as a means for minor organizing arms to defeat powerful Tammany Hall machine candidates. These tickets sometimes worked: the second mayor of the consolidated City of New York, Seth Low, defeated Tammany Hall Democrat Edward Shepard on a fusion Republican-Citizens Union ticket in 1901.

The Wilson-Pakula Law of 1947, passed allegedly to disempower the American Labor Party, which was accused of having ties to communists, prevented candidates from running in the primaries for different parties; instead, a candidate must gain permission from the minor party that they’re not registered with in order to run on their ballot line. The alleged ties to communists caused ALP members to flock to the newer Liberal Party, which did not face the same allegations; the Democrats and Republicans did not want to grant their line to members of the ALP.

Cuomo criticized the Wilson-Pakula Law in 2013 after it came under scrutiny following Senator Malcolm Smith’s alleged attempt to bribe his way onto the Republican line. Some have called for repeal of the law, but so far efforts at repeal have gone nowhere in Albany.

The minor parties gain prominence unseen in most other states due to their ability to influence the major parties, and often act more like advocacy organizations than vast political organizing machines, though some have party infrastructure. According to Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist and the Director of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center, this has made New York’s politics more ideological and polarized.

“There are people who believe that periphery-oriented politics is desirable,” Benjamin said. “Pulling to the left and right is desirable. I think pulling to the center is desirable, having a two-party system that contains the conflict within that system is centrist.” He said that the system, in a way, is “mischievous” in empowering a minority of ideologically-inclined voters to have outsized influence on the process. As such, instead of allowing for more representation on the ballot, the third parties give their lines to major candidates and influence the platform and positions of the major parties and candidates.

Benjamin also says that the parties have become more prominent over time, though not to the degree they were in the 19th century.

“Their significance is higher than in the recent past,” Benjamin said, though he noted that the parties often have disparate periods of high significance, such as when James Buckley was elected to the U.S. Senate on only the Conservative line in 1970 or when John Lindsay won the New York City mayoralty on the Liberal line in 1969. “There have been peak moments. But systemically, and through politics at all levels, I think they’re at a pretty high level of significance relatively to history.”

Though there have been minor party successes for New York City mayor and U.S. senator, none has ever alone elected a governor of New York. The Democrats and Republicans have controlled the governorship exclusively since Whig Party member Myron Clark left office in 1856. The Whigs were one of the two major parties in the U.S. before being replaced by the Republicans in the 1850s.

The liberal Working Families Party (WFP), a coalition of left-wing activist groups and labor unions, is one of the more prominent minor parties in New York. The WFP typically cross-endorses the Democratic nominee and attempts to pull its nominees to the left. Cuomo and the WFP recently split dramatically after several activist groups involved with the party endorsed Nixon for governor, which led to unions leaving the party to side with Cuomo, reportedly at his behest. The unions have provided key funding to those activist groups, whose futures are at risk, along with the larger WFP, which is taking a significant gamble on Nixon.

Cuomo and the WFP have a rocky history. Cuomo initially declined the WFP endorsement in 2010 but eventually agreed to take the line, despite their platforms not being wholly aligned, especially on the issue of taxation. As such, the WFP won 50,000 votes and retained statewide ballot access.

The WFP had more leverage over Cuomo in 2014, when the party agreed to endorse him over liberal challenger Zephyr Teachout in exchange for a pledge to unify the Senate Democrats and support a more progressive platform. Cuomo did not follow through on the agreement, and also created the Women’s Equality Party, whose acronym, WEP, is very similar to WFP. His campaign urged supporters to vote for him on the Democratic or WEP lines, omitting the WFP from get-out-the-vote emails.

Having endorsed Nixon over Cuomo this year, some have raised the possibility of a vote split on the left that could land Molinaro in the Governor’s Mansion. WFP Political Director Bill Lipton, in response, declared that the party didn’t intend to act as a spoiler, telling the Associated Press that in the event Nixon loses the primary, she would “meet with our leaders, and we will make a decision that puts the interests of working families first.” However, Lipton does not think that will happen anyway.

“The more voters learn about Cynthia's progressive values, the more they like her,” Lipton told Gotham Gazette in an email. “Working Families feels confident Cynthia will win the Democratic Primary in September and go on to be both the Working Families and Democratic Nominees in November. The real problem is Andrew Cuomo being a spoiler. It looks like he will have the WEP and Independence Party lines - what happens when he loses the Democratic primary - is he willing to be a spoiler and elect a Republican Governor?”

The Independence Party has indeed endorsed Cuomo for the third election in a row, landing him on the November ballot no matter what. He is also likely to receive the nomination of the WEP, with the new party leader telling Politico that it’s “very likely the party will support Cuomo’s reelection bid.” Neither the Independence Party nor the WEP responded to requests for comment for this story.

Nixon has taken notice of Cuomo’s Independence Party endorsement. When asked about being a potential spoiler in Buffalo, she flipped the script, according to the Buffalo News.

“Why is nobody asking Andrew Cuomo that question, who is running on the Independence line and the Women’s Equality line he created,” Nixon said.

The Cuomo campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Gotham Gazette.

“Could he win without the Democrat line? Maybe,” Professor Benjamin said, while noting that the governor losing the Democratic primary would be an unlikely scenario and that a continued run would be based on a future calculation by Cuomo. The most recent poll, from Quinnipiac University, has Cuomo leading Nixon by 28 points. However, Benjamin conceded that Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination for president was also initially seen as exceedingly unlikely.

The Independence Party has had significant showings in both of Cuomo’s elections: in 2010, it received 146,576 votes statewide, while in 2014 it received 77,762, according to the State Board of Elections. In both instances, however, it was bested by the Working Families Party in vote count.

The Independence Party is, however, by far the largest third party in New York State based on enrollment. According to the State Board of Elections’ Annual Report for 2016, the most recent year available, the Independence Party had 501,738 registered voters in the state, outnumbering the second largest, the Conservative Party, by almost 340,000 voters. WFP had 50,039 registered voters. The Independence Party’s high membership, despite a relatively low electoral profile, is due in no small part to people mistakenly registering as Independence when meaning to register as unaffiliated, or “independent,” as shown by the Daily News in 2012.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has derided the Independence Party as a “bizarre and fractious political group” that “survives on confusion” of people thinking they’re registering as independent. The editorial board urged Cuomo to reject its endorsement in 2014 in order to cause the party to lose its automatic place on the ballot; Cuomo did not do that.

Unlike the WFP, the Independence Party has not committed to endorsing either the Democratic or Republican nominee in the event that Cuomo loses the primary; as such, Cuomo could theoretically continue his campaign as the Independence nominee if he loses the Democratic primary. However, like a potential Nixon campaign as the WFP nominee, a Cuomo Independence campaign against Nixon and Molinaro would allow the possibility of a vote split that would likely send Molinaro to Albany.

Cuomo’s stormy history with minor parties goes back a long way. In 2002, he was endorsed for governor by the Liberal Party, but dropped out of the race before the Democratic primary. He remained on the party’s line for the general election, where he failed to receive 50,000 votes and thus the Liberal Party lost its automatic place on the ballot. Historically a vehicle for candidates with the backing of labor unions, the party ceded that ground to the WFP and has not appeared on the gubernatorial ballot since Cuomo’s 2002 run.

Things are looking less tense on the Republican side. Molinaro appears to have consolidated support among the state’s GOP establishment; he recently won the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and his main competition for that and the Republican nomination, State Senator John DeFrancisco, recently pulled out of the race.

There’s also the Reform Party, which has a history of maverick actions and public stunts by its founder and leader, Curtis Sliwa. Last year, the party publicly urged Preet Bharara to run for either mayor or governor; Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney who was fired by President Donald Trump, has instead become a renowned podcaster.

Now, the party is apparently split on endorsing either Molinaro or former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who mounted a brief campaign for the Republican nomination before dropping out. According to the Daily News, the party has “punted” the decision to its May 19 party convention in Queens; if the party can’t make a decision there, it will hold a primary in September. In late April, it was reported that Sliwa himself was considering a run, saying he had “no other choice” if doctors give him a “clean bill of health.” Democrats and Republicans will hold their nominating conventions toward the end of May.

“There was a motion made to table consideration of the Governor's race until the state convention so that all of the state committee members could speak with the candidates,” Frank Morano, a spokesman for the Reform Party, told Gotham Gazette.

The party has its own outsized role in New York politics compared to its membership; according to the 2016 BOE report, the Reform Party has only 900 registered members in all of New York State.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Fusion, Spoilers, and New York's Many Ballot Lines Thu, 03 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Rare Green Party Primary in Brooklyn City Council Race Brisport

(Credit via @Jabari2017)

Despite laying claim to less than one percent of party affiliated registered voters within New York City, the Green Party has two candidates competing in a rare primary this year.

Candidates Jabari Brisport and Scott Hutchins are facing each other for the chance to run against the winner of the Democratic primary between incumbent Laurie Cumbo and Ede Fox, as well as Republican candidate Christine Parker, in the 35th City Council District, which includes central Brooklyn neighborhoods like Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and parts of Crown Heights.

"It's very rare that there are two Greens in a race, that is true," said Gloria Mattera, the secretary of the Green Party of Brooklyn, in a brief interview with Gotham Gazette. "All candidates are encouraged to run."

Mattera said that the Green Party wasn’t backing Brisport or Hutchins, but that there might be an endorsement meeting soon.

In a subsequent interview, Mattera said the party saw an “uptick in people, either back or joining the Green Party” who had been active in Bernie Sanders’ campaign during the 2016 presidential election that were disappointed with the Democratic Party.

“Both, of course, with how the DNC process went, and for many, Sanders himself in terms of the decisions he made around his campaign,” said Mattera. “So I think our party has been, I would say, growing in the last year and a half.”

Of just under 5 million registered voters in New York City (4,996,975) as of April 1, there were 8,621 registered with the Green Party, according to the state Board of Elections. In Brooklyn, those numbers are 1,544,238 registered voters, with 3,172 in the Green Party. It’s not clear how many Greens live in Council District 35, and there is still time to register to vote for the September 12 primary -- according to the city’s website, new voters must submit their voter registration a minimum of 25 days prior to the election date. (The deadline to switch one’s party registration in order to vote in a particular primary has passed, though.)

The Green Party is fielding candidates in a handful of other City Council races, as well as a full slate in the three citywide races for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate.

It’s not clear yet whether both Brisport and Hutchins will be on the September primary ballot, as petition signatures are being vetted by the Board of Elections. Brisport appears to be running a much more active campaign. He has reported raising about $15,000 for his campaign, and spending about $5,000 of it, while Hutchins has not yet filed any financial disclosures with the Campaign Finance Board. Cumbo, meanwhile, has raised about $108,000 and Fox about $74,000, all as of mid-July. Parker has reported raising just under $4,500 -- like Hutchins, she does not appear to be running a particularly active campaign.

Hutchins was not present at either of two recent candidate forums for the race, those put on by the Flatbush Tenants or the Washington Avenue Botanic Block Association. Brisport showed up to debate the two candidates of the more popular Democratic Party, Cumbo and Fox, and raise awareness of his campaign.

“If anybody here is in the Green Party, I do have a primary challenger…he didn’t show up, so don’t vote for him, vote for me,” said Brisport at the WABBA forum on July 25. “I do plan to win the primary soundly, for those of you who are not [Green Party Members],” Brisport added, in referencing to the subsequent general election.

Brisport, like both Democratic candidates, is running a housing-centric campaign, stressing that affordable housing is the most important issue in the district. He is also running on police reform, economic justice, climate justice, and an end to high stakes testing in schools.

Hutchins did not make himself available for comment for this story -- he said via Facebook that his phone was not working, but promised to call Gotham Gazette and did not do so by publication time.

Though, according to Mattera, District 35 is the only City Council race with two Green Party candidates, the mayoral race in Albany will be holding a Green Party primary in September between 22-year-old Bryan Jimenez,and Sheridan Hollow, 28. According to The Albany Times Union, there hasn’t been such a primary in Albany for mayor since in the last 16 years.

by Jynn Schubert for Gotham Gazette
@JynnWasHere  @GothamGazette

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Rare Green Party Primary in Brooklyn City Council Race Sun, 30 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Could ‘Third Party’ Candidates Swing the Presidential Election? Jill Stein

Green Party candidate Jill Stein (photo via Facebook)

With the Republican and Democratic parties having nominated presidential candidates with record-high unfavorability ratings, this election cycle is turning out to be a choice between a rock and a hard place for many voters. Some, though, are looking elsewhere and still-early polling shows that this November could yield near-record voting for so-called “third party” candidates.

Those who oppose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton say she’s an untrustworthy, calculating politician with cozy ties to corporate interests and Washington insiders; opponents of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, see him as a sexist, fear-mongering, racist xenophobe with authoritarian tendencies. Though the United States has a political system dominated by two parties, Clinton and Trump aren’t the only choices, much to the relief of a number of voters. What that number winds up being could determine the election, the next President, and much of the future of the country and the world.

The third-party candidates in the 2016 race for the White House are the Libertarian Party’s nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s candidate Dr. Jill Stein, both of whom ran in 2012 and are now going all out to woo those disaffected voters who believe that neither Clinton nor Trump is a viable choice for President of the United States. While no expert would argue that either Johnson or Stein will be the next President, voters choosing one or the other on November 8 could determine whether the next President is Trump or Clinton.

This year’s presidential election is likely to once again come down to several key swing states, and polls in some of those states, like Ohio and Florida, show a close race between the two leading candidates. (In at least one national poll, Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, polled in double digits, but in other polls both he and Stein were in single digits - a candidate needs to hit an average of 15 percent in five national polls to be invited to a debate.) There is concern for some that one or both of the third-party candidates could be a spoiler for Clinton in a swing state or two and skew the election in Trump’s favor. While the likelihood is minimal, experts say, it not entirely implausible.

A Real Clear Politics poll average has Trump at 41.5 percent in Florida, against Clinton’s 41.3 percent while Johnson takes 4.5 percent and Stein takes 2.5 percent of the vote. In 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by just 74,309 votes or 0.88 percentage points in Florida. In Ohio, Clinton bests Trump by 1.4 points on average thus far; Johnson gets 6.4 percent and Stein gets 3 percent. In 2012, Obama won by 2.98 points in the state. In New Hampshire, a four-way contest has Clinton and Trump tied at 37 percent according to a WMUR Granite State poll; with Johnson at 10 percent and Stein at 5 percent. Obama won the state in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote, against Romney’s 46.4 percent.

Both Stein and Johnson have been encouraged by the high unfavorable ratings of Clinton and Trump. A Gallup poll conducted July 18-25 found that Clinton and Trump had equal favorability marks: 37% favorable and 58% unfavorable. Some believe the 2016 dynamics could create a situation similar to the 2000 presidential election, when famous third-party candidate Ralph Nader took votes away from Al Gore in Florida, the state which gave George W. Bush the presidency with a razor thin margin.

Nader addressed those concerns in a recent interview with the New York Daily News, insisting that a third-party candidate shouldn’t unjustly be termed a “spoiler” and laying the blame instead on the media, the voters, and the candidates themselves. A Florida-like situation is exactly what former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was trying to avoid when he abandoned plans of running for president as an independent earlier this year. He didn’t want to run the risk of helping elect Trump, he said, something he affirmed by speaking at the Democratic National Convention in favor of Hillary Clinton and calling upon independents to vote for her.

The most recent CBS News poll had Clinton at 41 percent and Trump at 36 percent, with Johnson receiving 10 percent of the vote. Stein was not mentioned in the poll. Among independents, however, Clinton trailed Trump by 2 points, and Johnson received 15 percent of the vote.

A new CNN/ORC poll taken after the close of the Democratic National Convention shows independents favoring Clinton, with a 37% plurality, Trump with 33% of independents, Johnson wiht 16% of independents, and Stein with 8% of independents.  

Gallup polling shows that 42 percent of registered voters identify as independents. While at this juncture in the election cycle about one-third of independents may say they favor a ‘third-party’ candidate, support for such candidates tends to drop as the general election gets closer. (The latest Real Clear Politics polling data averages put Johnson at 7 percent and Stein at 3.2 percent.)

“One primary struggle in a year like this,” said John Hudak, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, “is not that voters are in love with third-party candidates. They’ve fallen out of love with the major party candidates.” Hudak contrasted Ross Perot’s insurgent candidacy in 1992, when he ran as an independent. “Perot did quite well because people liked his message. He was inspiring people. Stein and Johnson are not providing any inspiration for voters.”

Hudak doesn’t expect that the third-party candidates will have a significant influence and that people disillusioned with Clinton and Trump will more likely stay home on Election Day than vote for Stein or Johnson. Even in swing states he said the effects of a third-party candidate would be difficult to attribute and would likely have minimal impact on the outcome.

No one discounts, however, the strong possibility that third-party candidates will get a higher vote share this year than past elections. Stein appeals to Democratic voters, particularly former Bernie Sanders supporters who felt betrayed when the Vermont senator dropped out of the race and endorsed Clinton. Last week, outside the Democratic National Convention, she made attempts to win over ‘Bernie or Bust’ protesters who had walked out of the main arena. She has proposed a “Green New Deal,” a platform that skews closely to Sanders’. It includes single-payer health care, forgiving student loan debt, transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy, breaking up the big banks, and fighting income inequality, to name a few main planks. Stein has also built some name recognition. She ran in 2012 and received about 469,000 votes, which she’s hoping to build on this year. There were a few more than 129 million votes cast that year.

Gary JohnsonAlthough Libertarian Gary Johnson (pictured) has been seen as more of a threat to Trump, on social issues his policies correlate closely with Sanders, again perhaps offering a home for voters supportive of Sanders but not attracted to Clinton. Johnson, who also visited Philadelphia during the DNC, favors legalizing marijuana, is pro-choice on abortion, and supports marriage equality. In a recent interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Johnson said of Sanders, “On the social side, we’re simpatico.” Johnson has also received more media attention than Stein and has a record as former (Republican) governor of New Mexico. When he ran for president in 2012, he received about 1.28 million votes.

Johnson’s other policies are far flung for Democrats. As a Libertarian, he wants smaller government that has a minimal role in people’s lives, not just on social issues like marriage and abortion. He wants to get rid of the entire tax code and institute a consumption tax nationwide. He wants to cut the Department of Education.

Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee, told Gotham Gazette that Johnson is an easy choice for voters as the “honest guy” running against a “bigot” (Trump) and a “liar” (Clinton) who are historically unpopular. He’s not concerned that Johnson could pull votes from Clinton and hand Trump swing states. Although if that should happen, he said it falls at the feet of the voters and not the third-party candidate. “You’re supposed to vote for who is best for the office,” he said. “Not who you hate more or less.”

Part of the struggle for both Johnson and Stein, neither of whom was made available for an interview for this article, will be getting on the debate stage, which is crucial for third-party candidates to build name recognition and get media attention. The Commission on Presidential Debates, however, only allows candidates polling 15 percent in national polls to participate in the debates. So far, Johnson seems more likely to hit the mark. “They’re going to have a very hard time getting sufficient attention to register with voters,” said Micah Sifry, executive director of Civic Hall and an expert on third-party candidacies, in a phone interview.

Sifry doesn’t think the election will be as close as the 2000 race and doesn’t see a high likelihood that a third-party candidate could give the election to either Trump or Clinton. At best, he said, Stein and Johnson will split 6 percent of the vote between them. He does see Johnson receiving votes from disaffected Republicans and from the 10 percent of Sanders supporters who “were probably never Democrats in the first place.” He also said Stein could do better in strong “blue” states, which are overwhelmingly Democratic and “where people feel it’s a safe protest vote.”

Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute, echoed Sifry’s views on the debates. “The name recognition on the national stage that access to the debates provides can be transformative,” he said, pointing out that Ross Perot in 1992 had only 7 percent of the vote in the polls before the debates and jumped to nearly 19 percent. Perot was added to the debate roster because George H.W. Bush’s campaign insisted on it, which Healy said was in hopes of tilting votes in Bush’s favor. “It can really rocket a former unknown into contender territory,” Healy said.

Healy said it was “certainly plausible” that third-party candidates could affect swing states since Trump and Clinton, “are the most widely reviled major party candidates in the history of polling.”

Should Johnson and Stein make themselves better known between now and November, they may at least drive voter turnout and encourage alternative discussion of issues on the campaign trail. “That’s part of a healthy phenomenon,” said Sifry. “You want people to have more choices. You want the major parties to fight for their votes. They shouldn’t take people for granted.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Could ‘Third Party’ Candidates Swing the Presidential Election? Mon, 01 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000