http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2014/10/spoiler-alert-third-party-candidates-could-swing-elections/Spoiler Alert: Third Party Candidates Could Swing Elections
BY BRIAN COHN
OCTOBER 8, 2014
As fights for control of state and national offices continue to dominate the news, the bulk of public attention is drawn to candidates from the two major parties. But this midterm cycle, third party candidates could have a real impact, despite our overwhelmingly two-party system. In a handful of elections, third party hopefuls could potentially play the role of spoiler and ultimately decide the victor.
Many Senate races around the country have received extra scrutiny this year due to the heated competition for control of the Senate, but Georgia
’s open-seat Senate race has the potential to be one of the most interesting elections of the cycle. The Republican candidate, David Perdue, is a former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General and the cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue. The Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, is the CEO of the Points of Light charity organization and the daughter of longtime Georgia senator, Sam Nunn. Amanda Swafford, a Libertarian candidate, has the ability to punch this close election into overtime, as a candidate in Georgia must have a simple majority of the vote to win the office. Currently, Perdue’s prospects are looking favorable. But if Swafford can draw enough votes away from him, a distinct possibility according to HuffPost’s current prediction, a runoff election between Perdue and Nunn would take place in early January. If a runoff took place, it could be a deciding factor for Senate control.
In North Carolina
, a major swing state, things are looking positive for Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan, with Sean Haugh playing spoiler for the GOP’s candidate and current North Carolina Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis. Haugh might just help Hagan win a tough re-election; he is a Libertarian candidate who ran for this position in 2002 and only received 1.45 percent of the vote. He is now polling at around 5 percent, enough to actually swing the state away from Tillis. In truth, Haugh’s bid is rarely taken seriously. His campaign mostly consists of casual talks in YouTube videos, and he was not invited to participate in a debate for the Senate seat. Still, even though the current pizza delivery driver has virtually no shot at winning, his minute effect could be just enough to tip the scales in favor of Hagan.
The 2014 governor races also have their fair share of third party candidate spoiler potential. In Arizona
, the Republican Doug Ducey faces off against Democrat Fred DuVal. But Libertarian candidate Barry Hess has real power to determine the outcome of this election. Currently, Ducey is only about two points ahead of DuVal, and Hess is projected to get roughly 7 percent of the vote. The election is so tight that, depending on voter turnout, Hess could turn this election into a nail-biter by taking votes away from Ducey. Since Democrats have a serious chance of obtaining a majority of governorships this year, Arizona has become a top priority.
governor’s race is also extremely close with the GOP incumbent Rick Scott taking on the now-Democrat Charlie Crist in a tight election. However, Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie may pave the way for Crist to eke it out by drawing conservative votes away from Scott. This election has huge implications for the future of the Affordable Care Act in Florida, and Wyllie has the potential to incidentally score the Democrats a big win. Rick Scott has been actively addressing many controversial issues including climate change and abortion with a conservative slant, so a Rick Scott loss in November would not only be a political victory, but also a policy triumph for the Democrats.
, in addition to its competitive Senate race, has a close governor’s race featuring the incumbent Republican Nathan Deal and Democratic candidate and the grandson of President Carter, Jason Carter. This race could also be jolted into extra innings if Libertarian and nanotechnologist, Andrew Hunt, can draw enough votes away from Deal. Currently, Deal is polling around 46 percent, not enough to win re-election outright. A potential runoff between Carter and Deal (along with the Senate runoff) would have money and media scrutiny pouring into Georgia in the months following Election Day. If Carter is able to win out over Deal, Medicaid expansion would probably be a top priority, giving healthcare coverage to about 650,000 uninsured Georgians.
also has an interesting governor’s race, which includes the Republican incumbent Paul LePage, Democrat Mike Machaud and Independent Eliot Cutler. Unlike Arizona, Florida and Georgia, the third party candidate in the Maine governor’s race will likely draw voters away from the Democratic candidate. Michaud’s campaign manager even said, “A vote for Cutler is a vote for LePage.” This race has drawn much attention, as Michaud hopes to be the first openly gay candidate elected governor. Cutler could definitely only play spoiler in this race because he is only polling at about 13 percent. Cutler unsuccessfully ran against LePage in 2010 and nearly won, but his second try is turning out to be a tad lackluster, which could spell trouble for Mike Michaud and the Democrats. Still, as voters begin to realize that Cutler will not win, they will likely migrate toward Michaud.Ultimately, as the midterm season comes to a head, third party candidates have the power to tangibly impact elections in important battleground states.
Libertarian and independent candidates rarely get a chance to hold high-ranking state and federal offices, but that does not mean those contenders are inconsequential. So, while some frontrunners may appear to be approaching victory, underrated third party candidates may impact elections just enough to reshape the landscape and potentially change the political tide of the country.