Your [Brief] Guide to Third Party Candidates

Third party candidates have had a spotty history in US politics. Abraham Lincoln came in when the Republican Party was still new. Older parties, like the Federalists and the Whigs, have come and gone. However, the majority of this country’s history has remained mainly a two-party race. During the 1990’s, Ross Perot, with the Reform Party, got nineteen percent of the vote in 1992 – large enough to cause a disruption during the year of his candidacy. Ralph Nader has also been a name many have come to recognize, as he has run numerous times for the presidency as both part of the Green Party and independently. However, these days, third party candidates are of little consequence.

Many consider voting third party to be a waste of a vote – others consider it to be the viable alternative to voting for candidates they do not believe in. This year, the 2016 presidential election, we have had the most divisive set of primary candidates in a while, each gaining popularity with the section of their party they represent. The people who go for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are as different as the people who choose between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or John Kasich. Moderates, conservatives, liberals, independents, outsiders, insiders, and more – at some point during this election, there was likely a candidate in the two main parties that represented your views. Even if they were Jeb Bush, or Ben Carson, or even Martin O’Malley.

Now, though, the amount of candidates are limited to five. With three more eventually being shaved off, there are bound to be people who feel now more than ever that they will not have a say in the upcoming presidential election.

If Sanders goes against Trump, moderates on both sides will have as hard a time connecting to them as the supporters of these two would if they were faced with Clinton and Cruz. It isn’t 2012 anymore, when three out of four Republican candidates were cut from similar cloths, and Obama was the incumbent.

As a result of this, many will choose to turn to a third party to cast their vote. If you are one of those considering it, but haven’t decided yet, perhaps this will be a beginning guide to help you out. There are a lot of third party candidates. I’ve had to cut down the list to, number one, make it manageable, and two, to make sure I’m talking about candidates I can actually find facts on. These parties are still in primary season as well, and many of them now have more candidates than the Republican party currently has, even if not much is known about some of them.

Just to be clear, this list is also not a complete list of every party in the US, with a corresponding candidate for each; some parties are so small, they don’t even have ballot access. Not to mention that some parties have members running (such as the Socialist party) who are ineligible to be president. That said, here are some of the third party candidates who are running this time around:


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

A candidate for the Green Party, Dr. Jill Stein also ran previously as a nominee in 2012 under the same ballot. A graduate of Harvard, she is a physician with a focus on healthy living. In keeping with the Green Party ideals, she is an environmentalist as well, having, according to her website, helped passed laws like the Clean Election Law in her state of Massachusetts, and running for governor in the state in 2002. So far, she has made it on the ballot in over 13 states, with access to over 270 electoral votes. She has picked up delegates in states such as Illinois and Massachusetts. Dr. Stein is also seeking a presidential nomination from the Peace and Freedom Party, however there is some confusion about whether or not she will be allowed in their June 7 California primary (only one of two states, the other being Florida, that has a ballot for the party).


Johnson 2
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

The former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson previously ran on the Libertarian ticket in 2012 and finished a distant third after Mitt Romney. Starting out with his own construction company, Johnson became known as extremely fiscally conservative during his time as governor, vetoing almost 800 bills. He cut taxes several times and left office in 2003. So far, he has won primaries, such as in North Carolina, and caucuses, like those in Minnesota. Among the wide field of Libertarian candidates that still exists, (about fifteen, including those not on any ballots) Johnson has the most experience with politics of any of them.


Photo courtesy of Scott Copeland.

Part of the Constitution Party, which has very biblical, Christian views about the US, Scott Copeland hails from Texas by way of Mississippi. Author of the book “Your 2012 Middle Class President,” he is a Baptist minister, with experience with “several family owned businesses,” according to his website. He claims to be “transplanted by God to Texas” and has so far won the Constitution Party’s Idaho primary and claimed eight delegates. He is currently eligible for 131 electoral votes, including other states like Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, and South Carolina.


Graphic courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.

A clinical psychologist from Maryland, Dr. Lynn Kahn is part of the Reform Party, which Ross Perot ran under in 1992, and for which Donald Trump ran in 2000. She once worked for six and a half years in the National Partnership to Reinvent Government, and, according to her website, has a focus on “organizational dynamics and strategic planning for complex goals that include agency and non-government partners – goals such as customer service at the Internal Revenue Service, 21st century jobs, airspace modernization, juvenile justice reform, probation reform, and reducing homelessness.” She has written two books on her ideas on government reform, and touts her “7-Track Strategy” for her reform to occur. Like Dr. Stein, Dr. Kahn is also seeking the presidential nomination from the Peace and Freedom Party.

Feature photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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