Below the Radar, a Good Year for Independent and Third-Party Senate Candidates
Lost among the bigger elections stories last week was the quieter news that third party candidates for the U.S. Senate did quite well in several states.
The highest profile race won by an independent was in Maine, where former two-term governor Angus King easily won his state’s open Senate seat with nearly 53% of the vote.
Another independent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, posted an even more impressive total, claiming 70% of the vote in winning his second term. Six years ago, Sanders received more than 65% of all ballots cast.
The November election also saw non-major party candidates establish new high marks in Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia, while the Libertarian Party registered its strongest ever performances in five states, according to Smart Politics.
In Maryland, independent Rob Sobhani won 16.8% in a four-candidate race won by Democrat Ben Cardin. Sobhani helped splinter the anti-incumbent vote while racking up the state’s best performance by an independent in 44 years.
In Missouri, Libertarian Jonathan Dine received 6.1% of the vote, which was the highest total ever by a non-major party candidate in the Show Me State.
In West Virginia, Mountain Party candidate Bob Baber received 3% in the race won by Democratic incumbent and former Governor Joe Manchin.
Three percent may not sound impressive, but the performance needs to be viewed in the context that West Virginia, until now, has never shown much inclination towards third party candidates in U.S. Senate races. The previous high mark was set by Libertarian Joe Whelan in 2000 (2.1%) while running against Democrat Robert Byrd.
Finally, in Nevada 4.5% voted for “None of the above” in this year’s Senate race, the highest percentage gained by that option since it was made available in 1976.
To Learn More:
Record-Setting 3rd Party and Independent Candidacies Abound in 2012 US Senate Races (by Eric Ostermeier, Smart Politics)
Why are There only 2 Candidates in the Presidential Debates? (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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