If you think the presidential debate last week was a little bit of a snooze fest you were not alone. What might jazz things up a bit? More candidates.
When Americans go to the polls on November 6 they might be surprised to see more than two names on the presidential ticket. In Wisconsin, for example, voters will be able to choose from seven candidates who are running for President. In a few key states, these candidates might garner enough votes to have an impact on the national election.
Let's take a look at some of the lesser-known candidates who are vying to hold our country's highest office:
Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party: "Bring the Troops Home!"
Gary Johnson is the former Republican governor of New Mexico. He served as governor from 1995 to 2003, and was known for his liberal use of the veto pen. He takes credit for the fact that in 2003, New Mexico was one of only four states with a balanced budget. While a college student he worked as a door-to-door handyman. He founded the firm Big J Enterprises, which is now one of New Mexico's largest construction companies. This resume has generated some amusing ads. Johnson's campaign blends "fiscal conservatism and social tolerance" and his ads emphasize his pledge to balance the budget, end the war in Afghanistan immediately, and his longstanding opposition to the drug war. The platform is light on policy positions and generally holds that the government should stay out of issues like abortion, gay rights, immigration, free trade, and even "free-market banking."
The Libertarian Party has secured a line on the ballot in 47 states and the District of Columbia, and is awaiting the resolution of litigation or challenges in the remaining three states; Michigan, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. Johnson has raised more than any other third party candidate so far, $1,839,000 as of the most recent reporting period according to Open Secrets. He may well have an impact on the race in New Mexico, where many voters remember him well, and in nearby states.
Jill Stein of the Green Party: "An End to Corporate Rule"
Jill Stein is a Massachusetts physician who entered the political arena through her advocacy around issues of environmental health. She ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 against Mitt Romney, and has been active in campaigns to protect children from toxic pollution and to reform campaign finance laws in Massachusetts. Stein's campaign is proposing a "Green New Deal" which is "an emergency four part program of specific solutions for moving America quickly out of crisis into the secure green future." The plan includes full-employment in sustainable energy, mass transit and other green jobs, economic proposals including breaking up the "too big to fail banks," a living wage proposal, and a renegotiation of NAFTA and other free trade agreements that ship U.S. jobs overseas. The party platform differs from many others by focusing at length on complex issues such as democracy reform and ecological sustainability.
The progressive Green Party has attained ballot status in 37 states and it is still attempting to get on the ballot in six others. Stein's campaign is based out of Madison, Wisconsin and her candidacy could have an impact in that state and others if the race is close. Stein has raised $398,000 as of the most recent reporting period according to Open Secrets.
Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party: "Citizenship Matters"
Virgil Goode represented Virginia's 5th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2009. He was originally elected as a Democrat, then became an independent, and switched to the Republican Party in 2002. Goode is the nominee of the right-wing Constitution Party, and his platform focuses on restoring "constitutional principles." The party platform is explicitly Christian, anti-abortion, and anti-gay marriage. On economics, it calls for the abolition of the Federal Reserve system and a return to the "coin" money system envisioned in the Constitution.
The Constitution Party will be on the ballot in about 30 states. They, like the other campaigns, are facing legal obstacles to getting their name on the ballot in many states. Many election observers speculate that Goode could have an impact on the presidential race in Virginia, where he served as a Congressman for 12 years. The New York Times reported that Goode is "complicating Mitt Romney's chances of winning the key swing state," while right-wing commenters have dubbed him "the fringe candidate who could cost Mitt Romney the presidency."
Goode has raised $105,000 as of the most recent reporting period according to Open Secrets. Goode is refusing to accept donations from Political Actions Committees (PACs) and donations over $200 from individuals.
Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party: Congress and the White House "On a Retainer to Wall Street"
Ross "Rocky" Anderson is a lawyer and the former mayor of Salt Lake City, serving two terms from 2000 to 2004. He is running for president in the progressive Justice Party, and his campaign is focusing on protecting the environment, improving the economy, ending the wars, and protecting and expanding civil and human rights. Anderson proposes a raise in the minimum wage, immigration reform including amnesty and more paths to citizenship, a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, and ending corporate welfare among other initiatives. More details on his policy positions are available here.
Anderson will appear on the ballot in 16 states, mostly under the Justice Party's ballot line, but will appear in some states under affiliated parties. The Justice Party was formed in 2011 as "a clarion call to join our community of concerned Americans demanding social, economic, and environmental justice for all, not just for the wealthiest Americans and their corporations."
Despite their many policy differences, these candidates have a great deal in common. They face the same hurdles to ballot access and getting their message across when they are locked out of the official debates. They are also taking heat from pundits and some voters for stealing votes from one of the dominant party candidates. These candidates also have some policy positions in common, namely ending the duopoly the Democratic and Republican parties have on the electoral system, making ballots more accessible for lesser-known candidates, opening up the debates, and expanding the conversation about the direction a future president should take the country.
CMD's Mary Bottari contributed to this article.