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Despite Az’s many independents, 3rd parties still face long odds

WASHINGTON – Marc Victor’s spokesman is realistic: The Libertarian nominee does not expect to break through the high-profile Senate standoff between Republican Jeff Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona.

It’s not for lack of trying. Victor made enough noise in the first and only debate among the three men that in early October Politico dubbed him a potential spoiler in the race.

But with limited resources – the Arizona Libertarian Party reported spending just $1 on campaigns since August – there is only so much a third-party candidate can do in a large state.

“We aren’t able to reach everybody in the state,” said Mike Wasdin, Victor’s campaign spokesman. “There’s too much area to cover. There are people who aren’t going to know about Marc.”

While registered Libertarians make up less than 1 percent of Arizona’s 3.2 million registered voters, independents make up 32 percent – seemingly fertile ground for alternatives to the top two parties.

But recent polls indicate that only about 3 percent of Arizonans are planning to vote for someone other than Carmona or Flake, who reportedly holds a slight lead.

Wasdin thinks 3 percent is low, but said the poll results are no surprise.

“I’ve received calls with automated polls: ‘Press one for Jeff Flake. Press two for Richard Carmona. Press three for other,’” Wasdin said. “When you press three, it just goes on to the next question.”

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Part of the challenge of establishing a statewide identity is money. Flake and Carmona had raised $7.5 million and $5.5 million, respectively, as of mid-October, according to the Federal Election Commission. Victor’s campaign – $7,500.

But Carla Howell, executive director of the National Libertarian Party, said even if a candidate raises large sums, media recognition remains the linchpin.

“You can raise all the money you want, but if the media refuses to cover you, you aren’t going to get the name recognition,” Howell said.

Victor’s only media boost came Oct. 10 in a televised debate alongside Flake and Carmona. When the debate seemed built for two, Victor jumped in.

“People from across the nation were contacting us after the first debate because it was on C-SPAN,” Victor said.

“You saw me talking about big issues – what departments I would cut … the drug war, the wars overseas,” he said. “They (Flake and Carmona) were wanting to talk about all sorts of ridiculous things.

“I would pound my hand on the table and mention the budget. It was met with silence. I raised the Afghanistan war – silence,” said Victor, who said he was not invited back for the second and third debates.

Howell called that an “automatic momentum-killer.”

“When they do allow Libertarians in the debates, they’ll often leave them out in the final debate, sending the signal that there are only two choices,” Howell said.

Wasdin still thinks that Victor will garner more votes than polls indicate, maybe as high as 7 percent. But Kim Fridkin, an Arizona State University political science professor, finds that unlikely with only about 22,000 Libertarians registered in the state.

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“I don’t think there’s enough publicity to have an effect,” Fridkin said. “If it were 30 votes to decide the winner, it would be a different story.”

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1 comment on this story

Nov 7, 2012, 4:56 pm
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I’ve long been an outspoken critic of the two-party system that has hijacked the government in this country and completely perverted our intended system of government far away from the original vision for it.

I’m a centrist independent, so of course I support the causes of other independents, and many of those in so-called “third parties”. Of course the media’s refusal to cover “third-party” candidates is a huge part of the problem. But, there’s plenty of blame to go around…

The Green party just needs to go, as do all of their members. Anytime a shill for the big-two wants to make an argument about wasting a vote, all they have to do is point to Dave Croteau or Mary DeCamp and it would be a convincing argument. The Green Party is nothing more than a mockery of a political party, and a waste of all of our time.

Part of the blame can be placed on people like Blanca Guerra, or even Pat Buchanan, when they jump to third parties just because their own big-two party didn’t do what they wanted it to do. Libertarians, a party I do mostly support (not always agree with, but support), has a hard time gaining credibility when their ballot lines are hijacked by those who would otherwise be part of the two-party machine.

And, part of the blame can be placed on infighting of the third party movement. The Reform Party once had great momentum…so much so that I was once a member of it. Jesse Ventura got elected governor of Minnesota under that party. But just two years later it went all to shit because of the Haegan/Buchanan dual-primary fiasco…that’s when I left. Ventura did, too, while he was still in office.

These problems all sort of tie in to each other. In the case of the reform party, if they could have found a way to keep out the really-republican-Buchanan, the infighting would have never happened. But, at that, the Reform party members forgot what it is they were fighting for…a real, viable alternative to the two-party machine.

Part of the tie-in is Ventura’s gubernatorial term. The Minnesota media HATED that a third-party candidate defeated both of their darlings. So, even though Ventura ended up being great governor and left a proud legacy, the media would never acknowledge that. Rather, they spent four years constantly hounding him, criticizing him, nitpicking him, and outright disparaging him. I guarantee you that if Ventura did everything the same, but was one of the big-two, he would have been treated A LOT better by the local media.

I guess a good start to turn things around is to somehow develop a standard that it is OK to change parties if your views evolve (as I did), but it’s not OK to change parties just because you want to be on a ballot and your own party didn’t let you.

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Cronkite NewsWatch

Like many third-party candidates, Marc Victor, the Libertarian nominee for Senate from Arizona, faces long odds despite the relatively high number of unaffiliated voters in the state.