Believe it or not, there are other candidates on the ballot who are not Democrats or Republicans.
Virginia voters were on a first-name basis with their Senate candidates in 1996.
Twenty-seven years ago today, Sen. Baker (R) makes it official.
Joe Lieberman may be the only independent candidate for Congress whom you've heard of this fall. And that's a great frustration to the many others who are running outside the two-party system and don't have the media exposure and the financial will to get noticed. Little is said about the Libertarians, the Greens, the ideological alternatives, the folks who have diminished or no faith in Democrats and Republicans. These candidates, and their supporters, express over and over again their frustration with the lack of coverage from the media, including NPR. And their complaints are valid.
The answer they usually hear is that why cover these candidates, when they are not raising much money or performing well in the polls. Yet how can they ever be a factor, their supporters argue, when the media are not covering them? It's the ultimate Catch 22. But perseverance is not a foreign language to them. As in ...
Q: The Maryland Senate race is more complicated than you report. It's a three-candidate race. I'm the third candidate, and I've been nominated by the Green, Libertarian and Populist Parties. This is the first time that even two of those parties nominated the same candidate anywhere in the U.S. A historic first. You should include me in your campaign analysis. At a minimum I will affect the outcome, and at a maximum ... who knows? — Kevin Zeese, Takoma Park, Md.
Q: Why did you omit Minnesota's independent candidate for governor on your list when you included one from another state? — Sylvie Nickel, Rochester, Minn.
There will be a lot of talk on Tuesday night about so-called "independent" candidates, but on a different scale — starting with Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Defeated for renomination in the August Democratic primary by an anti-war candidate, Lieberman is running as a nominal independent and is likely to win. He, of course, is not an independent in the traditional sense; Lieberman has said from day one that he is a Democrat and will caucus with the Democrats should he return for a fourth term.
Similarly, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the Texas state comptroller, is officially running an independent campaign for governor. But she may have opted out of the two-party system only because she couldn't defeat incumbent Rick Perry in the Republican primary, so it's difficult for me to see her as a true indie.
A real independent, if that's what you want to call him, is the other "other" candidate in the Texas gubernatorial race: Kinky Friedman. The novelist and country-and-western singer is running a campaign that combines political incorrectness with a common-touch approach that has made him a folk hero to voters who are tired of the way politics in Texas is run. Friedman has said of his effort, "This may be a middle-finger vote."
Perry is likely to win re-election, but it would be interesting to see how many votes Friedman or Strayhorn gets, and how close either one comes to the Democratic nominee, former congressman Chris Bell. For the record, no independent has been elected governor of Texas since Sam Houston in 1859.
Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the only true independent in the House; that is, he's the only non-Republican or Democrat in the House. He is also heavily favored to win the open Senate seat there. But he will be a reliable vote for the Democrats when it comes to organizing the Senate, as he was in the House. The Democrats have refused to put up a candidate of their own and are actively supporting Sanders' bid.
Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, who follows this stuff more thoroughly than anyone else, notes that every state holding partisan statewide races this year has minor-party or independent candidates except for Alabama, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Carl Romanelli, who had tried (with Republican financial help) to get on the Pennsylvania ballot as the Green Party nominee for the Senate, failed to file the required number of signatures; his candidacy was aggressively challenged by the Democrats. Richard adds:
"Romanelli submitted about 94,000 signatures to meet the legal requirement of 67,070 valid signatures. He was told he didn't have enough. He was then told that he had to pay $80,000 in court costs (judges in Pennsylvania are the people who decide if a petition has enough valid signatures). Then he was told he also must pay $800,000 for attorneys' fees for the Democratic Party lawyers.
"And the most shocking fact of all is that in November 2004, the Green, Libertarian and Constitution Parties all got enough votes for one of their statewide nominees to meet the Pennsylvania definition of "political party" (the law has defined "political party", since 1893, to be a group that polled at least 2% for one of its statewide nominees... that is, 2% of the highest vote cast for any individual running in the state). The catch is a law passed in 1986, saying a "party" is treated as though it were not a "party" unless it has registration membership of 15% of the state total (that would be 1,200,000 registered members).
"If that law existed in D.C. and Massachusetts, the Republicans would be off the ballot. If it existed in Utah, the Democrats would be off the ballot."
Here's an incomplete list of "other" candidates in contests that are considered close and who may play a role in deciding who comes out on top. Some of these candidates may no longer be on the ballot; if you see an error, or an omission, please let us know.
Alaska governor — Sarah Palin (R) vs. Tony Knowles (D) for seat of Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), who lost the primary: Billy Toien (Libertarian), Andrew Halcro (Independent)
Arkansas governor — Asa Hutchinson (R) vs. Mike Beebe (D) for the seat of term-limited Gov. Mike Huckabee (R): Jim Lendall (Green), Rod Bryan (Independent)
Colorado governor — Bob Beauprez (R) vs. Bill Ritter (D) for the seat of term-limited Gov. Bill Owens (R): Chuck Sylvester (Independent), Dawn Winkler-Kinateder (Libertarian)
Florida governor — Charlie Crist (R) vs. Jim Davis (D) for the seat of term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush (R): Max Linn (Reform), several independents
Iowa governor — Chet Culver (D) vs. Jim Nussle (R) for the seat of retiring Gov. Tom Vilsack (D): Wendy Barth (Green)
Maine governor — Gov. John Baldacci (D) vs. Chandler Woodcock (R): Patricia LaMarche (Green), Barbara Merrill (Independent)
Maryland Senate — Ben Cardin (D) vs. Michael Steele (R) for the seat of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D): Kevin Zeese (Green, Libertarian and Populist Parties)
Maryland governor — Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) vs. Martin O'Malley (D): Ed Boyd (Green), Christopher Driscoll (Populist)
Massachusetts governor — Kerry Healey (R) vs. Deval Patrick (D) for the seat of retiring Gov. Mitt Romney (R): Christy Mihos (Independent) NOTE: This race is not considered especially close, but Mihos is expected to receive a significant vote.
Michigan Senate — Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) vs. Mike Bouchard (R): Leonard Schwartz (Libertarian)
Michigan governor — Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) vs. Dick DeVos (R): Douglas Campbell (Green)
Minnesota governor — Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) vs. Mike Hatch (D): Ken Pentel (Green), Peter Hutchinson (Independent)
Missouri Senate — Sen. Jim Talent (R) vs. Claire McCaskill (D): Lydia Lewis (Green), Frank Gilmour (Libertarian)
Montana Senate — Sen. Conrad Burns (R) vs. Jon Tester (D): Stan Jones (Libertarian)
Nevada governor — Jim Gibbons (R) vs. Dina Titus (D) for the seat of term-limited Gov. Kenny Guinn (R): Craig Bergland (Green), Christopher Hansen (American Independent)
New Jersey Senate — Sen. Bob Menendez (D) vs. Thomas Kean Jr. (R): Len Flynn (Libertarian), Greg Pason (Socialist)
Ohio Senate — Sen. Mike DeWine (R) vs. Sherrod Brown (D): Ralph Ferrucci (Green)
Oregon governor — Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) vs. Ron Saxton (R): Joe Keating (Green), Richard Morley (Libertarian), Mary Starrett (Constitution)
Tennessee Senate — Bob Corker (R) vs. Harold Ford Jr. (D) for the seat of retiring Sen. Bill Frist (R): Chris Lugo (Green)
Wisconsin governor — Gov. Jim Doyle (D) vs. Mark Green (R): Nelson Eisman (Green)
By the way, a special pre-election edition of "Political Junkie" comes out next Monday, Nov. 6 — with predictions on every Senate, House and gubernatorial race. No "tossup" wimp-outs for us. Meanwhile, here are some questions:
Q: What do you think of this scenario? Republicans go down big in the midterm elections, Democrats regain the House, and Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker. More damaging information is revealed on how President Bush and Vice President Cheney deceived us into going to war in Iraq. The Democratic-controlled Congress force both to resign, thus making Pelosi president. — Mary Anne Doty, Phoenix, Ariz.
A: I'm with you on the likelihood that the Democrats win the House and Pelosi becomes Speaker. And maybe through their hearings or investigations, the Dems uncover some information about the decision to go to war that the Bush administration would rather not have come out. But don't bet the rent money on your last sentence.
Q: Do you see either Arizona or Nevada going to the Democrats in this year's Senate races? — Mark Hobratschk, Tampa, Fla.
A: Nope, neither.
Q: Who is going to win the open Vermont congressional seat between Peter Welch (D) and Martha Rainville (R)? — Rebecca Pfeiffer, Burlington, Vt.
Q: Why do people refer to Virginia's Doug Wilder as the first black governor since Reconstruction? Was there a black governor during or prior to Reconstruction? — Bonni Kaufman, Potomac, Md.
A: Just one, but he wasn't elected.
For five weeks, from Dec. 9, 1872, to Jan. 13, 1873, Pinckney B.S. Pinchback, the Republican lieutenant governor of Louisiana, served as acting governor. He filled out the remainder of the term of white Republican Gov. Henry Clay Warmoth, who was suspended from office on corruption charges and was going through impeachment hearings. Pinchback had previously been elected to the Louisiana state Senate and was elevated to Senate president pro tempore. He succeeded to the position of lieutenant governor upon the death of incumbent Oscar Dunn, another African-American. It was this position that enabled Pinchback to become the first black governor.
In 1989, Virginia's Wilder became the nation's first elected black governor. But that list may double in size next week, with the expected election of Deval Patrick (D) in Massachusetts.
Q: I notice that in this year's House elections, Rep. Mike Ross (D) is running against Joe Ross (R) in Arkansas' 4th District, and Rep. Jim Saxton (R) is running against Rich Sexton (D) in NJ 03. Does this kind of odd coincidence — candidates with the same or similar names — happen often? — Regina Shields, Brooklyn, N.Y.
A: No, but when it does, it gets to be a little interesting. The most famous example came in the Virginia Senate race of 1996: incumbent Republican John Warner vs. Democrat Mark Warner. Democrats put out "MarkNotJohn" buttons, but the Republican was victorious. Five years later, Mark — not John — was elected governor, and until recently he was thought to be a viable presidential contender for 2008.
Another example of similar names occurred in the 1974 Republican congressional primary in Idaho's 2nd District, where liberal incumbent Orval Hansen was defeated by George Hansen, a strong conservative who had given up his seat years before in an unsuccessful Senate bid. George Hansen wound up reclaiming his seat in November of that year — but not before he defeated the Democratic candidate, whose name, naturally, was Max Hanson.
Q: Conventional wisdom holds the House will switch parties and the Senate won't, but did you know that has never happened since the 17th Amendment took effect in 1914? The House only switched when the Senate did. Why would 2006 be the first exception to a 92-year streak? — Ike Stevenson, Philadelphia, Pa.
A: And yet, that historical fact may change this year. Right now, I see the House switching but not the Senate. Final predictions next column.
But how about this one: The St. Louis Cardinals have won the World Series 10 times. Before this year, five came during the midterm elections: 1926, 1934, 1942, 1946 and 1982. Here's what happened in the House and Senate during those midterm elections:
1926: Dems pick up 12 seats in the House, 7 in the Senate.
1934: Dems pick up 9 in the House, 10 in the Senate.
1942: GOP picks up 47 in the House, 10 in the Senate.
1946: GOP picks up 56 in the House, 13 in the Senate.
1982: Dems pick up 26 in the House, no change in the Senate.
When you average it out, the Republicans come out ahead in both the House and Senate when the Cardinals win the World Series in a midterm election year. Thus, according to this completely useless statistic, Republicans should pick up seats in both the House and Senate next week. Maybe Karl Rove is right after all.
From the Campaign Mailbag:
Rob Kimbro, Madison, Wisc.: "Just a note to say I'm pretty disappointed listening to the coverage of the Senate race in my native state of Tennessee. I keep hearing about Tennessee's record of 'never having elected an African-American to the Senate' since Reconstruction. A deplorable distinction, to be sure, and one shared with only 47 of the most backward states in the union — all except Illinois and Massachusetts. It is also true that Tennessee has never elected an African-American governor. Of course, that is true of all states, barring only Virginia, whose enlightenment in the realm of race relations has come up so often in coverage of its own Senate race. Misleading statistics are lazy reporting. So is falling back on broad stereotypes."
Ted Rao, Providence, R.I.: "Regarding the Rhode Island Senate race, it seems that everyone has written off Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee, who trails Sheldon Whitehouse (D) by a few points. Don't be so certain. The state is 50% registered independent. It seems to me that the only thing the people of this state love more than Democrats are their incumbents, especially those whose last name is Chafee. (By the way, I'm voting for Whitehouse.)"
Gary Shellman, Glendale, Wis.: "You need to be corrected on how you granted Wisconsin's 8th CD to Republican John Gard. Your assumption is based, as is most election commentary today, on the amount of money being spent, TV ads, Washington help, and the fact that Democrats have only held the seat three times since the 1940s. You should know that Gard's record as Assembly Speaker is not distinguished and has upset many voters. Steve Kagen, the Democrat, practices medicine in the populous Paper Valley, where the Bush administration's wars are a major concern. Kagen is much more articulate about international affairs, while Gard mouths the Bush clichés about the war, but not very well. He also has no clue about social issues, especially health care, for which Kagen is a qualified expert."
Walter Hylton, Staunton, Va.: "I in no way think Sen. George Allen (R-VA) is a racist, and certainly the idiotic media have blown this 'macaca' stuff all out of proportion. However, in saying 'Welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia,' Allen does seem to be smug, insensitive and something of a bully."
David Cherry, Henderson, Nev.: "I question your rating in the Jon Porter-Tessa Hafen race in Nevada 3, which you list as 'Republican favored.' The last poll had the race as Porter 41, Hafen 37, with a five-point margin of error. Voter dissatisfaction is high and President Bush is well under 50% on the popularity scale. He only won the district by two points in 2004." (Note: Cherry is the media director for the Hafen campaign.)
Michael Devitt, Boise, Idaho: "Watch the First District in Idaho. Bill Sali, the Republican candidate, is a statehouse pariah and is roundly despised by his party. Larry Grant, his opponent, is a moderate, pro-business Democrat from the home-grown tech industry and has wide appeal in this once-Democratic district."
Andrew Beal, Wake Forest, N.C.: "Watch North Carolina 8. I would rate the race between Republican incumbent Robin Hayes and Dem challenger Larry Kissell a tossup. Lately Kissell has really caught fire and got John Edwards to campaign with him."
Bob Hennelly, a reporter with WNYC radio: "The Seventh District in New Jersey — Linda Stender (D) vs. Congressman Mike Ferguson (R) — is worth keeping an eye on. I've been out in the district and Stender has that Union County Dem machine professional pol vibe."
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SPECIAL "POLITICAL JUNKIE" SEGMENT THIS WEEK ON TOTN: With less than a week to go, the "Political Junkie" portion of Wednesday's Talk of the Nation program on NPR starts at 2 p.m. and runs for 40 minutes. Check local listings to see if your local NPR station carries TOTN. If not, you can always hear the program on the web at npr.org. Or, just call me up and I'll gladly recite to you the highlights.
Also ... check out NPR's interactive election map, highlighting every Senate, gubernatorial and key House race in the country, with early projections. And don't forget about "It's All Politics," our weekly podcast. New edition of the podcast goes up every Thursday at noon. Check out the podcast page on the NPR website for more details.
Please ... If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, don't forget to include your city and state.
This Day in Campaign History: Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) announces his candidacy for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination (Nov. 1, 1979).
Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: firstname.lastname@example.org