This is the second in an ongoing series looking at independent candidate’s responses to roundtable questions posed by Independent Voters of America. We have been reaching out to independent and third party candidates across the country to gather their opinions and insights on issues of interest to our community in an effort to demonstrate to self-identified independent voters the range and diversity of independent candidates ACTUALLY running for office across the country.
Contributors to this roundtable are the same group of candidates as our first post in the series:
Tisha Casida – Candidate for Congress in Colorado’s 3rd District.
Karen Ramsburg – Candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 9th District.
Jack Arnold – Candidate for Congress in Tennessee’s 7th District.
Phil Dodds – Candidate for Congress in Florida’s 3rd District.
James Windle – Candidate for Congress in Washington’s 8th District.
The question posed to the candidates was:
How will you counter the “wasted vote” argument that all independent and third party challengers face?
Tisha Casida: In our district, the “registered” voters are almost split into thirds (Independent: 90,256 – Democrat: 98,924 - Republican: 126,141), so, as a strategy – if we win Independents and pull some from both Democrats and Republicans – we can win. It is just about the numbers, and reminding people that their vote does still count. At the end of the day, we feel that both the Republicans and the Democrats are the same party – parties of corruption – and more and more people are recognizing that. It is a unique election year – in the Democratic primary in West Virginia, an inmate got 15 points less that the current sitting President. Of course we can win – and no vote is ever wasted.
Karen Ramsburg: In places where either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is too weak to compete, independent candidates can be more successful, and do not face the “wasted vote” complaint. It is the ballot access hurdles that usually keep independents from running viable campaigns. In places where both major parties are pouring in big campaign dollars, there are only two ways to counter the “wasted vote” argument, and neither is all that effective: a) find and spend equal amounts of dollars, like Ross Perot; or b) take a strident oppositional stance, vigorously criticize both parties and try to elicit defections from each, like Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader have done from the left, or George Wallace did from the right
That is tough going. Aside from Wallace (George, not Henry), there has not been a major defection to a third party movement since Teddy Roosevelt. The best advice for independent candidates is to be as principled and pragmatic as possible, to pay close attention to local conditions, and to build as much credibility as possible in local communities.
Jack Arnold: Our incumbent Representative Marsha Blackburn has never won the general by fewer than 30 points. She usually has two or three million in her “war chest” at all times, and she lives in the richest county in the state (and so do her friends, mostly CEOs). In 2004 she ran unopposed. Anyone who runs against her faces the “wasted vote” argument, even if he runs as a member of the other major party or faces her in a primary. I’m not sure the “wasted vote” argument affects my campaign more than it would a Democrat’s campaign in Tennessee’s 7th. That said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. If the voters of Tennessee’s 7th are unsatisfied with the way the federal government is being run but vote to send the same woman to Washington on their behalf who they have sent for the last 10 years (or cast their votes again for another Democrat who will likely lose to her by more than 30 points), then aren’t these voters insane? Employing the ‘wasted vote’ argument to justify returning the same political insiders to Washington every election cycle, despite being unsatisfied with their performance, is just a heavily rationalized insanity.
Phil Dodds: Honestly, it is a tough thing to get past. My response is based on my platform – Voting for someone who will take money from lobbyists and special interests is a wasted vote, for sure. I am the only candidate in my three way race who pledges not to take the money. Voting for either of them is the wasted vote.
James Windle: No vote is wasted in a “top-two” primary. I am competing with five other contenders for votes. There are two Democrats and three Republicans, including the incumbent. The incumbent has a major advantage, but all of the other contenders will be fighting for every vote with a few thousand votes possibly making the difference. The top two advance to the general election. It could be two Democrats, two Republicans, or, as I plan, an Independent and another candidate. If an Independent makes it to the general election, he or she will have a realistic chance of prevailing by picking off moderates supporting the incumbent and work to consolidate the moderates on the other side of the aisle. I believe I will be successful. I have found people very receptive to voting for an Independent this cycle, given their frustration with both parties.
The only concern I have heard for the “wasted vote” involves whether I am serious. I take this to mean whether my campaign is professional and organized. I committed to this full-time, leaving a job I found interesting and I enjoyed. In a month, this campaign has set-up its finance Committee, launched a website, filed for office, identified a campaign manager, and built a volunteer army. Fundraising has started and is an emphasis, as is improving my name ID through direct and indirect voter contact. We are very serious.
One particularly troubling issue that appears to have arisen both in Washington State and California’s unique primary systems is that the political party members are disseminating misinformation regarding how the primaries work. They are trying to convince Democrats and Republicans that they cannot vote for an Independent and must vote for their own parties in the primary. This is the way the old system worked. It is history.
This disinformation is unfortunate. I am afraid this could cost me some votes given the strong organization of the parties. They can easily disseminate information across its membership and target independents. That is why the Windle campaign has been working hard to correct these falsehoods. Despite what the parties try to make voters believe, the party does not trump all. The voters are more intelligent than the parties think.
Over the coming weeks, we’re looking forward to continuing this series with more answers from these candidates and others to pertinent questions of interest to our Independent Voters of America community. If you have a question you’d like addressed in a future roundtable, leave it in the comments.