Record-breaking showing gives Libertarians political party status in Iowa

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson received 58,796 votes in Iowa, about 3.8 percent of ballots cast.

Before this year, the most successful Libertarian ticket in Iowa gained 1 percent of the vote, way back in 1980. Although Johnson wasn’t able to maintain his much higher polling numbers from the late summer, he more than quadrupled his 2012 raw vote total and share of the vote here.

The result gives the Libertarian Party full “political party status” in Iowa. What does that mean in practical terms?

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Third-party and independent candidates in Iowa's 2014 elections

The filing period for general election candidates in Iowa closed last Friday, so it’s a good time to review where candidates not representing either the Democratic or Republican Party are running for office. The full candidate list is on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website (pdf(. After the jump I discuss all the federal, statewide, and state legislative races including at least one independent or minor-party candidate. Where possible, I’ve linked to campaign websites, so you can learn more about the candidates and their priorities.

Rarely has any Iowa election been affected by an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot. Arguably, the most recent case may have been the 2010 election in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Final results showed that Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley defeated Republican challenger Ben Lange by 4,209 votes, while conservative candidates Rob Petsche and Jason Faulkner drew 4,087 votes and 2,092 votes, respectively.

Any comments about Iowa’s 2014 elections are welcome in this thread.

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How third-party candidates fared in Iowa's 2010 elections

This summer, the Libertarian Party in Iowa embarked on a “10 percent strategy,” hoping to win 2 percent of the vote for governor in order to secure major-party status in 2012. Iowa lacks a tradition of strong third-party voting like our neighbor to the north, and the unofficial results indicate that no alternative to Terry Branstad and Chet Culver cleared the 2 percent threshold in the governor’s race. Iowa Party candidate Jonathan Narcisse came closer to that mark than Libertarian Eric Cooper.

Although no third party is set up to have a larger statewide impact in 2012, minor party candidates received an unusually high share of the vote in some areas. In a few races, the votes for third-party candidates exceeded the difference between the Democrat and the Republican.

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IA-Gov: No joy for Culver in new Register poll (updated)

The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa poll shows Republican Terry Branstad leading Governor Chet Culver by 52 percent to 33 percent among likely voters. Selzer and Co surveyed 803 Iowa adults, of whom 550 were classified as likely Iowa voters, between September 19 and 22. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent.

I expected Branstad’s numbers to drop somewhat following the Republican primary, but his margin over Culver is almost exactly the same as the Register found the last time it polled this matchup in February. At that time Branstad led Culver 53-33, and Culver’s approval rating was 36 percent.

The new Selzer poll has no good news for Culver. His approval rating is 35 percent. Not only is Branstad polling above 50 percent, he leads “with voters from communities of all sizes, in all congressional districts and from all age groups and income levels.” No-party voters support Branstad by a 46 percent to 27 percent margin.

Culver’s campaign issued this statement on September 25:

“We believe that this poll serves as wake up call to Iowa voters,” said Governor Culver’s campaign manager, Donn Stanley. “When all is said and done, we believe that Iowans will ultimately choose Chet Culver, a leader who stands for Iowa values.

“The fact is,” Stanley continued, “all one has to do is look back as recently as Tom Vilsack’s race against Jim Ross Lightfoot in 1998 to see that this poll is not a harbinger of things to come. At this point in the race, Tom Vilsack was down a full 20 points in the Iowa Poll. I’m sure Governor Lightfoot would be happy to tell you the degree to which the Iowa Poll predicts the outcome of the race.”

That’s true, but Vilsack was not an incumbent with low approval ratings in a tough economy. Only 59 percent of likely voters said their minds were “firmly made up,” but I don’t know how Culver can convince the other 41 percent to give him another chance. It’s not as if no one ever heard of Branstad’s shortcomings:

Overall, 53 percent of likely voters say the candidate they are supporting is someone they can most easily tolerate, while only 36 percent say he is the best person for the job.

I hope the Culver campaign has budgeted well enough to stay up on television from now through election day. I doubt the Democratic Governors Association will spend any more money in Iowa this year.

UPDATE: More findings from the Register’s new poll are after the jump.

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Weekend open thread: Third-party candidates edition

August 13 was the deadline for third-party candidates seeking state offices to submit their nominating petitions to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. (Third-party candidates for county offices have until August 25 to do so).

This pdf file contains the complete list of candidates who have qualified for the ballot for federal offices, statewide offices or seats in the Iowa House and Senate.

Four candidates filed for the governor’s race: Jonathan Narcisse of the Iowa Party, Eric Cooper of the Libertarian Party, David Rosenfeld of the Socialist Workers Party, and a “fathers’ rights” activist named Gregory James Hughes. John Deeth noted that Iowa has more gubernatorial candidates than in any cycle since 1994, and that “the first cycle since 1998 that the Greens have had no top of the ticket candidate” in Iowa.

When Narcisse announced plans to run for governor, many people assumed he would draw votes primarily from Governor Chet Culver, whom Narcisse supported in 2006. However, Narcisse told the Des Moines Register this week,

“One pleasant surprise has been the number of [Bob] Vander Plaats supporters breaking our way. They understand, despite the rhetoric of candidate [Terry] Branstad, that his sixteen years in office make it clear he just doesn’t care about their priorities. So I’m seeing a lot of that support pour my way especially from rural communities,” said Narcisse.

Libertarian candidates also filed for U.S. Senate and in the first and second Congressional districts, as well as for secretary of state. Given how easy it is to qualify for the ballot in Iowa House and Senate districts (50 signatures for a House race and 100 signatures for a Senate race), I was surprised not to see more Libertarian candidates file for the state legislature. They didn’t venture beyond college towns. Libertarian candidates filed in Senate district 15 and House district 30, both in the Iowa City area where Republicans didn’t field a candidate against Democratic incumbents (Senator Bob Dvorsky and State Representative Dave Jacoby). They also fielded a candidate in House district 46, which includes a big chunk of Ames. Democratic incumbent Lisa Heddens has a Republican challenger too.

The Libertarian candidate for governor, Eric Cooper, has set a goal of winning at least 2 percent of the vote this year to gain major-party status. After that, Libertarians would field candidates in as many statehouse districts as possible in 2012 and beyond. But why wait until then? If I were a Libertarian trying to spread a message about the Republican Party betraying small-government principles, I would have fielded candidates against lots of Republican incumbents, especially those who have no Democratic challenger. They might have received a surprisingly large protest vote, generating some free media attention for the Libertarians in November.

This is an open thread. Share anything on your mind this weekend, whether or not it relates to the upcoming elections.

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Narcisse confirms plans to run for governor

Jonathan Narcisse will file to run for governor as an independent, he confirmed yesterday during campaign stops around the state. Narcisse had supported Terry Branstad during the 1980s and Chet Culver’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, but now believes neither Branstad nor Culver is “offering solutions.” Earlier this year, Narcisse declared that he would challenge Culver in the Democratic primary, but he did not submit signature petitions before the filing deadline. The hurdle for running as an independent is much lower; candidates need to collect only 1,500 signatures and file nominating papers by August 13.

Narcisse has chosen Rick Marlar as his running mate. Marlar finished third with 12 percent in the Republican primary for Iowa Senate district 45. Rod Boshart reported that Narcisse picked Marlar

because they share the same fervor for reform. Marlar, a truck driver for 30 years and former pilot who logged four years in the submarine service, lives on 40 acres near Wayland and understands rural and farm life, he said. Narcisse said Marlar reminded him of another truck driver in Iowa who was successful in gubernatorial politics, Ida Grove native Harold Hughes, who was elected governor and served in the U.S. Senate during his political career.

If Marlar wants to stand up to the Republican establishment, he’d be better off running as an independent in Senate district 45, where Branstad’s close ally Sandy Greiner won the primary easily with 66 percent of the vote.

Narcisse believes he has a shot if he can get into this fall’s debates between the gubernatorial candidates. His campaign strategy:

“Culver and Branstad are going to wage an unprecedented negative campaign. They’re going to just pound each other to a bloody pulp,” Narcisse predicted. “I believe that by the time they get through hammering each other, on Nov. 2, if Iowans could vote for none of the above that none of the above would beat Branstad and Culver. So my job now is to become ‘None Of The Above Narcisse.’”

I don’t ever remember third-party candidates being invited to the Iowa gubernatorial debates. If the media include Narcisse, they would have to include others such as Libertarian Eric Cooper and Constitution Party candidate Rick Phillips. Narcisse will need to raise much more money to run the 99-county campaign he is planning. His May campaign disclosure report filed showed $3,360 in cash contributions, a $5,135 loan, and $2,945 cash on hand.

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