With all the attention paid to the historic presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, Mainers might be surprised to see two other names on the ballot.
Independent candidate Ralph Nader and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney are there alongside their much-publicized traditional party counterparts, although most political experts agree that neither will affect the race.
“For a third party candidate to be successful, there would have to be a reason to reject a two-party system, and that’s not the case this year,” said Sandy Maisel, a government professor at Colby College.
McKinney, a former six-term Democratic U.S. representative from Georgia and the first African-American to represent the state in the House, announced her candidacy in December 2007. Her running mate, Rosa Clemente, is a journalist and community activist from New York.
While McKinney is making her foray into presidential politics, Nader, a longtime consumer advocate from Connecticut, is a veteran. He ran unsuccessfully as a Green Party candidate for president in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent in 2004. His running mate this year is Matt Gonzalez, a lawyer from San Francisco.
While Nader never got more than 3 percent of votes nationally in any of the previous three elections, some political observers believe Nader to be partially responsible for allowing George Bush to overtake Al Gore in the 2000 race. Bush won Florida by a little more than 500 votes, and more than 90,000 in the Sunshine State voted for Nader.
Don’t expect that to happen this year, Maisel said.
“If [one-time Republican presidential candidate] Ron Paul had accepted the Libertarian nomination, he might have gotten more support to affect the race, but there’s too much excitement among the top candidates,” he said.
Instead, Bob Barr accepted the nomination of the Libertarian Party, although his name does not appear on the ballot in Maine. In fact, there are nearly a dozen third party candidates running in the 2008 election. Because each state has different criteria for how candidates get on the ballot, though, not all are in the race in every state.
Maisel said the reasons third party candidates run vary widely.
“Some represent parties that have a legitimate agenda that they want to get across,” he said. “Some just want to talk about one specific issue. Some just have big egos.”
In recent years, the only third party candidate to generate significant interest was Ross Perot, who won 19 percent of the national popular vote in 1992. He did not win any electoral votes.
For more information on the campaigns of Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney, visit their respective Web sites at: www.votenader.org and www.votetruth08.com.