Third-Party Candidates Lining Up Again

It's still busy at the bottom of the ticket

As Democrats and Republicans head into primary season, it's still busy at the bottom of the ticket. Both the Libertarian Party of Texas and the Green Party of Texas have announced their list of candidates for the 2014 elections. However, if the accepted political wisdom that the vying third parties are little more than a drag on the slates for the two big parties, it seems the Republicans have far more to worry about from the far-right Libertarians than the Democrats do from the Greens.

There'll be no struggling with the perils of being a write-in candidate for either party. Both gained ballot access in 2014 by winning more than 5% of the vote in the last statewide election. Now they have to capitalize on that. In sheer numbers, the Libertarians had a much more successful year recruiting candidates, with a contender for every statewide, legislative, and Congressional race, plus a bumper crop in county and local races. Some names are already familiar: for example, Arthur DiBianca is back for his fourth attempt to unseat Democratic Rep. Eddie Rodriguez.

The Greens saw a small but still significant bump in the number of candidates. On Dec. 10, party co-chair David Wager announced they will field a total of 50 candidates across the state, up from the 36 fielded during the 2012 presidential election. Wager said, "Our goal is to provide a progressive alternative to the other two parties in Texas and offer voters more voices and more choices than they might otherwise have on the ballot."

But the odds against either party scoring an upset seem long to nonexistent. The reality is that both do better when there's only a Republican or only a Democrat on the ballot; if a seat is contested by the big two, their share of the vote shrinks. In 2010, the last non-presidential election cycle, the biggest impact was made by Bob Town­send, Libertarian challenger to GOP U.S. Rep. John Cul­berson; he pulled in 18% of the vote, but only a handful of the 108 Libertarians running in Texas broke above 3%. The situation is even grimmer for the Greens. Their biggest vote-getter was Edward Lindsay in the three-way race for comptroller. Even with no Democrat running, he barely scraped over 6% – just enough to ensure the Green Party a place on the 2014 ballot. This time around, it seems highly likely the Dems will be working to ensure that the Greens will be reduced to a write-in push by the time 2016 comes around.

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