Presence and Impact of Third Party Candidates in MN House Races Declining

For a number of years State House races in Minnesota were peppered with a significant number of third party or independent candidates. In 2006, however, the presence of these non-major party candidates was the lowest in a decade.

In 1998 there were 18 non-major party candidates on the ballot in State House races, averaging 9.0% of the vote in districts in which they were on the ballot.

In 2000 there were 32 such candidates, averaging 9.8% of the vote.

The 2002 election saw a record number of third party candidates—43—though the average support dropped a bit to 8.7%.

In 2004 there were 30 third party or independent candidates on the ballot, averaging 8.2% of the vote.

In 2006 there were only 11 non-major party candidates in State House races. Their impact was also at a decade-long low: averaging just 6.6% of the vote.

Why is Minnesota witnessing a decline in third parties? The strength of the state’s Independence Party is the likely target of debate—although that party did field several candidates in statewide and federal races. Other possible explanations could be the Minnesota voter today sees a bigger difference between the Republicans and the DFL—thereby creating less of a need or groundswell for third-party candidates to emerge in a particular district. The Independence Party itself also could be seen as more closely aligned to the DFL in 2006 as compared to six or eight years ago—with democrats claiming to advance a more fiscally responsible agenda.

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