Like I Was Saying

Don’t Call Them Spoilers

Some argue that third-party candidates have little impact on elections. But our country’s traditional parties don’t believe that.

It appears Republicans will hold on to an Ohio U.S. House seat after an extremely close special election to replace former Congressman Pat Tiberi, who resigned earlier this year. Republican Troy Balderson leads Democrat Danny O’Conner 50.1 percent to 49.3 percent with outstanding provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted — a margin of about 1,500 votes out of 203,000 cast. President Donald Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016.

The two men will face each other again in just a few months in what will likely be another close race. But in all likelihood, the GOP avoided the embarrassment of losing a seat it has held since 1982 — at least for now.

What’s also a bit embarrassing, this time for Democrats, is that more than 1,000 voters in the Buckeye State opted to cast their ballots for the Green Party candidate. That number falls just short of Balderson’s margin of victory, although if enough of those votes had broken O’Conner’s way in a two-person race, it would have almost certainly triggered an automatic recount. That’s a lot of “ifs,” but it’s worth noting as the Republican and Democratic candidates gear up for a rematch.

Yes, there is merit to third-party and independent candidates (I wish there were more of them who were competitive in our overwhelmingly two-party system). But this wasn’t your traditional third-party candidate.

And Joe Manchik, a Green Party candidate with some unorthodox views, has vowed to run again on the ticket in the upcoming midterms.

“The people calling me a spoiler are just fools,” Manchik told The Independent following his defeat. “They think I’m stealing votes from the Democratic Party. Well guess what? They’re stealing votes from me!”

While Manchik holds some opinions that line up with traditional Green Party orthodoxy, much of the media attention he has received focuses on his extraterrestrial views. On his Facebook page, Manchik wrote that his “distant relatives originally came to planet Earth from a planet orbiting a star in the Pleiades star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus.”

Manchik defended his views to The Independent, arguing that “it’s theoretically possible the human species evolved on another planet and some humans got transported here.”

Anything’s possible. What’s also possible is that Manchik is accused of playing spoiler again in his next election. After all, in 2016 when he ran for the same seat for the same party, Manchik garnered more than 13,000 votes.

Some argue that third-party candidates have little impact on elections. But our country’s traditional parties don’t believe that.

In 2012, a sportsmen’s group supportive of incumbent Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester paid for more than $500,000 in TV ads telling viewers to vote for Libertarian candidate Dan Cox, “The Real Conservative,” instead of Republican U.S. Rep Denny Rehberg. Tester won by about 16,600 votes. Cox earned 31,500 votes — nearly twice Tester’s margin of victory.

In the run-up to this year’s election, the Montana Democratic Party sued the state through Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s office to remove Green Party candidates from the ballot, arguing that they had submitted invalid signatures. A judge agreed to reject about 85 of those submitted, which removed the party from the ballot.

The state appealed the ruling. Stapleton argues the issue is more politically driven than about ballot access. He’s right, of course. One Green Party candidate who lost his primary earlier this year was once on the GOP payroll.