Big selection on presidential ballot spans political spectrum

Published 11:58 am Friday, October 19, 2012

The third and final presidential debate, which might turn out to be a tie breaker, is Monday. However, national political pundits said they believe Romney won the first, called the second a draw, and no one is looking for a final knockout in the last debate by either candidate, although it might happen.

Sixty-eight million viewers tuned in to the 2nd debate last Tuesday, but many voters haven’t and won’t watch, saying they are turned off by the attack politics and the mischaracterization of the candidates’ positions. Detractors also say that no matter who wins, either Republican or Democrat, nothing will really change.

Those who don’t like either mainstream candidate this year, will have a wide selection of other presidential candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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Besides Romney and Obama, there are four other presidential candidates representing other parties on the local Nov. 6 ballot. The press gives them little or no coverage, and they are excluded from the main debates, but their views span the political spectrum from far left to far right, and accommodate enough political viewpoints to attract disillusioned voters, who are looking for an alternative to the mainstream parties.

So who are they?

Representing the Constitution Party are Virgil Goode for president and Jim Clymer for vice president; the Libertarian Party has Gary Johnson for president and James P. Gray for VP; the Green Party is fielding Jill Stein for president and Cheri Honkala for VP, and the Reform Party boasts Barbara Dale Washer for president and Cathy L. Toole for VP.

To find out about them and what’s happening, potential backers have to go to the Internet and search.

For instance, there will be a debate between third-party candidates streamed live on the web on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Larry King will moderate, but it will not include all the candidates, according to a spokesperson for the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, which is sponsoring the debate in Chicago, Obama’s hometown.

On tap for Tuesday’s debate will be Johnson, Stein, Goode, and Rocky Anderson of the newly formed Justice Party. Anderson is not on the Pearl River County presidential ballot.

Said Christina Tobin, founder and chairman of the Foundation, “The previous debates between President Obama and Gov. Romney have failed to address the issues that really concern everyday Americans. From foreign policy, to the economy, to taboo subjects like our diminishing civil liberties and the drug war, Americans deserve a real debate, real solutions, and real electoral options.”

The last time a third-party candidate was invited into the mainstream presidential debates was when Ross Perot took part in 1992. Perot got 20 percent of the vote and was credited with pulling enough conservative votes away from President George Herbert Walker Bush to assure Clinton’s first-term election.

Here’s a nutshell summary of the four alternative parties on the Pearl River County ballot:

The Constitution Party: The party, which bills itself as the fastest growing third-party movement in the United States, stands for the strict construction of the Constitution, returning the country to the principles of the founders. “The Constitution Party will restore the government to its constitutional limited authority,” the party’s website says. Goode, born in Richmond, Va., is a former U.S. congressman from Virginia’s fifth district.

The Libertarian Party: Pearl River County is not unfamiliar with this party. Local political activist Donna Knezevich ran under that banner, unsuccessfully challenging Republican state representative Herb Frierson of Poplarville in 2010. State Libertarian Party leaders have been to Picayune many times. The party’s motto sums up best the philosophy of the party and its leaders, “Maximum freedom; minimum government.” Most know that the party promotes legalization of marijuana and certain other drugs. Its platform says, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they chose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.” Johnson is the former governor of New Mexico, and Gray is a former California judge. Libertarians bill themselves as the third-largest political party in the United States and also claim to be the fastest growing.

The Green Party: Some people like the Green Party’s environmental stance, but can’t stand their anti-military beliefs. Formed in 2001 out of a number of state Green movements, it is associated with the European Greens. Greens don’t accept corporate donations. They want to “renew democracy,” favor universal health care, and are devoted to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing. They also push for alternative energy, election reform and decent living wages for workers. Ralph Nader ran under the Green banner for president in 1996 and 2000. Although the mainstream press did not report it, Stein and Honkala were both arrested Tuesday night by New York police for trying to crash the second debate to protest the fact that other candidates were excluded. Stein is a physician.

The Reform Party: Founded by Ross Perot in 1995, the party leaders said they were disillusioned with politics, saying the two-party system was corrupt and unable to deal with vital issues. Perot, columnist Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader have run under the Reform Party banner. Jesse Ventura, running as a Reform candidate, was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998. On its website, the party bills itself: “At its core, the Reform Party is made up of concerned Americans, tired of the partisan rancor in government and a two-party system that appears committed to pulling its support for the special-interests ahead of finding common-sense solutions.” Washer lives in Hattiesburg, was born in New Orleans, is a former teacher and ran unsuccessfully for Miss. Insurance Commissioner and the U.S. House District 1 seat. Toole ran unsuccessfully for Mississippi Agricultural Commissioner as a Reform candidate.