Third party candidates often do well in areas where one major party is substantially weaker than its rival. One can list numerous examples of this phenomenom: Minneapolis, San Francisco, parts of Massachusetts, rural Nevada, and Rhode Island among others. Other areas, like Democratic Hawaii, have not yet reached this point. However, Wyoming may be the newest member of this club.
After failing to meet Wyoming’s standards to qualify the Constitution Party, rancher Taylor Haynes elected to run a write-in campaign for Governor. Richard Winger previously reported on the surprising result of that bid:
Taylor Haynes, a conservative write-in candidate for Governor of Wyoming last week, outpolled his Democratic opponent in five counties. Haynes received 13,796 write-ins in the state, which was 7.41% of the total vote cast for identified candidates.
In Campbell, Converse, Crook, Niobrara, and Weston Counties, Haynes received more votes than the Democratic nominee, Leslie Petersen. Haynes’ best county was Campbell County, where he received 26.1%.
The three ballot-listed candidates were Republican Matt Mead, who got 66.5%; Democrat Petersen, who got 23.2%; and Libertarian Mike Wheeler, who got 2.9%.
Doing the math, non-major party candidates received over 10% of the vote in the Wyoming gubernatorial race. This finish is analogous to Massachusetts and Illinois, where minor party and Independent candidates split approximately 10% of the vote in their respective gubernatorial races. In Maine and Rhode Island, minor party and Independent gubernatorial candidates won a plurality of votes (with Independent Lincoln Chafee and Moderate Ken Block in the latter and Independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody, and Kevin Scott in Maine).
Considering that Haynes ran a write-in campaign and had to face another minor party candidate on the ballot, 7% is an extremely strong showing. I would not anticipate the Constitution Party to fail in its petition this time around with such a strong organization.
However, whispers of a shift in the third party politics of Wyoming abound, with schism and a Tea Party in the air. The Billings Gazette reports:
Wyoming Libertarians say there is talk of more third-party movements in the state, including the loosely knit Tea Party.
The Tea Party movement was particularly evident in Laramie County, where eight out of 10 candidates it supported were elected to state and local government positions.
M. Lee Hasenauer, a spokesman, said the Tea Party does not endorse candidates but gives them a platform for their campaign messages…
The party also supported unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Micheli in the primary election and Haynes in the general election.
The Tea Party, he said, encourages people who are concerned over loss of their constitutional rights to get involved in politics. The party is against national health care and growth of government, and is anti-tax and supports strengthening the marriage act.
Hasenauer said there are some “hardcore” people in the Tea Party movement who want to take it to the third political-party level…
Wheeler, the unsuccessful Libertarian Party candidate for governor, said last week that he expects several members of the party’s executive board to “jump ship” amid talk about starting a new party in Wyoming.
The Wyoming Libertarian Party suffers because the national Libertarian Party has such a stigma for its positions on legalizing drugs. National party members, he said, are considered “anarchists.”
A discouraging sign, he said, was the loss of Nicholas DeLaat of Gillette, a Libertarian Party candidate for the Wyoming House.
“He ran a very professional, well-organized campaign and he still got only 15 percent of the vote,” Wheeler said.
As for himself, Wheeler said if he runs for elected office again it will be on the Libertarian Party ticket.
“At least it’s not bought and paid for by big business and Wall Street,” he said. “You can’t tell the difference between the two major parties.”
Don Wills of Cheyenne, the chairman of the Wyoming Libertarian Party, noted the current “turmoil in political alignments” as the result of the Democratic election losses and the emergence of the Tea Party movement.
This period of political realignment will give people an opportunity to look at third parties — Libertarian or Constitution — or to become political activists who ignore the parties.
It seems that third parties in Wyoming are presented with two paths- collapse in internecine warfare or continue to grow. Time will tell which path the Constitution, Libertarian, and the potential Tea Party take.
For his part, Haynes has not yet announced his future plans.