Chris Daggett: Mystery spoiler

A game of political hot potato is going on in New Jersey between the two major party gubernatorial candidates, with independent Chris Daggett playing the part of the potato.  Originally seen as a “spoiler” candidate who would appeal to voters who typically favor Republicans, an endorsement from the Sierra Club is changing that.

Daggett was previously the head of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection and the regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.  As a candidate for governor, he has been polling between five and ten percent.  The endorsement from the Sierra Club is the most significant endorsement for him so far.

Due to his previous affiliation with the Republican Party, Daggett was originally assumed to have the most appeal with Republicans and independents who typically vote Republican.  However, after getting considerable recognition for his environmental credentials, he now seems to have more appeal to liberal-leaning voters, and his supposed role as a “spoiler” is becoming less predictable.

In New Jersey, the Star-Ledger Editorial Board commented:

It might get him some money — Sierra claims 20,000 members in New Jersey and 750,000 nationally — but it won’t get him elected. The best thing it does for Daggett is bring him a smidgen of much-needed attention and something to trumpet. He’ll need more than that, however, much more.

The conventional wisdom is that, as an election day factor, Daggett probably takes more votes from Republican Chris Christie than from Gov. Jon Corzine. But with the Sierra Club prize, he takes from Corzine, the Democrat whom Sierra endorsed for governor four years ago. Already trailing in the polls, Corzine can ill-afford to lose the backing of groups that supported him in the past.

The Republican Governors Association even launched an ad using a Sierra Club analysis, possibly hoping to spin the spoiler effect in their favor:

The text of the ad:

The Sierra Club says Jon Corzine has the worst environmental record in New Jersey history. Jon Corzine is weakening water quality standards. Jon Corzine has allowed New Jersey to lose public open space. Jon Corzine has ignored numerous toxic waste sites. And Jon Corzine has overseen huge giveaways to developers and polluters while raising taxes on hardworking New Jerseyans. Jon Corzine: Bad for Business. Bad for Taxpayers. Bad for the Environment.

Interestingly, a comparison has been drawn between this race and the 2006 race for governor in Illinois.  One clear difference is that the major third party candidate in that race was clearly to the left of either major party, but the National Journal points out the similarities:

However, this race is reminiscent of the 2006 IL GOV contest. The major party choices that year were Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who voters didn’t like very much and GOP Treas. Judy Baar Topinka, who had equally high negative ratings. Not surprisingly, many voters saw the third-party candidate as an appealing alternative and Rich Whitney, the Green party nom., took 10%. Whitney’s showing was 7 pts. higher than that of the two third party candidates combined in ’02.

22 thoughts on “Chris Daggett: Mystery spoiler

  1. Jake

    Being from NJ, I am voting for Dagget this election.

    He has some of the same people that Ventura had, has matching funds, and will be apart of the debates… this does seem alike ’98 in Minnesota.

    Even with all the fairs, community events, and stuff like that. Go to his website and you’ll see that his campaign seems to be well equiped, funded, and staffed for a run in November.

    Commercials in NJ don’t really matter too much because the market really is Philly and NYC. I would say Daggett should get some bus posters(the one’s on the outside) and some radio ads.

    My opinion is that Corzine will eventually buy this election, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for Daggett. I would say that he gets around 18-20% of the vote, but once again I am keeping my fingers crossed for a victory!

  2. Robert Milnes

    Being from New Jersey, I’m not sure who I’m voting for. Ideally, since there is no Green on the ballot, Lib Kaplan who got their nomination instead of me, could still declare support for the Progressive Libertarian Alliance Strategy. If he got the endorsement of the GP and/or several NJ Greens, that could be seen by voters as trumping the Sierra Club endorsement of Dagget. Because that endorsement came about because they said Corzine’s environmental record is so bad. Dagget is still a REPUBLICAN running as an Independent. Like I said before, if there is a significant Draft RWM for Governor Write-In & a libertarian woman comes forward as Lt. Governor Write-In, I’d give it a go.

  3. Jake

    I am not 100% sure about where the debates will be held, but very much like the TV ads they don’t matter as much as other states.

    The reason is because the media of NJ is controlled by Philly and NYC. I would say what really matters for Daggett is 1) print advertising in the few state/local newspapers 2) local events where has seemed to be doing an excellent job.

    While he can not fall flat during the debates; he must really do those first two steps to really be in the race.

    I think his LT. Gov. pick was a bit boring, and thought he was going to go with a much more explosive pick to be honest.

  4. Dave Schwab

    Why is IPR using the spoiler term? The word is a bigoted term, invented by the establishment parties to cow voters into voting for the lesser evil. Surely you can come up with a more intelligent way to frame this article.

  5. Stephen

    In New Jersey, The Republicans and Democrats are virtually indistinguishable. The Republicans lost a big chance this year in not being able to find a strong candidate, Corzine is very vulnerable.

    Daggett is the only way to go this election, hope he wins!

  6. Independent

    My prediction: Daggett steals around 500,000 votes from Corzine, and he steals another 500,000 from Christie. He will win this election because neither Christie nor Corzine have been representing the interests of the people of NJ. They are unable to address the problems we face as they are too busy making sure their “friends” get elected (Corzine with every democrat in the state and Christie with George W. Bush).

  7. Ross Levin Post author

    Dave, I think the spoiler effect is a real thing. Even if it’s used incorrectly and without being understood by a lot of people, it exists. In a two-party system with plurality elections, third parties can affect the outcome of an election.

    If we can’t acknowledge that problem, we can’t fix it.

  8. Robert Milnes

    ‘…third parties can affect the outcome of an election.” True, but not good enough. It still leaves either the dem or rep the winner. We need to replace dems & reps with Greens & Libertarians.

  9. paulie

    I agree with Dave.

    In a two-party system with plurality elections, third parties can affect the outcome of an election.

    True, but I would not call that spoiling.

  10. paulie

    My prediction: Daggett steals around 500,000 votes from Corzine, and he steals another 500,000 from Christie.

    Steals? How? Did he just buy a majority stake in Diebold or something?

  11. Dave Schwab

    Dave, I think the spoiler effect is a real thing. Even if it’s used incorrectly and without being understood by a lot of people, it exists. In a two-party system with plurality elections, third parties can affect the outcome of an election.

    If we can’t acknowledge that problem, we can’t fix it.”

    Ross – I absolutely acknowledge the problem of candidates winning single-office elections without majority backing. That’s why I’m an ardent support of instant runoff voting.

    But the term “spoiler”, especially when applied to a current candidate, is incredibly slanted. It frames the two-parties-only state of electoral politics as ideal and implies a number of falsehoods to be true:
    -this candidate can’t win
    -by voting for this candidate, you are voting for the opposite of what you want
    -a certain other candidate is entitled to your vote
    -your vote has no effect unless you vote for the eventual winner

    and so forth. Not only is ‘spoiler’ discriminatory, its use promotes ignorance of how politics works, and how voting for a third party you agree with can move the public discourse in a direction you want.

    ‘Spoiler’ is used by the establishment parties to keep down smaller parties and independents. When we use the term, we are lending legitimacy to a broken system – one that the establishment parties have the power to fix. But instead of pushing instant runoff voting and making elections fairer, they cast any alternative as a spoiler and do whatever they can, fair or foul, to keep us out of the democratic process.

  12. Solomon Drek

    I live in New Jersey and will be writing in Robert Milnes for Governor.

    I don’t know who I will write-in for Lieutenant-Governor.

    Any suggestions?

  13. Dave Schwab

    I don’t know if my answer will satisfy you, but basically I would never refer to any candidate as a spoiler. If someone does, I always bring up instant runoff voting, and how Green candidates are proposing a solution to the problem.

    I think Rich Whitney’s site has a great approach – on the front page view of his site, he introduces and links to instant runoff voting.

    http://www.whitneyforgov.org/joomla/index.php

    “Instant Runoff Voting is an election reform that completely eliminates any so-called “spoiler effect.” IRV can also save taxpayer money, ensure majority winners, improve voter turnout, and reduce negative campaigning.”

  14. paulie

    What word should replace “spoiler?” What communicates the same effect, but without the prejudice?

    Balance of power.

    Tipping point.

    Difference maker.

    Swinging an (election, contest).

    Those are a few…

  15. paulie

    I live in New Jersey and will be writing in Robert Milnes for Governor.

    I don’t know who I will write-in for Lieutenant-Governor.

    Any suggestions?

    Mrs. Toxic Avenger.

  16. Jake

    I am very suprised that the Green Party didn’t just endorse Daggett yet, or decide to run their very own candidate.

    In my opinion, the LP candidate Kaplan is not going to even show any interest in this race. If he receives .5% of the vote I will be quite suprised.

  17. Alexander Higgins

    Let me be an echo…

    I am from NJ and I am also voting Daggett. I also don’t like when “independent” and “centrist” blogs and organization make references to ” independent” and “centrist” candidates as nothing more than a sideshow cheap trick design to steal votes from one of the big two parties.

    Voters in NJ are fed up. Greed, Corruption, Scandal, False campaign promises, high taxes, high cost of living, out of control debt, unmanageable budgets. Enough is enough. Its time to get a real game changer in Trenton.

  18. Dave Schwab

    Thank you, Alexander, for bringing up another point I should have mentioned. When applied to a candidate, the term ‘spoiler’ tells readers that the candidate is only running to damage one of the establishment party candidates. It’s like saying “this candidate does not want to win, or add issues and viewpoints to the debate that otherwise wouldn’t be there. This candidate is running just to steal votes from one of the deserving candidates, because he/she is an extreme ideological purist, not a nice friendly electable moderate centrist.”
    With this attitude, the media justifies their discriminatory treatment of non-Republicrats, saying ‘we won’t cover them because they can’t win’ but never acknowledging that the true formula is ‘they can’t win because we won’t cover them.’

  19. Letscheck

    Well, looks like those who threw Daggett into the fray are getting what they wanted…a bunch of idiots willing to throw away their votes so Corzine can be elected again.

    No wonder we keep ending up with the worst people in office.

    Another four years of Corzine and only the users and takers will still be in the state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *