Richard Winger: Sham Candidates Virtually Always Fail to Accomplish Anything for their Backers

Here’s an excerpt from an editorial post by Richard Winger at Ballot Access News:

“Sham candidates” are candidates who have no sincere interest in running for office, but who get on the ballot because one of the more powerful candidates in the same race, or one of the major parties, thinks that the sham candidate’s presence on the ballot will subtract from the total of votes that the other powerful candidate may receive. So, one of the powerful candidates, or parties, initiates the process by which the sham candidate gets on the ballot.

Virtually all attempts at running sham candidates in the general election have failed to achieve their intended purpose. The latest instance of a sham candidate was in the recent special Arizona State Senate election, prompted by a recall petition filed against State Senator Russell Pearce. Backers of Pearce arranged for a sham candidate with a Hispanic surname to appear on the ballot, in hopes that the vote against Pearce would thereby be split. But the sham candidate revealed herself to be a sham candidate by hiding from the media, doing no campaigning, and finally (when the pressure on her was intense) withdrawing from the race.

Read the entire post, including copious examples, here.

10 thoughts on “Richard Winger: Sham Candidates Virtually Always Fail to Accomplish Anything for their Backers

  1. Melty

    A voting method that’s independent of irrelevant alternatives, a spoiler-proof one that is, would solve this problem. Bring on the simplest voting method in the world – approval voting.


    I would like to see Mr. Winger’s analysis of
    how “sham” candidates fare vs. LP candidates who actually campaign hard in 3 way races.
    Want to bet shammers do better on average?

  3. Michael Cavlan RN

    Thanks for this link.

    I just challenged David Cobb of Move To Amend to a public, well advertised debate on Mr Winger’s site.

    Michael Cavlan
    Candidate US Senate
    Minnesota Open Progressive

  4. Rain

    According to Richard Winger, some people’s opinions are simply more legitimate than others, and he’s the only one who will show you the correct path.

  5. George Phillies

    Argument disproves claim — not surprising for the source — namely the person Pearce recruited was not a candidate.

    A good example of a sham candidate, not in our party, was provided when former Libertarian Ilana Freedman ran for Congress in the republican primary, some years back, and found she had a primary opponent. The folks at the Secretary of State’s office noted that his petitions had been brought in by workers for the Democratic incumbent’s campaign. The opponent got enough covert support to win the primary.

    Straw candidates can indeed work.

  6. Jeremy C. Young

    Richard Winger made it clear that he was talking about general elections, not primary elections. Also, the person Pearce recruited was indeed a candidate, until she dropped out (for reasons Richard details on his post).

    I see nothing wrong with his argument, personally.

  7. George Phillies

    No, the Pearce person was not a candidate. She did not run and dropped out way in advance. Pearce made the mistake of not recruiting a dedicated supporter who knew what was going on and was serious about running against Pearce’s opponent.

  8. Jeremy C. Young

    That’s exactly Richard’s point, though. Sham candidates don’t work because they can’t stand the scrutiny. Olivia Cortes was exactly this type of candidate: a faker who wanted to help Pearce, but couldn’t handle the vilification and media attention that went along with it.

  9. Darryl W. Perry

    Sham candidates hide from the media…
    Paper candidates will talk to media & answer questionnaires from organizations/groups that send them out – but otherwise do no campaigning

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