The number of independent candidates running for various races in the state of Rhode Island has been increasing despite being a Democrat stronghold. Currently it is the only state to have an independent serving as governor, and the number of independent candidates have reached a record high of 37. Voter registration has been decreasing for the two major parties, and been increasing for independents.
Of the state’s 721,000 registered voters, 39 percent are registered as Democrats and 10 percent as Republicans. Just over 50 percent are unaffiliated.
“Most of the voters in my district are unaffiliated,” said Mary Ann Shallcross Smith, an independent candidate for a House seat representing Johnston and Pawtucket. Shallcross Smith was a one-term Democratic state lawmaker who lost a re-election bid two years ago. “You go door-to-door and people tell you they’re unemployed. They’re worried about their job, or the economy. I think people are more concerned about solving problems than they are about what party you’re from.”
University of Rhode Island political science professor Maureen Moakley said independent candidates may be avoiding partisan labels for practical reasons. By running as an independent, candidates can skip primary elections and concentrate their attention and resources on the general election when unaffiliated voters turn out.
“I think the politics of primaries has gotten so sharp that we’re seeing more and more candidates see a path to victory by bypassing the primary altogether,” she said.
Read the rest at boston.com: More independent candidates running in RI