It’s hard being a third-party candidate in the United States.
They’re largely ignored by the national media. They face uphill, often highly complex battles to get their names printed on the ballots. And they are shut out from the presidential debates between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees unless polls find they have at least 15 per cent support.
This year’s crop of third-party candidates include the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson, the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. They will debate one another in Chicago, Illinois on Tuesday.
The candidates take many positions that aren’t shared by either Obama or Romney. For instance, Anderson, Johnson, and Stein support allowing medicinal marijuana. Anderson, Goode, and Stein oppose expanding free trade agreements. All four suggest defence spending be cut.
Read more about four of the main third-party candidates below:
Rocky Anderson, Justice Party
The former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah is running for president under the banner of a new party he created last year, the Justice Party.
Previously a Democrat, Anderson told Al Jazeera in a December 2011 interview that his former party “has proven itself to be just the other side of the coin from the Republican Party in what has become an incredibly corrupt, diseased system”.
He lambasted Obama’s decision not to prosecute anyone for torture during the Bush administration. “It’s really appalling that anybody in our government would suggest that those who commit these egregious crimes simply be exempt from the application of the law.”
Anderson was the only mayor of a major US city to advocate impeaching President George W Bush for leading the country into war in Iraq. A staunch environmentalist, Anderson’s website boasts that as mayor, he reduced the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by city operations by 31 per cent in three years.
As president, Anderson says he would support a tax on financial transactions, a single-payer health-care system, and reform the country’s immigration system.
Anderson’s name will be printed on the ballots of only 15 states, according to his website – fewer than the other three candidates participating in the debate. However, voters will be able to write his name down in an additional 20 states.
His running mate, Luis Rodriguez, is an activist and writer with 15 pubished books including a bestselling memoir, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.
Virgil Goode, Constitution Party
Virgil Goode (his last name rhymes with “dude”, not “wood”) began his political career as a conservative Democratic congressman representing a district stretching across central and southern Virginia.
He broke with the Democratic Party in 2000, became an independent, and successfully ran for a fourth term in Congress in 2002 as a Republican. Goode lost his seat in 2008 and joined the Constitution Party in 2010.
Goode is strongly opposed to illegal immigration, and says the US needs to use troops and fences to “stop the invasion from Mexico”. He wants to make English the official language of the US, repeal Obama’s health-care programme, and bring back US troops from Afghanistan.
Unlike most in the Republican Party, Goode opposes free trade agreements such as NAFTA, which he says “lead to the erosion of this country’s vital manufacturing base”. He supports implementing a national sales tax, and eliminating the income tax and estate tax.
Although the Republican Party attempted to keep Goode off the ballot in swing-state Virginia, claiming he submitted fraudulent petitions, the state attorney general ruled in September that Goode will remain on the ballot.
James Clymer, Goode’ vice-presidential pick, is a lawyer from Pennsylvania who has run for state office several times, though not successfully. He serves on the board of directors of the Dayspring Christian Academy in Maryland.
In the 2008 presidential election, the Constitution Party received 199,437 votes, representing about 0.15 per cent of the vote.
Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party
Johnson is the only candidate participating in Tuesday’s debate who has previously been elected to statewide office.
As governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003, he was a fiscal conservative and vetoed almost half of the bills the state legislature passed – more vetoes than all other governors at the time combined, according to his campaign website.
Johnson initially ran for president this year as a Republican, but dropped out of that party’s primary and ran for the Libertarian Party’s nomination instead. Like many Republicans, he supports lower taxes and less regulation on businesses. He goes further than most though, calling for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and the income tax.
He disagrees with mainstream Republicans on social policy: he supports legalising marijuana and permitting gay marriage. He backs steep cuts in military spending, repealing the Patriot Act, and granting due process rights to detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
The Republican Party, seeing Johnson as a potential spoiler, aggressively challenged his attempts to appear on the ballot. He was denied ballot access in Michigan because he filed campaign paperwork three minutes after the deadline. According to the New York Times, Republicans in Pennsylvania even “hired a private detective to investigate his ballot drive in Philadelphia, appearing at the homes of paid canvassers”.
Johnson is also an outdoorsman who has summited Mount Everest.
His vice presidential pick is Judge Jim Gray, an advocate for reforming drug laws in the US, who served on the Orange County, California Superior Court for 20 years. He’s also written a musical about the importance of staying in school.
In the 2008 presidential election, the Libertarian Party received 0.40 per cent of the vote.
Jill Stein, Green Party
Stein, a physician and environmentalist, is the only presidential candidate to have run against Republican nominee Mitt Romney before, in the 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race. (Romney won; Stein took home 3.49 per cent of the vote.)
The centerpiece of her presidential campaign is the “Green New Deal”, a job creation programme that she told Al Jazeera is “modelled on the New Deal that helped get us out of the Great Depression in the 1930s”.
The Green New Deal would focus on “creating jobs in small businesses and cooperatives at the local level in key areas of the green economy … clean manufacturing, local organic agricultures, public transportation, and sustainable, clean renewable energy”.
Stein supports amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the US, imposing a moratorium on home foreclosures, and universal health-care coverage.
On foreign policy issues, Stein would cut military spending by half, end the use of drone strikes, bring troops home from Afghanistan, and close 140 overseas military bases.
Green Party vice presidential nominee Cheri Honkala grew up poor in Minnesota and is a longtime anti-poverty activist. She unsuccesfully ran for sheriff of Philadelphia in 2011, and is the founder of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.
Stein and Honkala were arrested last month when they tried to enter the grounds of Hofstra University, where the second presidential debate was being held between Obama and Romney, without permission.
In the 2008 presidential election, the Green Party received 161,680 votes, or 0.12 per cent of the vote.