With Crist's Announcement, Movement Toward Political Independence is Finding Traction Up and Down the East Coast from Maine to Florida

As expected, Florida Governor Charlie Crist has declared his independence from the Republican Party, and indeed from party as such, having announced that he will continue his run for US Senate without a party affiliation, rather than fight his way through a GOP primary election that he was all but certain to lose to fellow career politician Marco Rubio. The New York Times report on Crist's announcement emphasizes the radical uncertainty that his independent bid will inject into the race, thwarting the Democratic-Republican duopolist narrative so beloved by the political class, their stenographers in the corporate press and their cheer-leaders in the independent media:
even the most experienced strategists here are uncertain about what to expect. Perhaps never before, they say, has there been a three-way Senate race in a major swing state, with each candidate well financed, and so much at stake in terms of the balance of power in Washington. The usual campaign script — with candidates playing to their base in the primary, then moving to the middle in the general election — aren’t relevant anymore.
Politifact breaks down the voter registration numbers in the Sunshine State:
Florida currently has slightly more than 11 million registered voters. Of them, 3.97 million are registered as Republicans (36 percent), and 4.62 million are registered as Democrats (42 percent). That leaves 2.47 million people that are registered as a member of a minor political party, or registered to vote with no party affiliation . . . You can see the registration statistics for yourself here . . .

The two major Independent parties -- the Independence Party of Florida, and the Independent Party of Florida -- make up 2 to 3 percent of all registered voters. The lion's share or non-Republican or Democrat voters are registered as no party affiliation (19 percent). . . . [the] threshold to win in November could be as low as 34 percent of the vote.
In his announcement Crist sounded a common theme among newly declared independents, and indeed, among Democrats and Republicans themselves, namely, that "our political system is broken." Likening the Republican and Democratic Parties to mere "clubs" and "clubs within clubs" he emphasized the importance of choice on the general election ballot. From TPM's transcription of the speech:
As someone who served the people in Florida more than 15 years, from the state Senate to the governor's mansion, I can confirm what most Floridians already know. Unfortunately our political system is broken . . . Now I could have chosen to stay in the primary, but frankly for me, it's your decision. It's not one club's decision or another, or even a club within that club. It is a decision too important, it is a decision for all the people of Florida to be able to make. And so that's why we go straight to November, we give you the chance to make that decision. It's your decision to make. Now I know, I know this is uncharted territory. I am aware of that. And I am aware that after this speech ends I don't have either party helping me.
Crist is right to emphasize the difficulty of his task. As Darcy G. Richardson writes in a piece surveying the history of third party and independent candidates for political office in Florida over the course of the twentieth century: it is a "hard road to success outside the major party system." Indeed, though the media will now portray the contest as a three-person race, there are in fact more than eight declared candidates in the contest aside from the stooges of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Among them are Libertarian Alex Snitker and Constitution Party candidate Bernie DeCastro. Snitker's candidacy is itself historically significant: he is "the first Libertarian to qualify for the US Senate ballot in the state's history" as reported at IPR. Decastro is vying for the state's conservative vote, arguing that Rubio's primary allegiance will be to party rather than the people or principle. From Sunshine News, via IPR:
DeCastro questioned Rubio’s conservative credentials. “Marco Rubio is just more of the same-an attorney, a professional politician and a lobbyist,” said DeCastro. “His allegiance is going to be to the party.”
Coincidentally, Crist was not the only candidate for elected office in the southeast to declare his independence from the GOP this week. In Georgia, Ray Boyd declared that he would wage an independent campaign for governor after refusing to sign the party's loyalty oath. From Politico:
Real estate magnate Ray Boyd, who had announced plans to run for governor of Georgia as a Republican, plans to proceed with an independent campaign after refusing to sign a GOP loyalty oath. Boyd had pledged to put $2 million of his own money into the race, and must now collect more than 51,000 signatures by July 13 in order to make it onto the ballot.


Anonymous said...

Crist is remaining a registered member of the Republican Party.

Jeff Vanke said...

I am an independent candidate for Congress in Virginia's 6th District, where no Democrat is challenging the Republican incumbent. In my few thousand campaign conversations to date, I am finding voters of either main party's past eager for an acceptable independent. (I'm starting from scratch, "Center Party of the U.S.," not switching from one party.)

Jeff Vanke
Roanoke, Va.