Less than a minute into the interview, Ken Kaplan says something no politician should ever admit.
“I know I’m not going to win,” said Kaplan, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in New Jersey.
Like other third parties, Libertarians have never won much of anything in American politics. But as they have since the party was founded in the 1970s, their candidates keep pressing on with a message of limited government, lower taxation and limited regulation.
The Libertarian candidates in Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia represent the two sides of third-party politics in America. On one hand, they are principled, committed and willing to forge ahead despite virtually no chance of success — issue candidates who will be happy to win a few supporters to their cause in the hope of greater victories to come.
On the other hand, in a nation growing more dissatisfied with the two traditional political parties, with Democratic promises that never seem to be delivered and Republican ideals that seem rooted in the 20th century, they represent a new way forward.
Kaplan and Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, are not going to win on Tuesday. Both say they are running because the two major parties are a false choice for voters.
in an interview this spring, before he officially was a candidate on the ballot. “I think the other two candidates really epitomize exactly what’s wrong with their respective parties, and really shouldn’t be trusted with the reins of government.”“Virginia really needs another option,” Sarvis told Watchdog.org
It’s in this kind of race — and this kind of political climate — that Sarvis has garnered up to 13 percentage points in the public-opinion polls. And that’s nothing to sneeze at for a third-party candidate who has never held public office and has raised barely $200,000 mostly from individual Virginians’ donations — roughly one-one hundredth of what his opponents have raised from major outside players.
The two gubernatorial elections this week are outliers on the American political calendar, but they can be important harbingers — for both good and ill — in advance of next year’s critical mid-term elections, when voters will choose governors in more than 30 states, along with congressional members and state legislators.
In Virginia, polls have shown repeatedly that voters aren’t satisfied with their major party choices — ultra-conservative Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, and wheeling-and-dealing Democrat, Terry McAuliffe.
And that dissatisfaction with them and both political parties is exactly why Sarvis said he decided to make a run for it.
“I basically looked at what the race was going to be like, and when it became clear that it was going to be Terry McAuliffe against Ken Cuccinelli, I decided, why not run,” Sarvis said.
The story in New Jersey is different, but with similar themes.
Unlike Virginia, the race in New Jersey is a foregone conclusion, with incumbent Gov. Chris Christie on his way to any easy victory over state Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, the Democratic nominee.
Though polls show voters to be dissatisfied with many of Christie’s policies, the governor is widely popular, thanks in no small part to his outgoing personality and leadership skills in the wake of last year’s Hurricane Sandy that struck the New Jersey coastline.