Election 2014

Will a Libertarian Play Spoiler in the Illinois Governor's Race?


Chad Grimm, obviously not blowing his campaign budget on photography.
Source: Chad Grimm for Governor

Remember back in August when armed goons hired by the Republican Party in Illinois were harassing people who were gathering signatures to get the Libertarian Party on the state's ballot? They failed and a gym manager named Chad Grimm from Peoria will be on the ballot representing the party in the race for governor.

The race is very close. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn hasn't exactly showered himself in glory with any sort of courage in attempting to address the state's fiscal disasters. There are only a couple of points between him and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner for the November election. Grimm, though, is bringing in between five and seven percent of the votes according to various polls. That's enough to influence the outcome of the election.

As is typical, conventional wisdom is that Grimm will draw votes from the right and harm Rauner's chances (hence the intimidation). But Quinn is a deeply unpopular governor, and it's a mistake to think Grimm would draw votes from only one side. A RealClearPolitics poll average had Rauner ahead until just recently. In order to improve turnout from the left, the Democratic legislature put three red meat "advisory" questions on the ballot—whether to increase the minimum wage, require health insurers to cover birth control, and increase income taxes on millionaires. None of these votes are binding in any way. Both sides are obviously very worried about the outcome, and votes for Grimm could come from either side or from people who would just otherwise not vote.

Fox News contributor and former pollster for President Bill Clinton Douglas E. Schoen takes note of the rising number of people unwilling to join the ranks of either party:

[Grimm's] role in the election is more about sending a message to Illinois's established politicians. And that leaves them with little choice but to vote for Grimm. Either that, or they bite the bullet and vote for the deeply unpopular Quinn, or Rauner, who's earned a reputation as a behind the scenes Republican donor.

For frustrated Americans, biting the bullet is less appetizing than ever before.

As the races in Kansas and South Dakota show, people are becoming less willing to vote for a candidate they perceive as the lesser of two evils and more willing to see a vote for an independent or third party candidate as a positive political statement, rather than a wasted vote. 

Put another way, voters across America are looking for ways to register their unhappiness with the state of our politics and the quality of our politicians. Voting for a candidate like Grimm is one way to do that.

Recently, Brian Doherty took a closer look at three other Libertarian Party candidates who were polling well. Read about them here.