10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 43 (Third Parties and Runoffs)

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Much of today’s Wingmen segment had to do with runoff elections, which (to be honest) I didn’t expect and about which I’m not well versed.  On the issue of third party candidacies, though, I think Rhode Island’s got a unique and interesting case study, this time around.

My major complaint against Bob Healey is that his candidacy is a big surprise.  It’s substantially different than if the primary winner of one of the two major parties suddenly couldn’t run for office; most substitutes would be known quantities, perhaps the primary runner-up.  In that case, the primary voters from the other party aren’t losing anything, because they selected their candidate without knowing who would win the opposition’s contest.

Presumably, if either of the major parties had a superstar candidate in the wings, that would have been the person to run for governor from the beginning.  By contrast, Bob Healey wasn’t even a Moderate until they asked him to be their candidate. The Moderate Party is essentially a unique husk for independents, and as I said in the above segment, there’s a reason that independent candidates have to register alongside primary candidates, not after the primary is complete.

The mayoral race in Providence is instructive, by comparison.  Buddy Cianci is, in effect, a third-party candidate, and he declared his candidacy months ago.  The fact that he is running pretty much defined the Democrat primary, and some of the candidates (e.g., Brett Smiley) withdrew so as not to risk a Cianci victory, and voters’ decision among the remaining candidates had much to do (it appears) with which candidate could finish the job against the former mayor.

Now imagine if the Democrat primary for mayor had played out on a completely different field, on which the Democrat candidate would face an unknown Moderate and a Republican and was likely to win whoever it was.  Suppose the Democrat voters had picked somebody more aligned with their views because the general election looked like an easy win.  Now imagine that the Moderate Party candidate begged out due to illness and Buddy Cianci filled the gap.

The outrage would be deafening (by Rhode Island standards).  The Providence Journal would have political reporters measuring the dots above every “i” in the Moderates’ filings.  It would be considered simply obvious that Cianci shouldn’t be able to become a Moderate all of a sudden.  The question for public debate would be whether the laws and regulations could be changed to close the “loophole” in time for the election.

The standard shouldn’t be any different just because a cuddly hippy seals the deal for Gina Raimondo, the Democrat.



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