The Americans hope to rise, the Greens say they are refocusing and two petition candidates have millions to throw into their own campaigns.
Thus far in 2014, that is the story of the wild card candidates – the third-party and petition hopefuls – who will be on November’s ballot, where one third party will disappear from statewide races, another is making its debut and two candidates with personal fortunes hope to make waves in the races for governor and the U.S. Senate.
The question is: On Tuesday, Nov. 4, will any of their candidacies matter? They could, some say, but most likely as political spoilers, rather than outright winners.
After a decade on the statewide ballot, the S.C. Green Party says it will concentrate on local races this year, not running candidates for statewide office. However, the American Party – founded by disaffected Democrats and Republicans who think one party too liberal and the other too conservative – will boast three of the 13 independent and third-party candidates vying for statewide office.
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“Third-party candidates ... can not get caught into those hard and fast ideological positions that keep them from moving to the center if need be,” said Jim Rex, the state’s former Democratic education superintendent who co-founded the American Party with Oscar Lovelace, who unsuccessfully opposed Gov. Mark Sanford for the GOP nomination for governor in 2006.
While a candidate never has won statewide office in South Carolina without the endorsement of the state’s two major parties, this year’s third-party and petition candidates say they are serious about their races.
One American Party candidate quit her job, as a supply-chain management executive for the American Red Cross, to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Tim Scott.
Jill Bossi, who said she formerly has been a Democrat, Republican and voted for independents, said the American Party stands for term limits, working across the political aisle and ethics in government.
But she also said the American Party allows her to be her own candidate.
“They do not tell me what to think,” said Bossi, of Tega Cay. “They do not tell me how to talk. They do not tell me what I’m supposed to be in favor of or not in favor of.”
‘Doesn’t owe anyone’
Independent and third-party races can be “extremely difficult,” said Winthrop political scientist Karen Kedrowski, because candidates lack the major parties’ infrastructure, credibility and organization to help mobilize voters.
But if a candidate contributes large sums, it “certainly helps when you’re running as an independent,” said Citadel political scientist Scott Buchanan.
One independent petition candidate, Tom Ervin, is running for governor and calls himself independent Republican – a move that brought disapproval from the S.C. Republican Party.
Ervin had filed to run as a Republican against Gov. Nikki Haley in June’s GOP primary, but he withdrew, saying he wanted more time to campaign as a petition candidate.
Ervin has financed the majority of his campaign, loaning himself about $1.5 million.
That gives him an edge, his press secretary, Christian Hertenstein, said.
“He may not have a pipeline of money flowing to his campaign from lobbyists and party machines, but running as an independent Republican gives him credibility when he talks about implementing tough ethics reform in Columbia because he doesn’t owe anyone anything,” Hertenstein said.
Money is necessary to get elected to public office, but it’s not enough alone, Kedrowski said, citing other factors, including the importance of name recognition and party organizations.
“If it was as easy as who has the most money, then it would be a very simple thing to predict who is going to win elections,” she said.