For months, pundits have been game planning the Charlie Crist-Rick Scott matchup – in fact, even before it officially existed. But a slew of other candidates have been in the race since long before either of the big name candidates, struggling all the while to make their campaigns relevant.
The list of candidates for governor listed on the Florida Department of State’s website includes nine people with no Party Affiliation, two Libertarians, and one representative of the Socialist Party of Florida, who actually represents another party. Most of these candidates aren’t well-known, and they face an uphill battle just by not running on the Democratic or Republican tickets.
“When push comes to shove, they [ the people] don’t want to waste their vote," notes Florida State University Political scientist Carol Weissert. "They feel strongly about it, so they want to vote for a candidate or against a candidate sometimes.”
Adrian Wyllie is one of the two Libertarian candidates. He says he’s in the race because he feels both current Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist—are too alike. And by that he means they’re too far left on the political spectrum:
“They both, at the time, called themselves fiscal conservatives—yet, I believe the budget increased $6 billion under Charlie Crist, and $8-billion under Governor Rick Scott. So you’ve got two guys, neither of whom have any intention of cutting the budgetm" he said.
During Crist’s time in office, the state budget went from a record $73 billion down to nearly $66 billion. That’s largely due to the Great Recession. During Scott’s tenure, the state’s budget has gone up to about $70 billion—largely due to the economic recovery. Wyllie’s says he’d cut Florida’s budget—and keep it cut. He’d also repeal Common Core learning standards and continue fighting Obamacare. Wyllie’s goal is to get to the gubernatorial debates in 2014. To do so, he has register support from 15 percent of those surveyed on a Mason-Dixon poll. Earlier in the summer, he polled around nine-percent. Wyllie wants to win the governor’s race in 2014. But other candidates have different goals.
“Third party candidates we don’t get much of anything from anybody. But we serve one purpose: apply pressure to the two major parties," says Atlee Yarrow.
Yarrow is listed on the Florida Department of State’s website as representing the Socialist Party of Florida, but he’s actually running as the candidate of the American Freedom Party. On its website, the party lists itself as a “political party for White Americans to defend civil rights and liberties”. The segregationist candidate supports boosting and rebuilding aging infrastructure systems like roads and rail, and believes the state should do more to enforce immigration laws. He says third party candidates like him run on principle.
“People like to talk a good game about diversity on issues, but it doesn’t exist. People are people. It’s the paradox, where people don’t know what to do, they suffer from a type of paralysis, where they say, ‘I’m going to vote for the devil that I know, instead of the devil that I don’t know.”
There is a third name some voters might know on the primary ballot: Nan Rich. And yet, even when she was the only former Democratic office-holder in the race, almost no one – both within her own party and from the Republican Party of Florida – considered her a serious challenger. So Rich, a onetime state senator, says she’s relying on the voters for support instead.
“I think it’s a combination of having enough money to get your message out to the voters, but also I truly believe a strong, grassroots organization is incredibly important. Just look at Obama.”
Rich, who served 12 years in the Florida legislature, has been campaigning for the better part of a year, making more than 200 stops across the state. But now she’s forced to make the same argument against Charlie Crist to keep her own campaign alive as Rick Scott will make to try to win himself a second term in office.
“I believe when it all comes together and people compare the credentials of former Governor Crist and myself. They will choose the true Democrat, and that would be me."
Rich says she’s reaching out to local Democratic parties, to gain more influence. But FSU political scientist Carol Weissert says only one thing matters in primary elections: name recognition.
“The problem is, we select our candidates by primaries, and that’s the voters, not necessarily the local democratic parties," she said.
And when voters recognize a current governor and a former one are running against one another, it’s pretty obvious who the nominees are likely to be.
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