There are many challenges with running a campaign from outside the two-party system.
The Democrats and Republicans have institutional support with a voter base that supports party nominees on election day, and before that, in the media, business, and various institutions of government.
There also are more developed programs around understanding campaign rules and election laws, candidate training, and of course – fundraising.
This does not mean that the opportunity for third party candidates to win elections does not exist.
I like to think about Scott Brown’s election in the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election over then state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley as a recent example of what independent candidates without significant initial support can accomplish. Brown won an election to replace a state and national political icon, Senator Ted Kennedy, who died from a battle with cancer.
Brown won despite being a complete political unknown across much of the state.
Coakley, meanwhile, was running with significant name recognition and institutional advantage (and in state with few Republicans in state and local political office). Yet, she lost by 5 points, 52-47.
How did it happen?
Brown focused on a message that independent voters and centrists cared about. He rode an old pickup truck, went door to door, and used each moment he could to showcase some growing support.
But Scott Brown did have an establishment behind him – however small. The Massachusetts GOP is not an insignificant organization, despite its overall inability to win many local and state offices.
Never the less, the theme of accomplishing what most considered an impossible task is something that ALL third party / independent candidates need to take to heart. The hard work Brown put into his campaign, and his mastery of face to face politics (true listening), and his desire for common sense approaches to key problems of the day all appealed to voters who were less interested in selecting a candidate who appeared to be chosen for them, not by them.
That brings me to what the “Leadership for America PAC” is all about.
In order for third party / independent candidates to be successful, there needs to be a stronger organization at the heart of their campaigns. A group that can provide candidate and campaign training, as well as fundraising support. People who can either help a candidate and her/his campaign navigate the rules and laws of elections, but also connect them with additional resources to be successful.
Libertarian Party, Green Party, and other third parties have some of these elements.
As a member of the Reform Party since the earliest days, I think one of the components that has inhibited our growth, and led to a recent decline in candidate recruitment and attention, has been a lack of a similar organization.
Therefore, I have taken the steps to create the Leadership for America PAC to help build an organization that can provide independent candidates interested in being centrist, problem-solving candidates for the Reform Party with the kinds of information and resources they need to be successful.
My goal is to build an organization that conducts candidate training, recruitment, helps to fund the development of other support organizations, and ultimately strives to elevate the political discourse in our nation.
Our kick-off, or launch, will take place in the Fall of 2017 – with the goal of growing our candidate field for office-seekers at the local, state, and national level in 2018.
If you are interested in joining this effort, please reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org