If anyone thought the revolution to overthrow establishment candidates had lost its steam after the 2010 midterms, recent events seem to demonstrate that the movement is far from over.
Just this week, Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a special election to fill the seat in New York’s 26th Congressional District. And the game-changer in this particular election wasn’t even necessarily that voting for Hochul was a repudiation of Paul Ryan’s proposed budget roadmap he offered earlier this year. In its coverage of this week’s special election, analysis from The New York Daily News gave a special shout out to Independent voters in the district, effectively summarizing the situation that many candidates will face in 2012:
“The real lesson is that independent voters continue to vote against, rather than for, established candidates and parties. And they are in exactly as fickle and suspicious and contrary a mood as they’ve been for the past decade, which is to say very.” said Bruce Gyrory in his piece assessing not only the New York election but also what candidates across the country face at this point in time.
Gyrory describes the group of Independents in the electorate, defined more by what they dislike and as being moderate in ideology, pretty accurately. They are neither Democrats or Republicans, instead swinging their vote between Republicans and Democrats in the last few elections since 2006. Issues that concerned them have ranged from the Iraq War to various economic issues.
This very notion of Independents voting based on what they didn’t like reared its ugly head in the special election between Hochul and Corwin. The election wasn’t necessarily a full affirmation of the Democratic agenda. Hochul’s victory was in large part helped by voters who supported third party candidate Jack Davis and gave him 9% of the vote (which would have otherwise gone to Corwin and would have helped her defeat Hochul).
While there might be some question as to whether he was a plant by Democrats to alter the special election, the fact of the matter remains that he was a third party candidate whose presence directly threatened a main party candidate. It also goes to show what kind of impact that third party candidates could have around the country in 2012. If more Independents come forward with a convincing message that resonates with voters, then what happened in New York 26 this past week can have a nationwide ripple effect.
Even though a Republican lost in what was thought to be a safe New York 26, the potential for establishment candidates to be rejected isn’t confined to one party. The first election under the new top two open primary system in California’s 36th congressional district demonstrated this well.
Craig Huey, while representing the Republican Party in a district that had twice as many registered Democrats than Republicans, was a virtually unknown businessman that beat out California Secretary of State Debra Bowen for the runoff spot. In an age of political discontent, and with a growing number of Independents, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Huey pull off the upset in July
What we see at this point in time seems to a spontaneous fire, popping up here and there, on a bigger political landscape just waiting to flare up into a major conflagration. Don’t be surprised to see more Independents taking the nation by storm come 2012.