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7 Most 'Independent' Politicians in 2013

by Alex Gauthier, published
2013 was an 'off' year politically for the vast majority of Americans. There was no presidential election where one-liners like "I've got binders full of women" or "you didn't build that" were drilled into the American psyche. Similarly, the most exciting politician wasn't even an American. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford takes that category hands down.

Yet, 7 politicians stuck out this year as the most 'independent.' For this list, independent means going outside a particular party's interest for better or worse.

Chris Christie

Although Hurricane Sandy struck the east United States in late 2012, Christie had to endure the storm's consequences well into 2013. The Republican New Jersey governor easily won re-election by 20 percentage points over Democrat Barbara Buono. Even in a low turnout election, he won over a third of Democrats and two-thirds of independents. Due in no small part to his handling of the relief efforts, Governor Christie's 60 percent approval rating remains one of the highest in the country.

After the election, Christie reaffirmed his commitment to voters, not parties, in his acceptance speech:

"I will not let anyone, anything, any political party, any governmental entity or any force get in the way of the completion of my mission... I sought a second term to get things done, now watch me do it."

Bernie Sanders

The 72-year-old senator from Vermont is the longest serving independent in Senate history. He has been very critical of both parties when it comes to economic issues like the multi-billion dollar bailout, and constitutional concerns with national security programs. In December, he voted not to authorize $625 billion in defense spending, stating:

“The situation is so absurd that the Pentagon is unable to even account for how it spends its money. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office cited its inability to audit the Pentagon.  They wrote that they were unable to do a comprehensive financial analysis due to ‘serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements un-auditable.’

Cory Booker

Another New Jerseyan to make this list is former Newark mayor and junior senator of New Jersey, Cory Booker. He secured over 55 percent of the vote in a low-turnout October special election to replace the late Frank Lautenberg. He's been criticized by Democrats and Republicans for being too friendly with New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie.

However, working with Christie has proven effective and Booker's approval rating was nearly 70 percent before leaving the mayor's office. In his acceptance speech, Booker appealed to all of his constituents instead of focusing solely on his Democratic base:

“If you voted for me, I will make you proud. ,"

Rand Paul

Rand Paul's filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA became one of the biggest political spectacles of the year. #StandWithRand was tweeted thousands of times uniting politicians and voters from across the political spectrum. Paul's 13-hour filibuster galvanized attention on the issue of domestic and foreign drone policy, a subject that has become legally ambiguous and raises a number of constitutional questions.

The ordeal prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to respond with a letter clarifying that the Executive does not have the authority to kill American citizens not engaged in combat on U.S. soil -- the precedent for which was closely set by the targeted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen.

Jon Huntsman

Huntsman, a Republican, is one of the leading voices promoting trans-party cooperation in Washington. The No Labels organization, which he is a national leader for, is one of the few actively promoting bipartisan cooperation.

Earlier this month on MSNBC, Huntsman diagnosed one of the primary causes for today's heightened partisan climate: the closed primary election system. He was also not afraid to critique leading members of his own party like Rand Paul. In response to Senator Paul's remarks on welfare, Hunstman said:

"This is language that’s suitable for the Republican primary, plain and simple. This isn’t the language that’s good for all Americans and that gets us closer to solving the problem..."

Eric Swalwell

California Democrat Eric Swalwell is probably best known for unseating 40-year Democratic incumbent Pete Stark. and they rewarded him at the polls. This year he has managed to follow through on his campaign promises, authoring a

nonpartisan tax bill with New York Republican Chris Collins.

In spite of his constructive first term, the soured Stark has vowed revenge. Swalwell's 2014 primary opponent, Ellen Corbett, has Stark's outspoken support which should amount to an interesting election for California's 15th Congressional District

Ted Cruz

The biggest thorn in the Republican Party's side this year has to be none other than Ted Cruz. Nixing calls from Republicans and Democrats alike, Cruz's pseudo-filibuster of the Affordable Care Act played a pivotal role in partially shutting down the government for 16 days. While taking fire from all sides of the political establishment following the shutdown, his popularity soared with grassroots activists in the tea party. However, it remains to be seen if he'll be able to live through his shutdown legacy in the years to come.

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