This year did not give voters much in terms of transcending partisanship at the Congressional level. However, breakthroughs of candidates and politicians who have publicly challenged the fiction that politics is a choice between Republican or Democratic ideas should not go unnoticed.
Included in this list are politicians whose actions cannot be defined as simply left or right. Instead they represent a diverse set of principles and ideas that span the political spectrum.
Here are the most independent politicians of 2014:
Greg Orman recently ran for U.S. Senate in Kansas as an Independent candidate. He challenged incumbent Pat Roberts (R-KS) during the 2014 elections, but came up just short with 42.5 percent to Sen. Roberts’ 53.2 percent.
Orman ran on an anti-incumbent platform, denouncing career legislators fixed on partisanship instead of the state’s interests. He has been both a registered Democrat and Republican in the past, but became unaffiliated in 2010 having been fed up with the status quo. Orman made it a central theme of his Senate campaign stating,
“Our system of government is broken, and we all know it. I’ve tried both parties, and like most Kansans, I’ve been disappointed.”
Evan Falchuk ran for Governor of Massachusetts as a candidate for the United Independent Party (UIP). He was the first ballot-qualified candidate for the 2014 gubernatorial race by obtaining over 10,000 signatures well before the deadline. Yet, while almost 53 percent of Massachusetts voters aren’t registered with a political party, local media opted to exclude Falchuk from a gubernatorial debate just weeks before election day.
Falchuk would eventually place third in the statewide election with over 71,000 votes. By earning 3.3 percent of the vote, the UIP is now officially recognized by Massachusetts state law.
The Falchuk campaign focused on the political party duopoly in elections, the lack of substance in the political dialogue, and re-engaging independent voters in the process.
“We are doing it not by using the tired old demographics of left versus right, young versus old, higher taxes versus lower. Instead, our campaign coalition is an engaged group of all of those who feel the system no longer represents their interests.”
Rand Paul and Cory Booker
Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are prime examples of what politicians can do when partisan politics are put aside. Both Paul and Booker are high-profile junior senators, but aren’t afraid to transcend party lines to put forward substantive policy.
They teamed up to create the REDEEM Act, which would amend the federal criminal code to provide a process for the expungement of records relating to non-violent or juvenile offenses. This would help ex-offenders find and maintain jobs as well.
Aside from working across the aisle, Senator Paul has not been one to follow his party’s platform. He most recently challenged the GOP’s notion of keeping relations with Cuba closed and challenged fellow Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) reasoning.
Senator Booker has been an advocate for charter schools during his time as mayor in New Jersey. Whether or not you agree with the expansion of charter schools, Booker wasn’t afraid to take his own stance against party convention.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is one of two officially independent politicians in the U.S. Senate along with Sen. Angus King (I-ME). Sanders is a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, but that doesn’t take away from what makes him independent. Sanders put forth his own 12-point for economic recovery plan in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor this month.
Sen. Sanders caucuses with the Democratic party and will be the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee in 2015. He is also the current chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Alaskan Governor Bill Walker is the only current state governor in the United States without a party affiliation.
Gov. Walker was a former Republican and is known as a more moderate conservative. However, in an attempt to trump the incumbent Republican Governor Sean Parnell in 2014, he ran as an independent. Walker and Democratic nominee Byron Mallott decided to merge campaigns and Mallott became Walker’s lieutenant governor running mate.
Returns after election day were neck and neck for over a week, but the Walker-Mallott campaign won with 48.1 percent of the vote to incumbent Sean Parnell’s 45.8 percent.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was elected to his third term in Congress this year. He is well known as privacy advocate while governing in a transparent manner. While he is a Republican, he often butts heads with his party and is known as the “most defiant Republican.”
Amash shares the sentiments of Sen. Rand Paul, supporting open relations with Cuba. He was one of the most outspoken opponents of the NSA’s data collection program and put forth a bill to curb their capabilities. Amash was also one of the few congresspeople to speak out about the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2014, which could grant sweeping authorization for government surveillance of personal communications.
In yet another streak of independent-mindedness, Amash uses social media in an impactful way by explaining each of his votes to constituents.
Image: (From left to right) Greg Orman, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Justin Amash, and Cory Booker
Who do you think is going to be an important independent politician in 2015?