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In Wake of Local GOP Collapse, Millennial Candidates Push Third Parties

by Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, published

California is a blue state, but Los Angeles County is way blue: Clinton bested Trump by 50 percentage points.

Few local elected officials belong to the GOP, and only 18% of registered voters are Republican.

In Central and East/Southeast Los Angeles, the GOP has collapsed to such an extent that not a single Republican filed to challenge the incumbent congressional Democrats of the 34th and 40th Congressional Districts.

Instead, true to their generation’s yearning for new parties, Millennial candidates from the Green and Libertarian Parties are waging historic campaigns to wrest local congressional control from the Democratic Party.

Angela McArdle (L) and Kenneth Mejia (G) both competed against the current incumbent of the 34th District (Central L.A.), Jimmy Gomez, in the special election of 2017. That election featured 23 candidates and McArdle and Mejia were beaten out by the wealthy businessman Robert Lee Ahn (D) for the coveted second place in the top-two runoff.

Nonetheless, Mejia did beat out the GOP candidate. In 2018, McArdle and Mejia faced no opposition other than each other and the incumbent.

Effectively, in the experimental state of California, for the first time in American history, both major third parties are battling just one of the two establishment parties. Presenting themselves to voters, McArdle and Mejia have a unique voice to advance their third parties’ world view.

From a political science perspective, the results will be fascinating: While less than 1% of registered voters in each district are registered Greens or Libertarians, past elections in California have shown that candidates of both third parties perform at far higher rates than we might expect based on party registration statistics.

Many disaffected Democrats and Republicans become Greens and Libertarians, respectively. Will left-leaning Democratic voters break party ranks and vote for a Green? Will reform-minded Republican voters come out and elevate a Libertarian?

Twenty-eight percent of voters in the district are registered No Party Preference. Like McArdle and Mejia, these voters are likely dissatisfied by the Democratic and Republican Parties, but will they find the Green or Libertarian philosophy of government more appealing?

These results will be informative for understanding urban political realignment in the wake of GOP collapse.

Adjacent to California’s 34th Congressional District, the author (Rodolfo Cortes) is running as the only challenger to a 13-term Democrat in District 40 (East/Southeast Los Angeles). Here, the GOP has collapsed so precipitously that, following the last redistricting, not a single Republican for Congress has ever appeared on the ballot.

The challenge for third parties in this district is the incumbent’s family has represented the area for over 50 years in Congress, resulting in near universal name recognition for the incumbent.

A prediction: If any of these three Millennial third-party candidates makes it to Congress following their historic races against the Democratic Party, the United States will enter a new period of massive political party realignment.

Unlike previous realignments, voters in different states won’t simply switch from Blue to Red or Red to Blue. Instead, the Green and Libertarian Parties will see their ranks swell to unprecedented levels. America will become a multi-party nation.

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