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Support for Third Parties Declining in U.S. House Races

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A Smart Politics analysis of 2006 election results finds support for third parties continuing to drop—for the second straight election cycle since 2002.

In 2006, 2.25 percent of votes for U.S. House candidates went to third parties, compared to 2.37 percent in 2004 and 3.03 percent in 2002.

In 2006 there were 158 districts in which a third party candidate received at least 2 percent of the vote—the same number of districts as in 2004, but well below the 224 districts with candidates achieving such support in 2002.

The drop in votes cast for third party candidates in 2006 is a bit surprising—given the low confidence numbers Congress received this year (due in part to several scandals that touched both Republicans and Democrats). One might have expected third parties to smell blood in the water—and rally now more than ever to gather support to their side in an election year in which several districts decided to 'throw the bums out.' It seems voter disdain for Republicans in particular - and the desire to insure GOP officeholders were replaced with Democrats - trumped general voter disgust for the institution and the two major parties.

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Political Crumbs

No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


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