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The Green Party: A Short Half-Life in Minnesota Politics

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In our continuing study of the decline of third parties in the state of Minnesota, today Smart Politics examines the weakening of the state's Green Party. Like the Independence Party, the Green Party experienced a significant downturn in public support in 2006 for almost all statewide and district races from the previous election cycle.

The growth of the Green Party in the late 1990s was in great measure a result of its drawing support from the disaffected far-left wing of the Democratic Party. The Greens received a boost in Minnesota when its endorsed candidate for President, Ralph Nader, received an impressive 5.2 percent of the vote in the Gopher State. While this showing temporarily increased the Party's statewide profile, the Party was perhaps ultimately a victim of Nader's success. Many people voted Green in 2000 because they were under the impression there was little difference between the candidacies of Al Gore and George W. Bush. The combination of the closeness of the Gore-Bush race, combined with what many liberals viewed to be Bush falling short of his "compassionate conservative" and "uniter not a divider" pledges, demonstrated to the 'new Greens' that there were indeed still some clear differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. As a result, many Greens flocked back to the Democratic Party in 2004, an election in which Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb received only 0.2 percent of the vote in Minnesota.

Green Party support in statewide races also largely peaked in 2002: support for Green candidates declined from 2002 to 2006 in races for Governor (2.3 to 0.5 percent), Secretary of State (3.1 percent to no candidate), and State Auditor (3.7 to 2.3 percent). Support for Green Party candidates in US Senate races remained the same in 2002 and 2006 (0.5 percent). The only positive news for the Minnesota Green Party in 2006 is that it fielded its first candidate for Attorney General (who received 1.9 percent of the vote).

The story is equally bleak in Minnesota district races. In US House elections, the Greens fielded 3 candidates in 2002, averaging 4.9 percent of the vote. In 2004 the Greens had 2 candidates on the ballot, averaging 4.2 percent of the vote. In 2006 the Green Party only managed to field one candidate. This candidate, Jay Pond in MN-05, received only 2.0 percent of the vote, a noticeable dip from the 5.7 percent he received in 2004.

In State Senate races, the Green Party fielded 8 candidates in 2002, and just 1 in 2006. The number of Greens on the ballot in State House races has fallen drastically from 17 candidates in 2002, to 7 candidates in 2004, to just 1 in 2006.

Will the Green Party be around in Minnesota in 2008? And, if so, how can it be an effective player on the political scene? A lot may depend on what Democrats do with their newfound legislative power both in Washington, D.C. and in St. Paul where they now control both legislative chambers.

Previous post: The Decline of the Independence Party
Next post: Right of Center Third Party Candidates Disappearing in Minnesota

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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