Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Sharron's Angle: Independents Find Little Success in Nevada US House Races

Bookmark and Share

Only seven candidates from Nevada have run for the U.S. House as an independent since statehood; none have eclipsed 15 percent

With a special election for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District recently set for September 13th, various D.C. hopefuls endured a long weekend in anticipation of Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller's forthcoming announcement Monday morning as to how candidates - particularly those from the two major political parties - can achieve ballot access in this race.

All of this, of course, is new ground in Nevada, which is one of just two states in U.S. history never to have held a special election in a U.S. House contest.

However, with a primary option seemingly banned by state law in this circumstance, Miller's announcement will set the stage as to whether a) political parties will have the power to set the rules to determine their single nominee or b) whether a more 'open ballot' free for all ensues, in which candidates with the requisite number of signatures will have their name on the ballot.

Sharron Angle, who had already announced her candidacy for the seat in the 2012 general election, has now declared she will run in the September special.

Angle has denied recent reports that she would run as an independent if Option A above is instituted (and she failed to receive the GOP nomination as many expect she would).

Angle's denial could plausibly be a strategic move in an attempt to bolster as much support as she can muster within Republican Party circles first, before (potentially) bolting to an independent run should she fail to get on the September ballot as a Republican.

Despite her strong name recognition, Nevada's electoral history does not suggest an independent Angle candidacy would have much success, with a former state Supreme Court justice among those who launched failed U.S. House bids as independents in the Silver State.

A Smart Politics review of the 95 at-large and district U.S. House races that have been conducted in Nevada since statehood finds independents have achieved ballot access just seven times and never once reached the 15 percent mark.

Overall, 280 candidates have appeared on the ballot in Nevada elections to the nation's lower legislative chamber across the last 147 years dating back to 1864.

Only seven candidates have not been affiliated with a major or minor political party.

The best showing by an independent came during the Democratic wave of the 1930s.

In the 1936 Nevada U.S. House at-large race, Harry Austin notched 14.7 percent while Democratic incumbent Harry Scrugham was en route to his third term winning 58.4 percent and defeating Republican challenger Ed Peterson by 31.6 points.

On only two other occasions have independents cracked the double-digit mark in Nevada House races - with both of these taking place more than 90 years ago.

In 1908, Nevada Supreme Court Justice A.L. Fitzgerald won 12.7 percent - good for third place in a four man field - as 1-term Democratic incumbent George Bartlett was reelected with a plurality 47.3 percent of the vote.

Fitzgerald's 34.6-point deficit off Bartlett's winning total represents the closest an independent has ever come to winning a U.S. House race in Nevada.

In 1920, Paul Jones received 12.5 percent of the vote in a four candidate field that saw Republican Samuel Arentz upend 1-term Democratic incumbent Charles Evans by 14.8 points with 48.9 percent of the vote.

Only four other candidates have qualified to run as an independent across the remaining 92 Nevada U.S. House races - all of them launching campaigns during the last decade.

None, however, have had the moderate success of the three independents mentioned above who campaigned during the first four decades of the 20th Century:

· In 2002's election to the newly created 3rd CD, Pete O'Neil won 3.8 percent of the vote as an independent in the first of Republican Jon Porter's three victories. O'Neil finished third in a five-candidate field.

· In 2006, Daniel Rosen won 2.4 percent in the Silver State's 2nd CD race, finishing third out of four candidates while Republican Dean Heller (whose seat will soon be vacant) won his first term with 50.3 percent of the vote.

· In 2008, Jeffrey Reeves received 4.3 percent as Rep. Porter lost his bid for a fourth term in the 3rd CD to Democrat Dina Titus, who won with 47.3 percent. Reeves placed third out of six candidates.

· In 2010, Barry Michaels won 2.4 percent of the vote placing third out of five candidates as Rep. Titus lost her 3rd CD seat to Republican Joe Heck, with the GOPer winning a plurality 48.1 percent.

The one constant feature across all of these seven U.S. House contests is that although the independent candidates were far from winning these races, they performed better than every third party candidate on the ballot in each cycle.

The historical data also suggests independent candidacies seem to pop up in volatile election cycles: there has been a change in partisan control of the U.S. House seat in three of the seven races with independents on the ballot (in 1920, 2008, and 2010).


Moreover, winning candidates received only a plurality of the vote in four of these races featuring independents (in 1908, 1920, 2008, 2010).

Of course, the fear Republicans have with a Sharron Angle candidacy (either in a crowded field of candidates or as an independent) is that she will dilute the conservative vote and thus enable a Democrat to win the race and pick up the seat.

That fear may be legitimate with a well-known candidate like Sharron Angle, however the independent vote has been larger than the margin of victory in just one race to date (2010).

Under its current district lines, NV-02 has a Partisan Vote Index of +5 GOP, making it the 178th most Republican district in the nation.

Independent Candidacies in Nevada U.S. House Races, 1864-2010

Year
District
Candidate
%
Place
# Candidates
MoL
1936
NV-AL
Harry Austin
14.7
3
3
-43.7
1908
NV-AL
A.L. Fitzgerald
12.7
3
4
-34.6
1920
NV-AL
Paul Jones
12.5
3
4
-36.5
2008
NV-03
Jeffrey Reeves
4.3
3
6
-43.2
2002
NV-03
Pete O'Neil
3.8
3
5
-52.3
2010
NV-03
Barry Michaels
2.4
3
5
-45.7
2006
NV-02
Daniel Rosen
2.4
3
4
-48.0
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Idaho Soon to Be Only State Never to Hold a U.S. House Special Election after NV-02
Next post: Andre Carson and Keith Ellison Respond to bin Laden Killing

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting