That third-party politicking? Not so easy after all
Republican operatives have long suspected that their Democratic counterparts were propping up the fiscally conservative Libertarian Party to shave votes off the GOP. So some Republicans have wondered what would happen if they, in turn, tried to hurt Democrats by helping the liberal Green Party.
They’re finding that helping one party to hurt another is more difficult than it appears.
Last week, Democratic District Judge John Dietz blocked the Greens from fielding candidates this November because the group that helped the Green Party collect the signatures to get on the ballot did so with what Dietz considers an illegal corporate contribution. The Greens are appealing to the Texas Supreme Court.
The group that helped the Greens, Take Initiative America, has a number of Republican ties. But the sexiest revelation has been that lobbyist Mike Toomey paid a University of Texas student to collect signatures for the Greens, the student says. That effort came up short.
Conventional wisdom says a Green Party candidate takes more votes away from a Democrat than a Republican, so Toomey’s effort appears aimed at helping Gov. Rick Perry beat Democratic challenger Bill White. After all, Toomey is Perry’s close
ally and former chief of staff.
But Toomey’s interest in Texas politics extends beyond the governor’s race. He is a key player in helping Republicans win more seats in the Legislature, and as this whole matter moves forward, we may learn that his real target was the battle for the Texas House, which is now split between 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats.
Libertarian candidates have appeared on Texas ballots much more frequently than the Greens in recent years, which appears to have
In the end, this could all be academic. The Greens have announced candidates in only a few House races so far. In the meantime, the public now knows that Republicans actively sought to help them.
helped Democratic House candidates.
Democrat Mark Strama of Austin won a seat in the House six years ago by beating Republican incumbent Jack Stick by 569 votes. Greg Knowles, the Libertarian candidate in that race, got 2,390 votes.
And Democratic former Rep. Robby Cook of Eagle Lake beat his 2006 Republican challenger by 415 votes while the Libertarian got 1,300.
Strama said he and his campaign did not help Knowles. He noted that an Austin resident was the Libertarian presidential nominee that year, likely boosting their turnout.
Furthermore, most of the Democrats who have won House seats over the past two election cycles either had no Libertarian opponent or, based on their margin of victory, would have won anyway if all the Libertarian voters had gone Republican. So the Libertarian-helping-- Democrat phenomenon may be overblown.
Pat Dixon, the Libertarians’ state chairman, contends that his candidates take votes from both parties. He said he does not know of either party helping Libertarians in the six years he’s been in charge, and he said many Democrats have actually opposed legislative changes that would make it easier for his party to get on the ballot.
In the end, this could all be academic. The Greens have announced candidates in only a few House races so far. Their candidates must be certified by Friday, if the courts allow it. In the meantime, the public now knows that Republicans actively sought to help them.
If the Democrats have been helping a third party all these years, they sure have been a lot better at pulling it off. When was the last time we could say that in Texas?