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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Newhart

Independent Candidates: Who They Are and Why They Matter

The publicity that comes with being a nominee of the two largest parties is considerable, but it’s rarely applied to independent candidates. Many people don't know their names, platforms, parties, or how many of them are even running.

Different states have different qualifications for being listed on the ballot as a candidate. States have anywhere from three to 21 candidates for president on their ballot this year. There are four independent candidates on the California ballot this year: Jo Jorgenson, running with Spike Cohen, under the Libertarian Party; Howie Hawkins, running with Angela Nicole Walker, under the Green Party; Gloria La Riva, running with Sunil Freeman, under the Peace and Freedom Party; and Roque de la Fuente Guerra, running with Kanye Omari West, under the American Independent Party.

Jo Jorgensen

Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen speaks to her supporters in Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Jo Jorgensen is a 63-year-old woman running under the Libertarian Party; as such, she generally supports shrinking the government. Jorgensen wants to reduce red tape and restrictions on medical treatment and COVID-19 testing, job creation, and the removal of coal and oil plants. She wants to restrict government spending and borrowing as well as taxes. Jorgensen believes that the freedom to trade and travel are fundamental liberties. She also wants to prevent government shutdowns and allow real price competition in healthcare to reduce the price on its own. Overall, Jorgensen believes that the government should interfere less and spend less.

Howie Hawkins

Howie Hawkins participates in a debate in his 2018 campaign for New York governor. (Hans Pennik/AP)

Howie Hawkins is a 67-year-old man running under the Green Party. He believes in controlling loan and rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic. He also aims to transition to 100% clean energy by 2030. Hawkins wants to make all medicare costs uniform with everyone older than 16 paying $2000, and everyone younger paying $500 per year. He plans to pledge to a no first use nuclear policy, disarm nuclear weapons by a reasonable amount, and cut the military budget by 75%. The candidate also wants to begin investigations on police misconduct and end mass incarceration. Hawkins’s top priorities are ending violence and achieving equality.

Gloria La Riva

In 2017, Gloria La Riva spoke out at a rally against President Trump. (Wikimedia Commons)

Gloria La Riva is a 66-year-old woman running under the Peace and Freedom Party. She plans to make basic necessities to live a Constitutional right ― this includes food, water, housing, education, health care, and basic income. La Riva is staunchly against capitalism, due to the fact that it’s a system in which everyone is working for their own profit. La Riva wants to prosecute police officers who abuse their power and/or use an unnecessary amount of force and like Hawkins, wants an end to mass incarceration. She plans to bring all troops, planes, and ships home, using the military budget to provide for the people instead of national security. She also wants to abolish all anti-immigration laws, deportation, raids, and the demonization of immigrants, and she wants to honor all Native treaties. La Riva has also made it a goal to allow full equality for all women and LGBTQ+ people.

Roque de la Fuente Guerra

Rocky de la Fuente Guerra ran for president in the 2016 election under a self-created party, the American Delta Party, after losing the Democratic nomination. (David Maung)

Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente Guerra is a 66-year-old man running under the American Independent Party. He believes in a single-payer healthcare system where everyone has the same, government-paid healthcare and individuals can pay for any additional necessary healthcare. Guerra disagrees with deportation and believes that immigrants should be viewed as assets, instead of liabilities. He also wants to implement policies that will eliminate economic barriers in one’s ability to obtain a higher level of education. Guerra believes in taxing citizens and corporations equitably and eliminating tax preference.

Why vote independent?

One anonymous voter from Torrance, CA chose to vote for independent candidate Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian) despite knowing that it’s generally very unlikely for any third party candidate to win. He voted independent because he wanted to make a statement and show his support for the candidate’s ideals and platform. He believes that only having two main parties causes polarization and division, and doesn't allow for multiple perspectives and opinions to be viewed in the mainstream.

Another voting option is writing in a name. Different states have different rules about write-in votes. The majority (33 states) don't allow write-ins. In California, write-in votes won't count unless the candidate is already registered.

The last time an independent candidate won was in 1850. So why would you even vote for anyone who isn't a Democrat or Republican? It’s important to know other candidates’ positions and be aware that it is still possible to rally behind an independent candidate if they have a widely supported position. Now, as newer generations are able to vote, they may decide to put less in the power of a candidate affiliated with a large political party, and may become discontent with the divisive nature of only having two large political parties. Attitudes about the viability of electing a third party candidate generally remain negative, but the 2020 election has brought forth questions about the two-party system and whether it remains sustainable for future elections. Whether independent candidates will rise to prominence in the future remains to be seen.



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