President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, have both painted this year’s election as a choice between their respective visions for America.
But they’re not the only choices available to voters heading to the polls to pick the next leader of the free world.
In addition to the two major party candidates, the Ohio ballot also includes candidates from the Constitution, Green, Libertarian and Socialist parties. A retired postal worker from Aurora, Ohio, who garnered 3,092 votes during his 2008 presidential bid, gathered more than the 5,000 required signatures to make the ballot as well.
There are also six write-in candidates whose names voters can pencil in as their choice for president and vice president.
No third party candidate has won the presidential election in the modern political era, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying.
Richard Duncan, the unaffiliated candidate from Aurora, said he believes the American people are ready to embrace something other than the political status quo.
“I think eventually it’s going to happen because when I go to campaign and pull out my card, I see much more disgust with how things are going with the Republicans and Democrats,” Duncan said. “It’s the lesser of two evils.”
When he was the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1995 until the beginning of 2003, Gary Johnson earned a reputation for wielding his veto pen like a scalpel, cutting out spending that the state couldn’t afford and balancing the budget.
Although the 59-year-old Johnson won’t have a line-item veto if elected president, the Libertarian candidate said he still intends to veto anything that comes across his desk that the nation can’t afford. The federal government will balance the budget on his watch, Johnson promised.
He called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare, unaffordable for the nation and its citizens.
“People who can’t afford health insurance are now required to have health insurance,” he said.
Johnson said he wants to impose cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and defense spending. Some of those ideas might not be popular, but he said the country can’t afford to continue spending like it has in the past.
“Both parties share in this giveaway that comes with a cost and I just think we can avoid this, but it’s going to involve mutual sacrifice,” he said.
But as much as he’s fiscal conservative, Johnson holds far more socially liberal views. He said he favors gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, for instance. He’s also pro-choice on abortion and favors stem cell research, according to his website.
If he’s elected, he said he intends to challenge both parties to work across the political divide. Part of the problem, Johnson said, is that Republicans aren’t as good at “dollars and cents” as they’d like people to believe and Democrats aren’t as good as social issues as they pretend to be.
“I think it would be a real opportunity to bridge the two parties,” he said. “Neither side is good at what they’re supposed to be good at.”
Johnson said although he’s a third party candidate, he’s been putting his all into the campaign, but has been largely ignored by the press and his political rivals. He said while he’s not included in national polls very often, when voters are asked about him he gets support between 5 and 6 percent.
The bottom line, Johnson said, is he believes he’d be good for the country, which is something he contends he proved during his tenure in New Mexico.
“I distinguished myself as a real penny pincher in a state that’s 2-1 Democrat,” he said.
Four years ago, Stewart Alexander, 61, was the Socialist Party USA’s vice presidential candidate. This year Alexander, who’s still working at his day job selling cars at a Hyundai dealership in California, is at the top of the ticket.
He said he believes the American people are closer to accepting socialism as an alternative to what he sees as the failed policies of capitalism.
“People were still seeing hope in capitalism in 2008,” Alexander said. “People now realize that everything they believed in and hoped for hasn’t happened. They’re disappointed.”
Socialism is bandied about quite a bit in the political discourse today, primarily by conservatives attacking Obama’s policies, but Alexander insisted that the president isn’t a socialist.
“He’s the furthest thing from it,” he said.
For instance, Alexander said ObamaCare didn’t go far enough to fix the problems with the increasing cost of health care in the United States. He said the nation needs to adopt a single-payer health care system, something derided as socialist medicine by opponents.
That would be a start toward reinventing America into a place that works for all of its citizens, Alexander said. But he contends the nation also needs to focus on pulling out of foreign commitments and wars and restoring civil liberties he believes have been eroded by the Patriot Act and a national defense law that allows the indefinite detention of those suspected of terrorist ties, including American citizens.
Alexander said the country needs to reduce military spending and subsidies to large corporations. That money would be better spent, he argued, by investing in infrastructure. Although he’s a believer in reasonable regulations on behalf of citizens, Alexander said the most important thing is to elect socialists who can work toward the common good.
“It’s not about regulation, it’s about having people who are there in Congress who have a serious commitment to make sure the public interest is protected and we don’t have that,” he said. “They’re beholden to those same companies that support their campaigns.”
Although Duncan, 59, made the Ohio ballot four years ago, that actually wasn’t his first time seeking the nation’s highest office. He ran as a write-in candidate in 2004, receiving 17 votes, and estimates he’s eligible as a write-in in 24 other states this year.
“I hope I’m still headed in the right direction,” Duncan said.
In addition to being a retired postal worker, he’s also worked as a real estate agent and investor. He said he currently keeps busy operating rental properties he owns.
Like other candidates, Duncan said he’s focused on the economy this year.
“My main platform is based on my domestic policy on how we should be keeping jobs and creating new jobs” he said. “I believe too much has gone overseas to other countries.”
He also questions ObamaCare, which he believes will end up being too expensive to work.
“It’s something that may be good in the long run, but I don’t think we can afford it,” Duncan said. “I really think we need to get back to our capitalist society like it was designed 200 years ago.”
Duncan said the nation needs to focus on reducing its debt and bring spending under control.
“With the spending we need across-the-board reductions,” he said. “We need a 10 percent cut in everything.”
And while Duncan said he favors tax cuts for the middle class, he would raise taxes on the upper 2 percent of incomes.
“They can afford to pay it,” he said.
He also said he wants to address immigration reform and that would include putting a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and targeting for prosecution those who hire illegal immigrants.
The Green Party
Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, is a 62-year-old Harvard-educated physician who lives in Massachusetts.
Stein’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview, but her website offers an extensive list of her stances on the issues and a copy of a Jan. 25 speech in which she detailed what her party calls the Green New Deal.
“Securing the Green New Deal depends not on me or the Green Party or some professional politician we see on television,” Stein said during the speech. “It depends on all of us standing up and declaring that we’ve had enough of the insider-run big money politics that rules Washington. And it depends on each of us using our concern, our energy, our intelligence to find ways to improve the lives of our community.”
She advocates grassroots efforts to make reforms. Her platform includes invigorating the economy by creating 25 million new green jobs in sustainable energy, mass transit, sustainable organic agriculture clean manufacturing and social services, according to Stein’s website.
She also supports making the minimum wage a livable wage, cutting military spending and rewriting the tax code to create progressive taxes for the poor and middle class while raising taxes on the rich.
Stein wants to upgrade infrastructure, break-up “too big to fail banks, provide free education from kindergarten through college, forgive existing student debt and create an international treaty to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to reduce global warming.
The website also said that Stein wants to enhance civil liberties for those opposing the government through peaceful assembly and protest, something she has been arrested for in the past, most recently trying to enter the presidential debate between Obama and Romney in Hempstead, N.Y.
Stein also supports eliminating the concept of corporate personhood, encouraging voting accessibility and abolishing the Electoral College so the president is directly elected.
The Constitution Party
Former U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia is the Constitution Party’s candidate this year. The 66-year-old served six terms Congress, switching from Democrat to independent to Republican during his time in Washington.
Goode, who did not return calls seeking comment, is a proponent of term limits and noted on his campaign website that if elected president he would only serve one term.
According to his website, Goode supports “significant” cuts to most of the federal government, eliminating programs such as No Child Left Behind and the National Endowment for the Arts. He wants to reduce regulation and focus on becoming energy independent.
His economic program also calls for a moratorium, with a few exceptions, on green cards allowing legal immigration into the United States. Immigrants, he wrote, take jobs from Americans.
Goode also wants to limit illegal immigration by building a fence along the U.S. Mexican border, supports English as the official language of the United States and wants to rewrite the tax code.
He supports limiting damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to cut down on rising medical costs, opposes ObamaCare and would close the U.S. Department of Education, according to the website.
He wrote that he also opposes gay marriage and civil unions and doesn’t believe U.S. military forces should be placed under United Nations control.
“Emphasizing and following the Constitution will mean a smaller less costly government, which is vital for the future prosperity and progress of the United States,” Goode wrote on his website.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.