In February, Unite America, a group striving to help America move beyond its partisan divide, announced it was fielding a competitive slate of third party candidates in races across the country. At the time, the group announced five candidates running for U.S. Senate and governor in states targeted for their openness to third party success. On Thursday, the group released a new report, showing that the Washington state legislature also offers opportunities for third party candidates, and endorsed Marco Padilla as an independent candidate for state legislature.
“Washington voters are deeply dissatisfied with the two major political parties and are open to voting for independents who put people over party, according to a statewide survey of more than 600 voters,” the report reads.
According to the survey, three out of four voters in Washington state say they are open to voting for an independent candidate. In a generic state ballot, an independent candidate also led both a Republican candidate (43%-25%), and a Democratic candidate (35%-27%) in head to head matchups. Although independents outnumber both Republicans and Democrats in Washington (43 percent of the electorate, compared with 24 percent and 33 percent, respectively,) no independents currently sit in the state legislature.
In fact, no independent representative has been elected to the Washington state legislature since 1889.
Unite America sees these numbers as a sign that voters are disillusioned with the traditional party structure and are open to supporting a competitive independent candidate. Their findings are particularly significant in light of Washington election law, which allows for a runoff where the top two candidates from the primary reach the final ballot, regardless of their party affiliation or lack thereof.
“These findings are particularly significant in the context of Washington’s top-two primary election system,” the report says. “This system, used by just three states, provides a unique opportunity for independent candidates who make it through the primary to be guaranteed a head-to-head general election contest…”
Even for voters who were registered Republicans or Democrats, independent candidates were a strong second choice. More than 70 percent of both Republicans and Democrats said that they would vote for an independent if no candidate from their party made it to the head to head election match-up. This crossover is an encouraging sign for independent candidates and might be enough to push one to victory.
Unite America believes that the combination of independent-minded voters and state law will help to persuade voters that a third party candidate can be successful in the general election and would not be a “spoiler” candidate. Voters are concerned that independent candidates lack the organizational support needed to win an election. For Unite America, this is an opportunity to step in to provide the structure to help make independent candidates successful.
Unite America is currently supporting three candidates for the Washington state legislature. Marco Padilla joins Ann Diamond and Ned Witting as independent candidates. Each is running for a different district.
“Based on this polling, there is little doubt that this coalition has the potential to carry an independent candidate to victory –– especially if that candidate is viewed as a person of integrity, perceived as viable by voters, and is able to get through Washington’s top-two primary,” the report concludes.
Voters will go to the polls for the Washington state legislature primaries on August 7.