Independence Party leads the way with seven – the most third party U.S. House candidates to run in any election cycle since the DFL merger in 1944

While most Minnesota U.S. House districts are not projected to be competitive in 2010 by D.C. prognosticators, there is nonetheless an indicator of unrest in their respective constituencies.

A Smart Politics analysis of Minnesota historical election data finds that the number of independent and third party candidates set to appear on the ballot in November’s election is the highest in any midterm election year since the DFL merger in 1944.

In total, 13 independent and third party candidates are filed to run across the Gopher State’s eight congressional districts, which is the largest number for a midterm election cycle in Minnesota since 1934 – ten years before the merger of the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties.

The Independence Party (IP) leads the way with seven candidates, buoyed in part by what they view as a strong gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket in Tom Horner.

IP congressional candidates are running in the 1st (Steven Wilson), 3rd (Jon Oleson), 4th (Steve Carlson), 5th (Tom Schrunk), 6th (Bob Anderson), 7th (Glen Menze), and 8th districts (Timothy Olson).

The previous high water mark for the IP was in 2008, when four candidates appeared on the ballot. Prior to that cycle, there were three IP U.S. House candidates in both 2006 and 2004, one in 2002, and three in 2000.

The seven candidates fielded by the Independence Party in 2010 is also the largest number of U.S. House hopefuls fielded by any third party in Minnesota since the DFL merger.

The previous record was held by the Constitution Party, which ran six candidates in 2000, although averaging only 1.4 percent of the vote across the six districts.

Other independent and third party candidates filed for ballot access in 2010 include Lars Johnson under the Party Free banner in the 1st CD, independent Lynne Torgerson and Independent Progressive Michael Cavlan in the 5th CD, independent Aubrey Immelman in the 6th CD, independent Gene Waldorf in the 7th CD, and Richard (“George”) Burton of the Constitution Party in the 8th CD.

The only two years with a larger number of independent and third party U.S. House candidates in Minnesota since the DFL merger both took place during presidential election years – 16 candidates in 1992 during Ross Perot’s first run, and 14 candidates during Ralph Nader’s most successful bid for the presidency in 2000.

Prior to the 1990s, the third party scene was relatively quiet in the Gopher State in races for the U.S. House, with the exception of 1976 when 10 candidates appeared on the ballot, led by the American and Libertarian parties with three each.

The only other year since the DFL merger in which the number of such candidates reached double-digits was 1998, when 12 third party candidates achieved ballot access, led by the Libertarian Party with four.

In the 1950s, just two third party candidates ran in Minnesota U.S. House contests, followed by three in the 1960s, 21 in the 1970s, 17 in the 1980s, 44 in the 1990s, and 34 in the 2000s.

Across the 568 general and special U.S. House elections that have been held since statehood through the 2008 election cycle, there have been 416 independent and third party candidates on the ballot.

That number has reached double digits on 18 prior occasions: 1892 (14), 1894 (13), 1898 (11), 1900 (10), 1912 (11), 1914 (13), 1916 (11), 1920 (10), 1924 (10), 1928 (15), 1930 (13), 1932 (14), 1934 (16), 1936 (12), 1976 (10), 1992 (16), 1998 (12), and 2000 (14).

In total, 32 have won U.S. House seats: 25 Farmer-Laborites (between 1922 and 1942), two Progressives (1914, 1916), two independents (1919, 1922), and one each from the Union Party (1918) and People’s Party (1892), and a Farmers Alliance-Prohibition candidate (1890).

Number of Minnesota Independent and Third Party Candidates in U.S. House races, 1944-2010

Independence (7), Independent (3), Constitution (1), Independent Progressive (1), Party Free (1)
Independence (4)
Independence (3), Green (1), Constitution (1), Unity (1)
Independence (3), Green (2)
Green (3), Independence (1), No New Taxes (1)
Constitution (6), Libertarian (4), Independence (3), Independent (1)
Libertarian (4), Reform (2), Minnesota Taxpayers (2), Socialist Workers (2), Legal Marijuana Now (1), Anti-Federalist (1)
Reform (3), Grass Roots (2), Independent Grass Roots (1), Socialist Workers (1), Libertarian (1)
Grassroots (1), Independent (1)
Independent (4), Grass Roots (3), Natural Law (3), Socialist Workers (2), New Alliance (1), Term Limits (1), Independents for Perot (1), Perot Choice (1)
Socialist Workers (2), Grass Roots (1)
Citizens (1), AWG (1)
Socialist Workers (2), Citizens (1)
Libertarian (2), Citizens (2)
Socialist Workers (3), New Union (1), Industrial Government (1)
American (3)
American (3), Libertarian (3), Socialist Workers (2), Independent (1), Workers (1)
Socialist Workers (1), Independent (1), Economic Justice (1)
Taxpayer’s (2), Socialist Workers (1)
Socialist Workers (1), Independent (1)
Industrial Government (1), Socialist Workers (1)
Socialist Workers (1)
Socialist Workers (1), Independent
Nominated by Petition (2)
Fellowship (1)

Source: Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.


  1. Steve Carlson on September 8, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Thank you for the recap, Eric. Interesting.

    The reason we are running so many candidates this year (I guess I was the 7th) is that this IS the most important election in the history of the United States. There can only be one explanation: People across this country are running to save this country, to save our way of life. In the past we’ve seen presidential candidates run for this reason (e.g. Pat Buchanan), but not a wave of volunteers to save Congress.

    My opponent Teresa Collett, a seemingly mild-manner law professor, has said this Congress is “the enemy of the Constitution.” That’s pretty extreme, as is Collett’s assessment that you need to be a lawyer to be a U.S. Representative.

    But we’ve seen our health care system completely taken over (my opponent Betty McCollum has already filed a bill to establish the public option in Obamacare) and we’ve seen the private sector outside of big banks really in suspense, except for some federal government props. Uncertainty? We’re uncertain if we still live in a capitalist country. We could lose capitalism and the free-market system, and then what?

    In Minnesota several Independence Party candidates, including myself, want Tea Party votes. I’ve signed the Contract from America, and written a Tea Party fight song which got a good write-up in AOL News last week and which the Huffington Post called a cable TV “American Pie”. I hope you’ll visit my site at

    By the way, I really got my start at the University of Minnesota, where I majored in political science, founded the Human Rights Party and helped lead the Chicano Liberation Front, and probably set a record for election and service in University governance. Now we need to advance this nation to an effective, culturally pluralistic and yet united nation.

    I hope the HHH Center will seriously look at the issues raised by Tom Horner as an Independence Party governor and the key role of the third party in Minnesota politics.

  2. Aubrey Immelman on September 8, 2010 at 5:59 am

    “The Independence Party (IP) leads the way with seven candidates, buoyed in part by what they view as a strong gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket in Tom Horner.”

    “… independent Aubrey Immelman in the 6th CD …”

    I considered filing as a Republican again, as I did in 2008, to challenge Rep. Michele Bachmann in the Republican primary. But after Republican Tom Horner emerged as a strong contender for the Independence Party nomination last spring, I approached the IP to seek its endorsement at the April 17 6th CD convention in Blaine. However, Bob Anderson had done his groundwork early and already had his delegates locked up for the endorsement.

    Thus, I sought ballot access as an unaffiliated independent, which is actually the best fit for me as a nonpartisan, nonideological conservative.

  3. Minnesota Central on September 8, 2010 at 8:27 am

    OK, so the numbers of entries is up, but what are the motivations ? … and will it make a difference ?

    There are always the perpetual candidates whose ego requires them to see their name printed in a newspaper (or ballot) … all the while knowing that they will not win.

    Looking at some of the names, some have tried before … for example, Steve Wilson was a state senate candidate in 2006 as a Republican, Glen Menze was Peterson’s Republican challenger in 2008 and lost the party’s nomination this year, Aubrey Immelman challenged Bachmann in 2008 Republican primary; Bob Anderson ran as the IP candidate in 2008.

    So is the motivation based on ego or issues ?

    Considering that at least some of these candidates have been active politically before, it could be a sense of anger at the established parties.
    Otherwise, the one common issue may be the national debt … how many of these candidates are focused such issues as Social Security ?

    In 2008, IP candidates Dean Barkley and Bob Anderson made a difference … they provided voters a chance to vote for the “not-Norm and not-Al” (“not-Bachmann, not-Tink).
    By having Barkley on the ballot, 63,203 people who voted for John McCain (1,275,409) decided that they did not want to vote for Norm Coleman (1,212,206) … even though they knew that Obama would get Minnesota’s electoral college votes. In a normal US Senate race the IP candidate would get about 75,000 … but Barkley got 437,505 … they knew they were throwing away their vote when casting it for Barkley, but they just could not embrace Coleman (or Franken). In MN-06, Anderson got 40,643 … up from the prior 2006 candidate’s total of 23,529 … since Anderson did not have a well-funded (or publicized) campaign, many of those votes were anti-Bachmann but still could not vote for a Democrat ?
    The most interesting 2010 contest may be between Immelman and Anderson … who will the anti-Bachmann voters slide toward (my guess Anderson … it’s a common name.)

    IF the IP was really going to make a statement, then look to 16 state legislature contests. The IP offers Richard Hoff (SD-18), Tim Biros (SD-34), Andrew Kratoska (SD-47), John McCallum (SD-52), Mark Jenkins (SD-55), Amy Smith (SD-65), Dino Guerin (SD-67) Tony Salls (HD-07B), Dave Holman (HD-11A), Curtis Lendt (HD-17B), Mark Meyer (HD-24B), Naomi Babcock (HD-41B), Don Hallblade (HD-47B), Joseph Polencheck (HD55A), Ron Lischeid (HD-59B) and Sadik Warfa (HD-61A).

    Some of these have past political exposure and fit the “disappointed” class mentioned above … the question is will voters be disappointed enough to cast their votes with them.

    One question would be, how many of these are serious candidates … have they filed campaign financing reports with the FEC ? (Wilson, Johnson, Immelman, Menze and Waldorf are YES, but what about Oleson, Carlson, Schrunk, Anderson etc ? Should they be listed on the ballot if they do not file campaign financing reports ?

    Finally, it’s great to read the comments from candidates Carlson and Immelman … keep pushing your issues and message.

  4. Jeanne Massey on September 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you, Eric, for another insightful historical review of Minnesota elections. This profile of third party candidacies underscores the importance of a voting system like Ranked Choice or Instant Runoff Voting that promotes political competitiveness while preserving majority rule.

    Under current plurality rules, the majority is split in competitive multiple-candidate races and candidates win representing only a minority of voters. And voters — as some of the commentators above note — face the dilemma of “wasting” their vote or helping elect the candidate they like the least by voting for a third party candidate. Voters who do not think their favorite candidate can win cast votes for other candidates and this means that third parties don’t get an accurate tally of support.

    RCV gets around this by allowing voters to rank their choices and requiring that candidates get a majority of votes. If no candidates gets more than half of first-place votes, the last-placed candidate is eliminated and his or her supporters’ votes get reassigned to remaining candidates based on the next choices on those ballots. This continues until someone has a majority.

    It works like a runoff, but in a single-trip to the polls, avoiding the need for a costly – and low-turnout — second election.

    RCV is a solution to our outdated voting system and can break the cycle of minority rule and tactical voting and mitigate the trend in divisive politics and hamstrung leadership. Minority rule makes coalition-building, bipartisanship and getting things done even harder at a time when Minnesota needs strong, effective governance more than ever. Elected leaders govern differently knowing they were elected by – and accountable to – a broad majority of voters. RCV also promotes more civil, issue-oriented campaigns by giving candidates a real incentive to campaign for someone’s second choice rather than against someone’s first choice.

  5. Aubrey Immelman on September 9, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Thanks for the detailed rundown, Minnesota Central.

    Regarding your observation, “The most interesting 2010 contest may be between Immelman and Anderson … who will the anti-Bachmann voters slide toward (my guess Anderson … it’s a common name),” I agree (though I’m hoping to lock up the fighter pilot and golfing vote!).

    Regarding motivation for running (ego, issues, etc.), my major issue — both in 2008 and 2010 — is the unintended consequences of the ill-conceived Iraq war, which Democrats have failed to address. I think our problems in the region, with an emboldened post-Saddam Iran, have barely begun, so I worry when President Obama’s rhetoric begins to sound ominously reminiscent of neocon triumphalism.

    However, I’m on the ballot primarily to get out my message that Michele Bachmann is the spearhead and modern face of an emerging brand of American protofascism (RWA) being spawned by the “perfect storm” of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the election of America’s first African-American president.

    Probably not a message to get one elected, but if it helps nurture the seed of eternal vigilance to preserve our Republic, it’s well worth the sacrifice.

    Don’t think it can’t happen here.

Leave a Comment