While Democrats dominate Republicans in statewide voter registration in Delaware, third party candidates are hoping to offer voters from both parties and unaffiliated voters an alternative to the big two.
When Delawareans cast their ballots on Tuesday, they will make a decision on who they want as their next Governor and U.S. Representative.
Most will choose between the Republican and Democratic candidates on the ballot. However, a small percentage, likely no more than 6 percent per candidate, according to surveys, will choose a Green Party or Libertarian candidate.
Delaware’s third party candidates say even though their chances of winning are slim, they have a desire to run because they want to invoke change.
They say if enough people vote for them, it will push main party legislators to consider their platforms, and will eventually give them seats in Congress and the Governor’s office as third parties become more popular.
Green Party candidate Mark Perri and Libertarian candidate Scott Gesty are running against Republican Hans Reigle and frontrunner Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester for U.S. Congress.
Green Party candidate Andrew Groff and Libertarian Sean Goward are running against Republican State Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, and Democratic U.S. Congressman John Carney, D-Delaware, for Governor.
Goward’s schedule did not permit an interview, but WHYY did sit down with the other three third party candidates.
Gesty, a CPA and adjunct professor at Goldey-Beacom College, is running for Congress for the third time.
He received 1.8 percent of the vote in 2014, and 1.1 percent of the vote in 2012. Gesty has not raised any campaign contributions this year.
“I’m not a politician by trade, and I don’t plan to be. I’m a citizen just like everyone else. I get up and put my daughter on the bus and I go to work and pick her up and support my family. We don’t need career politicians out there and I think that’s what’s getting us in trouble,” he said.
Gesty said he also believes in taking government out of individuals economic and civil liberties, and believes in term limits for senators and congressional leaders.
“I think I give a unique perspective, and I have the financial background, and I have been studying the Constitution for years, and I have a firm understanding of what government should be doing and as what our founders meant it to do, and I’d like to bring some of that sanity back to D.C.”
Perri, a clerk and engineer, previously ran for Governor in 2012, receiving 1.1 percent of the vote. He also has chosen not to raise any contributions for his campaign this year.
Perri said his top priorities are improving the environment, decreasing consumption, eliminating racism and nuclear war. He said he stands out from his opponents because he’s the most committed to reducing climate change.
“We know we can do this. We know we need to. We just have to start to talk about it. Admit it,” Perri said.
Groff, a businessman, computer consultant and adjunct professor at Delaware Technical Community College, ran for U.S. Senator in 2012 and 2014. In 2012, he received 0.8 percent of the vote, and in 2014, he received 2 percent of the vote. Groff also is not receiving any campaign contributions.
He said his top priorities are the economy, education and the environment.
“I’ve run for politics, but I’m not a politician. I’m an independent businessperson. I have a small business and I teach,” Groff said. “I have that local experience. I’ve lived here, I was born and raised here, I know Delaware well and I don’t think my opponents have that level of sensitivity or knowledge to bring to bear with the things facing Delaware right now.”
Voting third party
Gesty said he’s running for Congress for the third time to give Delawareans a choice outside the two-party system. He said he doesn’t believe the two parties are serving Americans’ best interests.
“It hasn’t dissuaded me from running knowing what the odds are, because I believe our message is firm, and the two party system is broken and the only way we’re going to fix it is give a viable alternative, and since the libertarian party falls in the middle I think we’re the perfect solution to the issues we’re facing now,” said Gesty, who is voting for libertarian political candidate Gary Johnson.
“If we break the 5 percent popular vote in the national election we’ll qualify for federal funding for future elections, and then in my opinion the two-party system is broken.”
Groff, who is voting for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, said he encourages Delawareans to vote Green if the party’s platform matches their own—that way, he said, main party leaders will pay attention to the issues that are important to them.
“I’m not a spoiler. I’m not taking away any votes from Republicans per se. I am taking votes away from the Democrats, but they have so many they can afford to give up a few anyway,” he said.
“But somebody’s got to represent those progressive ideas in the state, and our Democratic Party in the state is a really center right type—they used to call them Rockefeller Republicans. To have a progressive voice out there is important, and people should vote for that if it’s consistent with their values, so they send that message to those parties that there are a lot of progressives out there, we need to pay special attention to them, and not shut them down or block them out the way the DNC did with Bernie Sanders.”
Perri, who also is voting for Stein, said he believes third parties can increase discussion and democracy in government. He said he encourages Delawareans to vote third party in both local and national elections.
“I’m afraid of Trump, I’m afraid of everything he represents and what he’s done, and the people voting for him and what it says about us. But that’s not a reason to vote for Clinton, especially in Delaware. Delaware is so Democrat oriented. Even Republicans have to run as Democrats to get any attention in this state—to the detriment of all parties involved,” Perri said.
“Delaware will vote for Hillary. So if we vote for third parties, if you get involved in third party politics, you’re helping to increase democracy, increase diversity of thought and thinking and ideas in our government.”
Gesty said the economy is one of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. He said if elected he would create a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that requires the government to spend within its means.
Gesty said the government should take a serious look at waste across all federal departments. He said the government could eliminate the federal Department of Education, privatize the TSA at airports and eliminate the Department of Commerce. The only department Gesty said should be off limits is the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“These are large areas of government that are new and we could just get rid of them and immediately get budget in line, start paying off the debt,” he said. “If the world ever loses confidence in our currency we’re going to be in trouble from an inflation standpoint.”
Groff said he’s concerned with the budgeting problems in the state—revenue projections have Delaware about $150 million in deficit next year. He said he believes there’s too much waste in the budget, and he believes his business background would help him solve those issues.
Groff said if elected he would not increase any taxes until there is a completed study analyzing wastefulness of government spending, as well as misspending in areas like education.
“We’re always crying poor and we’re always trying to raise taxes on the middle class, well the middle class has been hit hard enough,” he said.
Groff said he’s concerned some of the economic policies in the Markell administration will carry over into a Carney administration.
“They’re very interested in developing job growth, economic growth, in the state. I think they’re going about it the wrong way,” he said.
“They’re starting up a refinery in Delaware City that almost on a weekly basis is violating our own DNREC ordinances, being fined, looking at coal plants downstate. They’re looking at old, I hate to say it, steampunk, ways of [developing] jobs. I admit we need jobs at all levels, but there’s no growth there, there’s no future in that.”
Groff said he would create opportunities for small local businesses to be successful, and create platforms for young people to share their innovative business ideas.
“I’m teaching hundreds of kids how to program every day, but a lot of them have to go out-of-state to get jobs like that. And they have a lot of great ideas for high-tech firms, but they can’t put it together to start something up or get with other people to start something up,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things we can do to facilitate the growth of small businesses.”
Groff said he’s also in favor of raising the minimum wage in order for people to support themselves and their families, and also to increase consumption to help small businesses.
“If you work full-time you should be able to afford housing, to feed yourself, and have a decent life,” he said.
“A lot of people have the mistaken impression that it’s high school kids or young people, it’s a second job—but it’s not. We have regular full-time workers supporting families who can’t make ends meet on what we have as minimum wage now.”
Gesty said when it comes to education, the government should eliminate the federal Department of Education and grant full control to the states to create their own standards. He said he’s also against Common Core, an educational standard used in Delaware and across the nation.
“I just think it’s better to have the people close to our kids making the decisions,” Gesty said.
“[Common Core] hasn’t been tested or proven it’s going to work. I understand Common Core and what they were trying to do. It’s just the way they’re going about teaching the kids hasn’t been tested and hasn’t been proven.”
Groff said there’s too much bureaucracy in the state Department of Education, and there’s not enough resources to help teachers.
“We spend more per student and we’re not getting our bang for our buck when it comes to delivery of education to students,” he said. “What I’m hearing from teachers is special education programs are terrible right now, there’s a growing autistic population in the state, and there are all these education policies that need to be looked at.”
Groff said he also would distribute the administrative functions, so the local schools and parents could be as involved as the Department of Education administrators.
“I think the key to effective schools is local schools, get parents involved, have the teachers connected closely, have more decentralization rather than centralizing and controlling everything,” he said.
“I think we’ve put most of our money into administration as opposed to operation. Our administrators, superintendents are getting paid way higher than what we’re getting out of them.”
Perri said addressing climate change is one of his and the Green Party’s top priorities, calling it “our existential crisis.”
“We have to stop burning [fossil fuels], because it’s killing us and it’s killing the planet. This is a big transition we’re going to have to make,” he said.
“We’re putting trillions of dollars in weaponry, things like that, that are not helping, subsidizing oil, we need to take that money, redirect it to renewable, to work toward a transition out of fossil fuels. Once we do that it will be all hands on deck and there will be plenty of work for people.”
Perri said he doesn’t believe leaders in the state and the nation are addressing the issue of climate change.
“Here locally, we talk a little about it in terms of sea level rise, which is a start, but there’s a lot more we need to be doing in our communities to learn how to live together after fossil fuels,” he said.
Groff said he agrees state government isn’t taking necessary action to address environmental issues.
“We’ve had a nixing of any kind of wind generation, we could have done something about that 10 years ago here, and we’re behind the curve when it comes to modernizing a whole bunch of stuff in the state,” he said.
Perri said overpopulation also is contributing to environmental issues in the country. He said he believes the government needs to support the decrease of energy and consumption.
“We have too many people on this planet. We don’t have the resources to support them. Our ecosystem is collapsing, which is what’s supporting us,” Perri said. “In the United States, our population is increasing because of immigration and it’s helping our economy, which is a good thing, but we consume too much.”
Foreign affairs and war
Perri said while he doesn’t have an exact solution to ending nuclear power, one of his and the Green Party’s platforms is to eliminate it across the globe.
“This is not diplomacy, this should not be available to anybody,” Perri said. “None of this is easy—the answer is to work on the problem the best we know how. We have more nuclear weapons….They’re going to be used at some point accidentally. Then what happens? The only thing to do is get rid of it. Again, it sounds idealistic, but we have no choice.”
Gesty said he believes the U.S. should have open dialogue with other countries that want to form partnerships. However, he doesn’t believe the U.S. should stay out of other country’s affairs.
“We’re thin around the world, we keep getting involved in one country after another, it continues to cost our soldiers’ lives and cost us economic treasures and it’s not making us friends around the world,” he said. “This disaster in Syria, talking about no fly zones, and now we have the Russians involved, we have ourselves another Cold War if we don’t watch what we’re doing.”
Gesty said he believes the U.S. should back out of Syria systematically, and not provide aide to its civil war.
“I don’t see us riding in and saving the day and everything’s going to go well. It’s just going to continue to escalate. You have the Syrian government, and the fighters against them—one of them is going to have to win,” he said.
When it comes to refugees, Gesty said accepting refugees from Syria should be state-by-state and should be decided by a referendum.
“If the people say yes, bring them on in, I wouldn’t stand against that, but I don’t think it should be forced on the states,” he said.
Gesty said if he had been elected into Congress in previous years, he would have voted down the Affordable Care Act.
“In my opinion it was written to fail,” he said.
Gesty said he would push for a competitive market approach, where any company can offer insurance in the states. He also said he wouldn’t make it mandatory for individuals to have health insurance, but would keep parts of the ACA that ensure companies don’t discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions.
“I think we need a market solution to this problem, and I think we need to get as many companies competing here,” Gesty said.
He also said the insurance should be saved for “catastrophic injuries.”
“If you have the cold or flu you should pay cash or out of pocket or participate in a health savings plan,” Gesty said.
Perri said instead of “Obamacare,” he would vote for universal healthcare, so everyone has the right to doctor visits and prescriptions at no cost.
“I think costs in our medical system are high because they can be, but that has to be managed, they shouldn’t be as high as they are,” he said. “There’s a lot of waste and inefficiency, once you go to universal payer you get rid of third party, fourth party payers. People are making a lot of money off people’s health and keeping healthcare away from people.”