Third-party candidates gaining steam

Posted 9/11/10

Centennial political organizer Paul Langford displayed an e-mail he had received on his smart phone. It was from a man who had become so …

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Third-party candidates gaining steam


Centennial political organizer Paul Langford displayed an e-mail he had received on his smart phone. It was from a man who had become so disillusioned with the Republican Party that he was looking to join Langford’s group, Liberty on the Rocks.

The man had shown up anyway at a canceled Liberty on the Rocks meeting in the hope that someone from the organization might still be there.

“There’s a desperation message in there,” Langford said. “When you are willing to join something that small, you are really anxious to really get away.”

Langford points to this example as illustrating a growing trend in Colorado and the nation of citizens’ disillusionment with the two-party political system.

When Liberty on the Rocks — which Langford describes as a free-market, free-mind, Libertarian party — was founded in 2008, the group had trouble finding candidates to run for office. Two years and many meetings later, the Denver-based group has chapters in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Gelnwood Springs and Lakewood, as well as nationwide. Langford heads up the Denver Tech Center Chapter.

“Two years ago we were struggling for candidates, and we have virtually a full ticket this time,” he said. “People are coming out of the woodwork this time.”

Langford says he will vote for Jaimes Brown, of Centennial, who is this year’s Libertarian gubernatorial candidate.

Brown is one of 10 official candidates for governor, according to the Secretary of State website.

Making a statement

According to Littleton resident and approval voting advocate Frank Atwood, unaffiliated and third party candidates are cropping up this election season because citizens are disillusioned with the traditional two-party system.

“The disgruntledness is the voter who has been trapped with the lesser of two evils,” Atwood said,

Atwood ran as a member of the Libertarian Party against Democrat Glen Emerson and Republican Joe Stengel in the 2004 House District 38 race. Garnering just 1,193 of 33,215 votes, Atwood admits he ran to make a statement.

“I think it’s important to make statements, to take a stand,” he said.

Atwood says he has stayed out of elections since to avoid sabotaging his philosophical allies, something that could be avoided with approval voting.

Approval voting is when voters select all of the candidates they like, instead of just one. The candidate with the most votes wins, and the totals add up to more than 100 percent.

“It’s important to give the voters the opportunity to choose both an electable candidate and make a statement,” Atwood said.

With this method of voting, Atwood says Dan Maes would likely win the governor race since Republicans could vote for both Maes and his American Constitution Party challenger Tom Tancredo. Instead, what will likely end up happening is Tancredo will split the Republican vote, giving Democrat John Hickenlooper the win.

Under approval voting, Atwood said splinter parties might surface, which may or may not have any political clout. But the key is that politicians can see where their constituents’ interests lie.

“It lets the voter vote for obscure agendas, but even more important, whoever wins says, ‘Oh I’ve got constituents who are willing to cast a vote for prohibition or gun rights,’” Atwood said. “They don’t get lost. They don’t get filtered out. It gives the elected official a more accurate pulse of what’s happening.”

In it to win it

Paul Fiorino, of Denver, might just be one of those fringe candidates with an obscure agenda.

Another of the 10 gubernatorial candidates, his passion is the arts. A lifelong dancer and advocate for the arts who grew up in the south metro area, including Littleton, Fiorino says he would make them a priority if elected.

“A big part of it is to demonstrate Colorado is a state of the arts,” he said. “Innovation, invention, who is going to lead our state in health, education? Traditional candidates don’t address these issues enough.”

But Fiorino is not in the governor’s race to make a political statement. He says he’s in it to win it, even though he plans on doing minimal campaigning other than word of mouth.

“I am not asking for money,” he said. “I’m trying to do this a different way. I’ve always been in to win. If it’s not this year, it’s the next campaign. I’m a serious man.”

Fiorino ran for governor in 2006 as the first unaffiliated candidate in the state’s history, garnering 10,966 votes. This year, five candidates’ parties are listed as unaffiliated or none.

Langford says Liberty on the Rocks is not a threat to the major political parties, at least not yet. But they are making in-roads.

“We are one-tenth of 1 percent of registered voters,” he said. “We are really tiny. But we don’t need to win 40 seats. We can make a difference with two or three.”


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