WASHINGTON — Green Party officials alternatively push back, cringe and chasten when it is suggested that their party — once poised to become a nationwide viable third option for voters — has become an unintended vehicle to help the Republican Party.
Those charges are being heard again as it appears that the presence of a Green Party candidate will help a Republican win a narrow victory in the critical race Senate race in Arizona.
With 99 percent of the vote counted Angela Green, the Green Party nominee for Senate in Arizona, polled 38,978 votes. Green withdrew from the race just four days before the election and endorsed Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, but Green’s name remained on the ballot as well as early voting opportunities.
Green’s vote count is greater than the margin separating the 856,848 votes received by Republican Martha McSally and the 839,775 received by Sinema, according to the Arizona’s Secretary of State’s homepage.
They are vying for the open seat now held by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who did not seek reelection. Not all votes have been counted.
Some Democrats are already blaming Green for costing Sinema the election — much like they blamed the 2000 Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader and 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein for costing Democrats those contests.
That anger is misplaced, says Carol Miller, who ran as a Green Party nominee for Congress on several occasions in New Mexico.
“It’s perfect for the media, perfect for a lot of anger and resentment but the real problem is trying to squeeze all the political positions into two parties,” Miller told TMN.
Similar accusations of being a spoiler were thrown at Miller when she first ran in a special election in 1997 for a House seat. She received 17 percent, a record then for a Green Party candidate in a federal race; the Republican candidate prevailed over the Democratic candidate by a 43-to-40 margin.
However, as Miller noted, that election eventually led to the election of Tom Udall, a Democrat, to the House and Senate — so unintended consequences happen.
“There are electoral reforms for people with diverse ideas to be on the ballot. It can lead to compromise and [cooperation],” Miller told TMN. “This is the time for states to move to a multi-party democracy. Having a winner-take-all has hurt us a country.”
Political scientists generally judge a third party to have an impact when its vote rises above three or four percent of the total cast. The rationale is that many individuals will never vote for a Republican or Democrat and thus chose another candidate.
However, there are some cases — Arizona being one — where many positions are shared by the Democratic and Green candidates, and thus the argument that a vote for the Green harms the Democrat.
That was why Montana Democrats sought to keep the Green Party Senate nominee off the ballot this year, because of the tight race between incumbent Democrat Sen. Jon Tester and Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale.
Tester squeezed out a victory but not before dealing with another third-party threat. Last week the Montana Libertarian Party nominee Rick Breckenridge withdrew from the race and endorsed Rosendale, according to news reports.
Tester received 246,291 votes, Rosendale, 230,973 votes, and Breckenridge, 13,981 votes, according to the Montana Secretary of State’s homepage.