by Tim Storey
There are 7,382 state legislators making policy and laws for the 50 American states. And the vast, and I mean VAST, majority of them are from the two major U.S. political parties. According to NCSL's most recent list of the partisan composition in state legislatures, 23 legislators are neither Democrats or Republicans. That means that legislators from third parties hold 0.3 percent of all legislative seats. Ds and Rs control 99.7 percent of the seats. I'm fairly certain that aside from the eight Progressive Party legislators serving in the Vermont House, all of the other non-major party members are "independents."
I got a call today asking about third party candidates for state legislatures. Apparently, a fellow named J.P. Hollembaek is trying to run for the Massachusetts General Court under the Pirate Party banner. Contrary to what you may think, the Pirate Party is not organized around plundering and rum running. According to the party's website, the Massachusetts Pirate Party is "The Party of Open: Open Government, Open Culture, Open Innovation & People First." Their main issues appear to be federal laws having to do with the Internet.
J.P. Hollembaek will have a tough time winning, if the success of other third party candidates for legislature is any guide. On average in elections from 2004 through 2010, there are 10,500 candidates who seek the roughly 6,000 state legislative seats up in each general election in the even numbered years. Of these, third party candidates make up about eight percent of all candidates--about 850 in each of the past four general elections. Most of these folks run as candidates for the libertarian or green parties or as independents.
But there are always a few that run under wildly different party names. Here are a few of the more interesting party names from the last several elections:
100 People 4 Chuck
4th of July
British Reformed Sectarian
Grassroots for Life
Peace and Freedom
The Blue Enigma
If J.P. Hollembaek beats the odds and gets elected, my best guess is that he will be the first ever Pirate Party state legislator in American history.