2016 choices have these voters opting for 3rd party

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, August 23, 2016

By Brian Bakst

MPR News/90.1

With one exception decades ago, Amy Anderson is a steady as they come in voting for president.

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“I voted for Jimmy Carter in my first election as a college student and ever since then I’ve voted Republican,” she said with a nervous chuckle outside her St. Paul home last week.

Anderson’s long streak is about to come to an end.

“I can’t vote for Donald Trump. I just can’t,” Anderson, 58, said. “It isn’t about his policies, it’s about his person. I don’t think he’s trustworthy enough to be the president.”

The professor of Ancient Greek and the New Testament at a Minneapolis Christian college said her vote will likely go to Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson in November.

If nothing else, Anderson hopes it sends a message to the Republican Party that it went too far in choosing Trump.

This year, the main options are causing consternation for some people who reliably vote for major party nominees.

Hundreds of members of MPR’s Public Insight Network responded to a question about their support for third-party presidential candidates, with loads of Democrats and Republican saying that they are sizing up alternatives and inclined to choose a third-party candidate for the first time.

Depending on how many voters depart from their normal patterns and how well the third-party candidates do, it could have ramifications for future Minnesota elections.

If a third-party candidate nets 5 percent of the vote, that would sprout a new major party for elections moving forward — affording automatic ballot access and public campaign subsidies for state candidates in 2018 races.

Brittany Miller is among the voters ready to make the leap.

“I want to look back on my vote and feel like I voted for the person I thought was right for the position,” Miller said.

Miller is 26 and works at a Minneapolis co-op. She considers herself a Democrat and said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the first presidential candidate she was truly excited about. Miller sent him money.

Now, she’s planning to vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of Hillary Clinton, even though she fully expects the Democratic nominee to prevail.

“I think she is going to be president, and I am disappointed about it,” Miller said. “To me she is like a 1960s Republican. She’s just not nearly as progressive as the candidate who I would want to vote for.”

It’s also the case with Cathy Murphy, a preschool music teacher who lives in St. Louis Park. She’s a lifelong Democrat who has been to state party conventions and is involved in local politics.

Murphy, 65, said the scenario is a nightmare because she would love to help a woman become president.

But she said she is worried that Clinton is too hawkish with her foreign policy and wouldn’t shy from getting U.S. troops involved in more global conflicts.

Clinton’s natural advantage in a state that has backed every Democratic candidate in the past 10 elections — the longest unblemished string for the party anywhere — gives Murphy comfort in going a different direction.

“I definitely will vote and I’m watching it to see what happens as we get closer to the date,” Murphy said. “If Minnesota is still solidly Democratic, then chances are I will vote for the Green. That way I get to vote for a woman at least.”

That Minnesota doesn’t seem to be in play was the common escape valve for several voters. They said their calculations would be different if their vote for a third-party candidate could leave them with the outcome they feared the most.

“Now if I was in a swing state I’d be more angst-ridden about it,” said Jean Matheny, a 54-year-old artist and gallery owner in Lake City.

Matheny has always voted Republican for president. In this campaign, she started off behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, then caucused for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio before he left the race in March.

But Matheny said Trump can’t count on her support. She questioned whether he’s a true conservative.

“Really any of the candidates I would have voted for, with the exception of Donald Trump,” Matheny said of the Republican field heading into the nominating season.

Matheny lumps Trump with Clinton in declaring both “unfit for the office.”

“In terms of character I think he’s fundamentally dishonest. I think Hillary Clinton is as well,” Matheny said. “So it’s a question of character in his case even more than policy because I don’t think he really has any governing principles.”