Four years ago, the possibility that a third party could actually take hold in New Jersey was nearly non-existent. The strongest, non-major party candidate vying for the Office of President was perennial contender Ralph Nader, who despite years of experience and accomplishment was never considered to be a “legitimate” contender in the race. There were no powerful candidates for the House of Representatives or the United States Senate outside of the Democratic and Republican establishment and no high-profile contenders at the local level. It seemed hopeless that anyone would ever be able to challenge the duopoly in the Garden State; it had been tried before, but none of the state’s previous third party movements had ever enjoyed widespread appeal, each fizzling before they could experience any level of success.
Then came the 2009 gubernatorial election and the rise of Chris Daggett. The former DEP Commissioner mounted a strong campaign, fought his way into the televised debates, and ultimately received almost six percent of the vote. It was the best showing for a third party candidate since Libertarian Murray Sabrin garnered five percent of the vote in 1997, and while Daggett might not have come anywhere close to actually winning, he inspired New Jersey voters to reassess whether or not the two-party system was really working for them. The chance of someone actually taking on the establishment didn’t seem so crazy in the wake of Daggett’s candidacy, and many of those who had voted for him didn’t want to simply return to the status quo after Election Day.
The following year, I was among the university students who founded the Reform Party of New Jersey, a center-right political party dedicated to fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and Congressional term limits populated largely by former Daggett supporters, disenfranchised former Republicans, and angry conservative Democrats. While it was nearly impossible to gain momentum in those early days, today the Reform Party, which boasts an elected official at the municipal election, is ready to mount a real fight.
Earlier this month Mark D. Quick, a former elected member of the Warren County Republican Committee, announced he had abandoned the GOP to become the Reform Party’s Congressional candidate in New Jersey’s Fifth District. Quick’s calls for immigration reform and fair trade are often well received in Sussex and Warren County, where he hopes to unseat Representative Scott Garrett.
Quick is the first Reform Party candidate to have announced his candidacy; however, Reform Party Chairman Jacob Zychick has stated that several others Congressional candidates will be revealed in the coming weeks.
But the Reform Party’s plans don’t end in the legislative branch; with conservatives universally demanding a strong opposition to President Obama, and the Republican Party failing to deliver anything beyond the typical career politicians and political chameleons, now might be the ideal time for a third party candidate to enter the fray.
While dozens of third party presidential candidates have declared their desire to move into the Oval Office, each with varying degrees of success and credibility, many in the Reform Party hope that in January 2013 it will be Andre Barnett who takes the Oath of Office. A veteran of the United States Army, fitness personality, and entrepreneur, Barnett plans to fill the void left behind by the lackluster field of Republican candidates.
“The fact is the GOP has abandoned its original values,” said Barnett. “It has also allowed the liberals to hijack its legacy. They now tax and spend, expand government, and try to monopolize power just as much as the Democrats. People are in need of real leadership. They are in need of a leader with a wise and understanding heart, and ear to hear, and an eye on the prize. Leadership today has no grasp on what people are actually going through on a day-to-day basis.”
Barnett’s calls for a downsizing of federal power and a return to federalism have struck a chord with many in the Reform Party, and over the past several months, he has managed to gain a great deal of traction within the party. Barnett, who will address the Reform Party of New Jersey’s state convention on April 14th in Piscataway, is now considered one of the front-runners for the party’s nomination.
Other contenders include former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, who announced his intention to seek the party’s nomination last month, economist Dick McCormick and Florida based political activist Michael Whitley.
Americans are looking for a third option, a means of circumventing what they perceive to be an ineffective system. The false hope that surrounded Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008 has left many feeling disillusioned with the Democratic Party, while fringe candidate Rick Santorum, moderate Mitt Romney, and the wholly incapable Newt Gingrich have left Republicans less than enthused. The time has come for an electoral revolution, and the Reform Party hopes to lead the charge.