What to do with 3rd Party and Other Hopeless Candidates at Election Time?

When you work for a non-profit organization that is fighting to advance or defeat legislation, your obvious goal is to get 50 percent of the body (plus 1) to vote your way on the issue.

Whether you are working on an issue at the city council level or working in the United States Congress, that’s your goal.

More than just being your personal goal, that is the goal of your organization.

And, more importantly still, that is the goal of the donors to your organization.

Pretty obvious, right?

It is to most people, until election time rolls around.

At Election Time, the Flies Come Out!

If you are doing your job correctly, you will be active in the election cycle, informing voters in your city/county/state as you work to advance public policy.

Of course, as a non-profit organized under your Secretary of State or the IRS, you are specifically forbidden from advocating for or against a candidate.

Don’t get cute with this.

You can not tell people who to vote for, who to oppose, or use little buzz phrases like, ‘It’s clear that Rep. XXX is too liberal for our state.’

Rather, your job is to advocate for and against the issue that you are fighting for.

In that context, you may certainly inform the voters where the various candidates stand on your issues and how they have voted on them in the past.

You can release this information in lots of ways including: direct mail, emails, social media, lit drops, TV ads, radio ads and more. For more on this, see my article here.

Few activists get serious enough to run programs like this.

But if you follow what we are teaching you via this website, your organization will grow and develop the resources you need to run these programs.

And as you get better at this — and as educated voters start booting incumbents out of office for their bad votes –- suddenly everyone wants to be your ‘friend.’

And they expect that you will spend your donor dollars on their cockamamie candidate, in a crazy 70%-30% D/R district, when they themselves can’t afford to do anything.

It happens all the time!

You Are a Part of the 2-Party Conspiracy!

This especially happens to me, in the context of my work with Iowa Gun Owners, during our candidate survey program.

We run a thorough survey program every two years of every incumbent and challenger seeking the GOP or Democratic party nomination for state legislative races on up.

We do not survey 3rd party candidates.

Predictably, every 3rd party activist in my state screams and shouts. They call my office to complain. The run memes on Facebook, saying that I am a part of ‘the 2-party cabal.’ Some make veiled threats.

My response?


I have no time for these people because whatever party they are a part of, they all have one thing in common: they are lazy and expect my organization’s donors to do their job.

They are too lazy to develop lists of supporters that they can talk to and educate at election time.

They are too lazy to develop lists of donors, who can fund these crucial programs at election time.

They are too lazy to recruit volunteers to help them disseminate this information at election time.

They are even too lazy to organize themselves at the local level and try to elect one of their own to the city council or county board of supervisors.

Nope, they almost always run for statewide or even federal office their first time out of the gate and then it’s my problem to help them.


But This Time, It’s Different!

As I mentioned above, the same thing is true of activists who are determined to try to unseat that long standing incumbent, usually a Democrat, who represents a 70-30 D/R district.

These are usually college towns and large metro areas where a conservative could never possibly win — even on election night in 2016!

But this time, they assure you, it’s different.

This time, the candidate ‘will be forming a unique coalition of voters who will cross party lines and sweep him to victory as they reject the good old boy system’ and on and on they go.

Of course, that’s assuming that your organization makes a major investment in time and money and manpower in this race.

Just like the 3rd party candidate, it is your job and your membership’s resource that are required to elect this candidate.

While these folks aren’t beating the 3rd party drum, your response must still be an unequivocal ‘No.’

Who Do You Work For?

In both cases described above, it is essential that you remember who you work for and who your organization represents.

And whether you work full time in politics for a large organization and report to an immediate supervisor, or whether it is just you and a few buddies -– the answer is ultimately the same.

You work for the donors and activists of the organization!

That’s it!

They send you donations, volunteer at your events, and pour pressure onto the legislature when you ask them to because they believe in the political cause you are engaged in.

If you are working for a gun group, your members want to defend the Second Amendment.

For a pro-life group, your members clearly want to end abortion.

The issue is why your members are involved.

And trust me, they don’t care about ‘the evils of the 2-party system.’ And they don’t want to see their donor dollars spent in a 70%-30% D/R district!

All they care about is obtaining legislative results and/or exposing those incumbents who stopped you so they have a better chance next year.

That’s it. And if you spend their money on any other cause, you are not being faithful to their wishes or to your organizational charter.

Remember Your Primary Goal!

At the start of this article, I told you that your goal, as an activist and an organization, is to get 50% plus 1 vote in support of your legislation.

No matter how good a 3rd party candidate may be on your issue, his principles will do you no good when he gets slaughtered at the ballot box and returns the incumbent to office.

And no matter how good your GOP nominee candidate may be, if he is in a Democratic stronghold district, he too will be no good to you as he will never get elected.

In both cases, spending donor dollars and your precious time working to inform voters about the candidates in those races represents a very real waste of the resources you’ve been entrusted with.

If you can remember these concepts, you will be well on your way to running effective educational programs in the appropriate districts — maximizing your chances of advancing your policy objectives next session.

If you would like more specific information on this or any other topic related to your political activism, please don’t hesitate to contact me to schedule a conference call or even a day-long political training seminar for your organization.