Odd political names help splinter parties catch eyes of voters

Minor party lines on Election Day ballots around the region are filled with quirky and descriptive n

While Republicans and Democrats dominate most of the ballot lines in this November’s elections, other candidates hope to throw a monkey wrench into the political gears.

The minor party lines are filled with quirky and descriptive names — Monkey Wrench, for example — in an effort to stand out from the crowd and capture the flavor of the person’s personality.

“I’m a mechanic and I’m always working with wrenches and stuff,” said James Schultz, who is running for Schoharie Town Board on the “Monkey Wrench” line.

Schultz said he collected 50 signatures and created the party line when he ran for a village trustee seat in February. He decided to keep the minor party line in his next bid for office — even though he already had the endorsement of both the Democratic and Republican parties — so people who voted for in the village election would remember him. It also captures his platform as a working class person.

“I want to speak for the residents of the town. I want them to feel comfortable about coming to me with a topic to address and I’ll do the best job I can to get that accomplished,” he said.

Other minor party names read like a checklist of what candidates say is the ideal political candidate — one who stands for “Integrity,” “Good Government” and who act in the “People’s Interest.”

A catchy name can really help brand the party, according to Bradley Hays, assistant professor of political science at Union College.

“It really helps advertise what the party stands for. ‘The Rent is 2 Damn High’ is a classic example of that,” Hays said, referring to colorful 2010 gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan’s party.

Standing out

A way to stand out from the pack is particularly important in local elections, Hays said, when there is often not a lot of information about the candidates. “It gives you more information than you had going into the ballot box,” he said.

Practical considerations were behind William Barlow’s choice of the name “Budget Watcher” in his bid for Sharon highway superintendent.

“They have some approved symbols on a sheet and my last name begins with a ‘B,’ they had a circle B there. It thought that would look good to match my name. I thought we should name it Budget-something,” said Barlow who does not have a major party endorsement. The B was a leftover symbol from a previous minor line.

Amsterdam controller candidate Ronald G. Wierzbicki is running as a Conservative, but no one can accuse him of not being “HIP.” The acronym, which stands for “Honesty, Integrity and Professionalism,” according to Wierzbicki, is right underneath a Conservative label on the ballot.

“I can also say: “I’m hip. Are you?’ ”

Casting the net

Aside from having a cool name, political gamesmanship is part of the reason for getting another ballot line.

“More is always better. Don’t you think?” said Wierzbicki, who also carries the Conservative and Democratic endorsements.

“I’ve been told Republicans won’t vote for a Democrat, but they may cast a ballot for someone who’s listed as independent or vice versa. Whether that’s true, I’m taking advice from all areas.”

Getting all that those ballot lines didn’t come easy, according to Wierzbicki. He had to get to more than 800 signatures all told — above the minimum in case some signatures were invalidated.

Because of the state election law that prohibits people from having a third line if they are on two established lines, the letters “HIP” will appear next to Wierzbicki on the Conservative line.

That state law tripped up the Alliance Party, which was created by Schenectady mayoral candidate Roger Hull as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican establishment. He is running for the top spot with a slate of four Alliance Party candidates for the City Council.

The Alliance Party lost a lawsuit in state Supreme Court last month to have Phillip Tiberio, who is running for Schenectady City Council, and Peter Guidarelli and Richard Patierne, running for Schenectady County Legislature, appear on that line. Both are already on other lines — Republican and Conservative for Tiberio and Guidarelli and the Independence Party for Patierne — so they will have a label denoting their Alliance Party affiliation above their names on those other lines.

Had Hull been successful in his efforts to obtain the endorsement of either the Conservative or Independence Party, he would have been kicked off the line of the party he helped create.

Hays of Union College said he can see a valid reason for limiting the number of lines a candidate can have. “You could in fact suppress other parties’ turnout by having your name 15 times on 15 different lines and the next candidate is on page two,” he said. “If you really have to search for your particular candidate, it may decrease the number of votes you receive.”

Rotterdam busy

Perhaps no ballot is as cluttered as the one for Rotterdam supervisor and Town Board. Along with the Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Independence and Working Families lines, there is also the “Rotterdam First Party” and “No New Tax Party.”

The No New Tax line has the same slate as the Republican candidates. Rotterdam First was launched by current Supervisor Frank Del Gallo, who was not renominated by the Democratic and Conservative parties.

In addition, there is also the “Lower Taxes Now!” and “Re-Unite Rotterdam” parties. They aren’t on a separate line but Lower Taxes Now appears above the Democratic candidates for county legislator and town clerk. Re-Unite Rotterdam appears above the Democratic supervisor, town board, justice and highway superintendent candidates.

Hays said getting multiple lines is a way for candidates to get wider appeal. “Particularly in local elections, the margins of victory can be pretty small,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt somebody like Roger Hull to seek multiple endorsements. You don’t know what exactly is going to put you over the top.”

Placement on the ballot matters also, according to Hays. “First matters even more so than second. A lot of that is just the appearance of being front runner,” he said. “People have a tendency to be drawn to the person they think will win. If you in fact associate name placement with who’s in the lead or the number of times they appear.”

As people head to the polls on Tuesday, many candidates hope they won’t do what the party of Carlisle Town Board candidate David A. Jones III suggests: “Second Guess.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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