TUPELO • With the end of primary season, election tensions between Democrats or Republicans will increase ahead of the general election, but some candidates want to avoid the two-party system altogether.
Third party and independent candidates may not be prevalent on Mississippi’s Nov. 5 general election ballot, but in some areas, such as Alcorn County, several seats are either currently held by independent candidates or have multiple independent candidates in contention.
Within Northeast Mississippi’s local race, more than 60 candidates qualified as independents and two as Libertarians for county seats, according to a March 6 list.
In statewide races, one Constitution Party candidate, two Libertarian Party candidates, and 16 independent candidates qualified and have not withdrawn as of March 1, 2019, according to the State Secretary of State’s website.
For Mississippi House of Representatives District 37 candidate Vicky Rose, joining the Libertarian Party came from her own apathy with the political system. After working with the GOP for several years, she felt party elites selected the winners and did not listen to what the people wanted.
Rose said that as a third party candidate, she doesn’t have to worry about party leadership holding her back and can do the work of the people rather than the work of the party. However, she admits overcoming the two-party system is a challenge.
“I have been a part of the Libertarian Party for about four years now and I do realize that it is harder to win as a third party candidate, especially in the Southeast where a lot of people are stuck in the mindset of Republican or Democrat,” Rose said.
Current District 16 Representative Steve Holland expressed distaste for the “scorched earth politics of both parties.” Holland has been a representative since 1983 as a Democrat, but on March 1 he switched his party affiliation to independent. Holland said he only plans to serve four more years and wanted to serve his last term as an independent to continue a 36-year-record of being a “consensus man.”
“I’ve been such an independent soul and spirit in my political career that it’s almost legendary, my independence, and I’ve expressed it in my votes, in my oratory, in my actions, everything. I’m just a middle-of-the-roader,” Holland said.
Both Holland and Lee County independent candidate for Justice Court District 2 Eric Hampton mentioned being part of both the Republican and Democratic party at different point of their careers. Hampton said he decided to run as an independent because he feels a judge should be free from political ties and said it was “liberating.”
“I’m running for the job, not the party. I have zero influence from anyone other than the people who elect me, so I’ll be accountable to them, not the party,” Hampton said.
Rose said within Mississippi, she felt it was easier to get on the ballot as a party member than as an independent. She feels being a Libertarian lines up with her philosophical beliefs more but said she does not personally see a lot of difference between Democrats and Republicans.
“The two party system is not working. We are not having any changes that are coming within the two party system, especially in Mississippi,” Rose said.
Holland said his priorities remain the same: support public education at all costs, search for better ways to provide healthcare access, and put emphasis on Mississippi infrastructure. His still sees himself as a populist progressive and said while he respects Republicans, he will not caucus with them because he is not conservative. He believes running as an independent is neither sinister nor revolutionary but rather a reflection of where he wants to be.
“I really think it’s where a majority of Mississippians want to be: in the middle, independent men and women, who try to strive for what’s right and fitting for the majority,” Holland said.
Hampton also spoke of a need to work across party lines. As a former chairman of the Lee County Democratic executive committee, Hampton said he has supported and worked with Republicans. His own views include being pro-life, pro-gun and pro-business, and encouraging community restitution programs and long-term rehabilitation as alternatives to putting people in jail. He believes America would benefit from turning away from the two party system.
“If you take the prejudice away, then people are able to get along better because they’re not working for the Democrats, or they’re not working for the Republicans,” Hampton said. “They’re just working together.”
Rose said third party candidates are starting to see more success at local and state levels. The official Libertarian Party website lists 189 elected and appointed officials across the nation, and named the Reform Party and the Constitution Party as other third parties holding political office. However, finding success on the federal level remains a challenge.
“If people want change,” Rose said, “they’re going to have to change their voting habits.”