2016: Tough Year for Minor Parties

2014 was a tough year for California’s minor parties and 2016 is looking even more challenging.

Looking at the number of minor party (also called “third party”) candidates who made it onto the General Election ballot, we can see that (excluding statewide offices and the BOE) the numbers have been falling fast. In 2000, there were 124 minor party candidates on the November ballot. It dropped to 101 in 2002, then into the nineties and continued to fall from there.

In 2010, the last year before the arrival of the new Top Two primary, there were 77 minor party candidates (45 were Libertarians). The following cycle, the number had fallen to 3 (all from the Peace and Freedom Party). In 2014, the number held at 3 (Libertarian Patrick D. Hogan, American Independent George R. Williams, and Peace & Freedom’s Adam Shbeita).

So far in the 2016 cycle, no minor party candidates have qualified for the General Election (most of these candidates will be determined in the June primary). But we can see that the number of minor party candidates who filed has dropped severely, with the Libertarians running seven candidates and one each from the Greens, AIP and Peace & Freedom.



  • Congress: 75
  • State Senate: 40
  • State Assembly: 118


  • Congress: 86
  • State Senate: 25
  • State Assembly: 96


  • Congress: 0
  • State Senate: 0
  • State Assembly: 1


  • Congress: 1
  • State Senate: 0
  • State Assembly: 0


  • Congress: 2
  • State Senate: 1
  • State Assembly: 4

No Party Preference

  • Congress: 17
  • State Senate: 0
  • State Assembly: 7

Peace and Freedom

  • Congress: 1
  • State Senate: 0
  • State Assembly: 0

Politics on Tap – Episode 82

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join host John Howard and Adam Gottlieb on Capitol Weekly’s Politics on Tap. Adam brought a great collection of campaign ephemera, including some century-old items, and shared his love of political history. I was able to share some of the better stories that have come up through my research. I enjoyed having the opportunity to be a part of the show, and I think it comes across in the video.

Follow the link below to watch the episode.

Politics on Tap - Episode 82

Adam Gottlieb, John Howard, and a far-too-enthusiastic Alex Vassar

Watch: Politics on Tap – Episode 82

California’s Newest Almost-A-Political Party

Even many of those who follow California politics most closely may not have heard about the new and unique political party which may have enough registered voters to become ballot-qualified, but is being held up on a technicality.

An article in the November edition of Ballot Access News, “California Secretary of State Refuses to Tally Independent Party Registrations” detailed the efforts of the Independent Party to become ballot-qualified.

According the the article by Richard Winger, the party was formed for non-partisan reasons. Wait, what? A non-partisan party? Yes…

Earlier this year, the Independent Party was formed, partly to assist independent candidates. Under current law, an independent candidate for Congress and partisan state office must have “party preference: none” on the ballot. Most independents would rather have “independent” on the ballot next to their names.

Accordingly, the Independent Party will have no platform.

The problem? The Secretary of State says that the party name is too similar to that of the American Independent Party. Winger points out an inconsistency, noting that the Secretary has allowed political parties with names like Americans Elect Party (2011) and American Freedom Party (2015) to register… so why not the Independent Party?

The Secretary of State does not say no party can ever be called “Independent Party.” Instead he says the name “Independent Party” is too similar to the name of the American Independent Party, which has been a qualified party in California since 1968. However, the Secretary of State let Americans Elect qualify in 2011, and over the past 37 years there have been 19 political bodies with “American” as part of their name. Just a few months ago the Secretary of State let the American Freedom Party register as a political body. At one time or another, 43 states have had two parties simultaneously on the ballot that shared a common word in their names, such as “Socialist” and “Socialist Labor.”

Stay tuned. Fortunately for us, Richard Winger is watching.