Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Politics: The Novelty Candidate

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Today was election day in Washington state's King County. For the first time in that county, however, no polls were open. The county has joined the growing movement of having all ballots sent out and returned in surface mail. King County residents who just realized that they didn't mail their ballot are out of luck--a handful of collection centers have already closed for the evening, and it's too late to get the ballot postmarked on 18-August-2009 (or earlier).

A primary election in Washington state's relatively-new "top two" system in which the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, move on to the general election, today's ballot included a slate of candidates for King County Executive, the top office in the county vacated by Ron Sims' move to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Among those candidates was "Goodspaceguy."

Seriously, "Goodspaceguy" was on the ballot, and not for the first time. He had run for the Senate previously, as Michael Goodspaceguy Nelson, in 2006 (see the voter guide). What's "Goodspaceguy" all about? In his own words:
Let’s spread the life of Spaceship Earth out into our Solar System! With help from NASA, let’s start the seeds of several small and growing orbital space colonies in orbit around Earth, around the Moon, and around Mars...Also, we should replace war on our Spaceship Earth with world-wide free trade.
There's more, but the theme is clear, and exactly how he could accomplish that as King County Executive is especially unclear.

"Goodspaceguy" is hardly the first novelty candidate. For my entire voting career, "Mike the Mover" has been on the ballot for one race or another. The former Michael Shanks was trying to promote his moving business by running for office according to an article in the Seattle Times back in 2004. He ran in at least eighteen elections, always with a great tag line--"I'll send {the incumbent} packing."

Unfortunately, with an open ballot, it hard to keep such people off the ballot if they legally change their names. One cost of democracy seems to be perennial candidates (think Lyndon LaRouche or Pat Paulsen), "straw men candidates" run simply as a tactical move by parties, and the novelty candidates. I suppose if their presence in the race generates interest in the serious candidates, they can even be a net positive.

Rest assured, though, that while I generally don't reveal who I voted for, I will say that I've never voted for a novelty candidate.

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