Post Gubernatorial Election, Looking Back and Ahead with Third Party Candidates
The Pawprint spoke with third party candidates Seth Kaper-Dale and Gina Genovese on their inspiration, struggles, and their belief in the need for a third party
November 18, 2017
This past Election Day, just under two percent of all votes in the gubernatorial election were cast for a third party, some 43,739 of over 2 million, a statistic that aligns with the state’s history; New Jersey has never had an independent or third party member as governor, perhaps due in part to the electorate’s limited knowledge of those candidates outside of the two major political parties. The five third party candidates, which included Seth Kaper-Dale of the Green Party and Gina Genovese, an independent, were not permitted to participate in debates, failing to meet the minimum financial threshold for inclusion, and received little media attention.
“I have been covered by the media for my immigrant rights activism dozens of times this year alone,” said Kaper-Dale, “However, the media seems to go out of their way to separate my work as an activist from my candidacy, keeping people uninformed about their choices.”
Kaper-Dale is co-pastor at the Reformed Church at Highland Park, with his wife Stephanie. The duo made headlines in 2012 for providing sanctuary and asylum to a group of Indonesian Christian immigrants fleeing deportation and religious persecution, and has founded three nonprofits. “I have considered social justice work to be a larger part of being a pastor than leading worship services,” he said. His slogan, “The Last are First,” reflected this belief.
Kaper-Dale’s inspiration can be traced to the 2013 election, as he explained to The Pawprint: “The Democrats had a candidate named Barbara Buono who was fighting corruption and running against Republican Chris Christie, 60 Democratic officials publicly endorsed Christie. Many party leaders withheld support by not sending out their Union supporters to campaign for Buono. At that point I knew that there is really no choice when dealing with only two parties, and I decided I would run for governor and do so as a Green.”
Gina Genovese, a former professional tennis player and mayor of Long Hill Township, was an independent candidate in this year’s election running under the banner “Reduce Property Taxes.” “I was having trouble with the lack of state support or interest in reducing property taxes,” said Genovese, speaking to The Pawprint, “I felt that the voters would want a choice this year as the two party candidates are not strong.”
Genovese believed that the lack of party organization in campaigning and fundraising was one one of the most difficult parts of running as an independent. She did, however, acknowledge the benefit of having “no party to control you or your message.”
Votes for third parties are often dismissed as a wasted vote, unlikely to have any effect in the final outcome of the election. Kaper-Dale, however, when asked his response to such claims, vehemently opposed this idea.
“That is a myth created by the Democrats,” said the former candidate, “A vote for Kaper-Dale/Durden is a vote for Kaper-Dale/Durden. We are not out to convert and convince people committed to another party, but to the 61% of registered voters who didn’t vote in the 2013 governor’s race because they are looking for someone who responds to the issues that are important to them.”
Currently in the US, there are two senators, thirty four state legislators, and one governor not affiliated with one of the two major political parties, figures unlikely to rise significantly in the near future. Still, every year, politicians like Seth Kaper-Dale and Gina Genovese continue to challenge the existing two party system. As Americans increasingly voice their displeasure with the current fractured state of politics, this issue will only continue to gain national prominence, a belief held by Ms. Genovese. “[The parties] have to work together and focus on their constituents,” said the former mayor.
“With the divisive way politics is heading these days perhaps more than ever we need a strong third party.”