David Harmer, Republican nominee for U.S. House, 11th district, last year, is quoted in this story as praising California’s Proposition 14 because it keeps minor party candidates out of the general election. Harmer is the son of former Lieutenant Governor John Harmer.
The story also quotes Markham Robinson, Secretary of one faction of the American Independent Party, as saying that Proposition 14 may someday help minor party candidates. The data suggest otherwise. There have been 775 instances in the United States at which minor party candidates ran for state or federal office in blanket primaries or top-two primaries. Out of those 775 instances, there are only 2 at which a minor party member ever placed first or second (ignoring the obvious cases at which only one major party person ran). Even minor party candidates with the potential to win the election virtually never place first or second in the primary, because during primary season, voters are more interested in determining which major party candidates advance. Voters generally only pay attention to minor party candidates after the primary is over. For example, Jesse Ventura only polled 3% in Minnesota’s open primary in mid-September 1998, but he was elected as the Reform Party nominee in November 1998. The Minnesota example, however, is not an instance of a blanket or top-two primary, but it still makes the point.