Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Third-Party Options Could Save Democrats

Republicans said they aren’t worried and believe they will net more than enough Democratic seats to win control of the House. And in at least one race, a third-party candidate could work in their favor as they aim to unseat Rep. Loretta Sanchez in California’s 47th district. She faces Van Tran (R) as her main opposition, but a GOP source said liberal third-party candidate Cecilia Iglesias could split the Hispanic vote. Sanchez was snared this fall in a mini-controversy by suggesting that “Vietnamese” are trying to “take this seat.” This race rating is Leans Democratic.

In upstate New York, third-party candidate Doug Hoffman, a conservative who lost a special election earlier in the cycle for the same seat, dropped out of the race to endorse GOP candidate Matt Doheny. But Hoffman’s name remains on the ballot, a glitch that could help Owens keep his seat for a full term.

On the Senate side, a third-party candidate complicates the math for Illinois contenders Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R). Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) could win re-election with a third of the vote since she is a write-in candidate following a primary loss to Joe Miller (R). The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this weekend did a late ad buy for nominee Scott McAdams in hopes of the intraparty war boosting its candidate.

But Reid is the most likely to be betting on third-party contenders. Nevada state legislators in 1976 put the none-of-the-above line on their ballots as a response to Watergate, opting to allow residents a protest vote. It’s the only state in the union with such an option, and this year is all the more relevant since Nevada voters have repeatedly told pollsters they don’t like either main-party candidate.

Reid is no stranger to close elections — the lone exception being 2004 when he won 61 percent of the vote. That year, “none” pulled in 1.6 percent.

In 1998, Reid barely won re-election, earning just a few hundred more votes than now-Sen. John Ensign (R) and 47.9 percent of the total vote. That year, “none of these candidates” garnered 1.9 percent, the same percentage as a Libertarian on the ballot.

David Damore, a University of Nevada at Las Vegas political science professor, said this year’s results will closely resemble 1998. “None of the above’s total is probably going to be bigger than the difference between them,” he said. “Neither of them are likeable.”

There is also a conservative Independent American Party candidate on the ballot.

State elections spokeswoman Pam DuPre said that although “none” once won a primary in the 1970s, it is a nonbinding choice. The office would go to whichever candidate earns the second-highest number of votes.

Longtime Silver State journalist Jon Ralston predicted over the weekend that “none” would get 4 percent.

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