Considering how much bounce “Occupy Portland” and the Tea Party have had in the last two years’ political news, 2012 would seem to be a ripe opportunity for anyone running outside the traditional party system.
Linda Knudson is a Portland voter who lives in Oregon’s First Congressional District. She says she likes to read what candidates from smaller parties have to say in her voters’ pamphlet.
“I read everybody who’s in the booklet,” Knudson says.
She came to this “Occupy the Courts” demonstration last Friday. Like a lot of voters, she says she’s hungry to hear candidates take stronger stances on the issues.
“The two major parties are not representing everything that the people need or want,” she says. “When I look at the third party candidates, I do take them seriously. They often time do represent more of what I believe than the main parties.”
But — and this has historically been a big factor for a lot of voters — as Knudson continues, “The thing that stops me from voting for them is the political climate today is so frightening, I don’t want to veer too far off the course of the main parties.”
Enter Steven Reynolds: “People think they have to vote for a Democrat or a Republican. They don’t. Stop voting for them.” Reynolds is making his first run for office this year, as the Progressive Party’s nominee for the First Congressional District. “When you vote for a ‘D’ or you vote for a ‘R,’” Reynolds says, “All you’re saying is ‘We’re OK with the status quo.’”
Reynolds, who goes by “Cody,” says his situation mirrors what a lot of people in the district are going through right now. He explains he’s “become disenchanted with our current two-party system. I think that we need politicians who are no longer beholden. I’m me. I’m not wealthy at all. I’m actually an unemployed disabled veteran. I just have a voice and I’m concerned.”
Reynolds focuses on the public’s lack of faith in the institution of government. He says politicians use their power and privilege to line their own pockets and to sway policy in the favor of the people who help them get elected.
James Foster, another candidate for the congressional seat, has been a member of the Libertarian Party for more than thirty years. He ran for office once before, seeking an Oregon state Legislative seat. Foster acknowledges it’s been a big year for Ron Paul, who has touted his Libertarian views even though he chose to run in the GOP presidential nomination chase.
Foster says, “I certainly applaud Ron Paul and would love to see him do well in the Republican primaries.”
Foster feels it has been good for voters to hear more of Paul’s views on limiting government. But he’s decided to run for Congress outside the two major parties, because of loopholes he sees in their logic.
“I think there is a Republican sort of viewpoint that tends not to be as sympathetic to social issues. And there is a typical Democratic viewpoint that is not sympathetic to economic issues.”
If elected, Foster says he’d try to limit the size and scope of government, and focus narrowly on constituent services. Foster says there shouldn’t be anything strange about a man who’s against big government trying to help people make the most of the bureaucracy.
“Often times people aren’t expecting favors as much as expecting answers.”
Foster and Reynolds will compete with Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles.
Voting for the special election concludes Jan. 31.