By William Lewis
New York state has an almost unique system of third parties that appear on the ballot in addition to the two major parties.
During the entire 20th century and into the 21st century, third parties have affected the results of important elections at the local, state and federal levels.
During the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, the third political parties of the left seemed to have had an important role. That would include several socialist parties. Today, the third parties with the most influence seem to include the Conservative, Independence and Working Families parties.
In the case of all three of these parties, each one has to get at least 50,000 votes for governor every four years for them to remain on the ballot.
One electoral example of the influence of third parties occurred in 1980 in the 26th state Assembly District in northeast Queens, when Democrat Vincent Nicolosi lost to Republican Doug Prescott. Nicolosi had the Conservative endorsement in 1972, ’74, ’76 and ’78 in addition to him being the designated Democratic candidate.
In 1980, Nicolosi ran on the Democratic line alone with no third party endorsement, whereas Prescott, besides being the Republican candidate, also had the endorsements of the Conservative and Right to Life parties. Therefore, Prescott was running with the support of three political parties.
When the election was over, Prescott won by 1,505 votes. He received 3,500 votes on the Conservative Party line and 1,500 votes on the Right to Life party line.
If Nicolosi had kept the Conservative Party endorsement in 1980, the results of the election would have been different.
Today it seems that the governor’s race will see Gov. Andrew Cuomo running as the Democratic candidate with support of the Independence and Working Families parties. This will give him three party endorsements as he goes up against his most likely Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.
Astorino will have Conservative Party endorsement, so he will be running on at least two lines.
Cuomo with two third parties supporting him gives him a ballot advantage, although Astorino is considered a strong candidate.
Another good example of third party political force is back in 1998 when Rudy Giuliani ran as the Republican candidate for mayor with the endorsement of the Liberal Party. He also sought the Conservative Party line.
As it was, he was able to win the election for mayor over David Dinkins by a narrow margin with help from third parties. He would again run for re-election in 1997 with third party support.
Recently, the Queens Conservative Party held a fund-raising cocktail party at which time Astorino was the guest of honor. There was a large turnout at this particular function. Astorino seemed confident after he was introduced to the guests by Mike Long, the state Conservative Party chairman.
Tom Long, the Queens Conservative Party chairman, is also confident of a more favorable election year than they have had in the recent past.
The governor’s race will definitely influence all campaigns throughout the state for Congress, state Senate and state Assembly.
It can be said that the results of the 2014 election in New York and other states will set the stage for 2016, when the presidential race takes place.
In New York state, the third party situation gives added interest to our electoral system. It will be interesting to see how the third parties affect the 2014 election results at the state and local levels.
In summary, the state electoral system gives a significant amount of political influence to third parties, which has an effect on how our government develops.