Voters who feel frustrated by the two-party system do have other choices on the ballot on Nov. 8. In Michigan’s 10th Congressional District, third-party candidates have been reaching out to those who are unhappy with Republicans and Democrats.
Lisa Lane Gioia and Benjamin Nofs had never sought public office before this year. Both say personal frustration with politics and politicians prompted them to join alternative parties and launch their own campaigns. In Gioia’s case, taxes were the tipping point. She’s self-employed, a freelance translator who says almost 40 percent of her income goes to the federal and state governments.
“So that’s 40 percent of my labor, 40 percent of my time, 40 percent of my life that is going to taxes. Now, in my opinion, if I were getting a lot out of it, I would be comfortable with that. But I’m not. Where is it going?” Gioia asked.
Gioia says she joined the Libertarian Party because its platform of limited government appeals to her. She also has her own limits, capping her campaign budget at $1,000. Gioia says she knows that puts her at a big disadvantage against the better-funded Republican and Democratic candidates. But she saysmoney is part of the problem with the political system.
“It seems to me that the Republicans and Democrats have created this huge bureaucracy, this monstrous bureaucracy that really isn’t benefitting us. It’s benfitting them.”—Lisa Lane Gioia
That’s also one reason why Benjamin Nofs decided to run for Congress. The U.S. Navy submarine veteran was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, and says it was the Vermont senator’s webcast in June that convinced him to become a candidate.
“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to run for, but I knew that I wanted to get involved in an elective office in some aspect. After talking to one of my competitors, I didn’t believe he had a progressive enough stance on a lot of the issues that are facing the nation at this time,” Nofs says.
So, Nofs joined the Green Party. Like Lisa Gioia’s, his campaign budget is limited. Nofs says he won’t accept any money from corporations, lobbyists, or super PACs. As he meets with voters in the 10th District, Nofs says he encounters a common theme among people on the left and the right: a mistrust of the two-party system andthe way it chooses its presidential candidates.
“They have seen what the DNC has done to basically anoint Hillary Clinton and I’ve seen that the Republican Party is sick of the establishment, and they use democracy to bring Donald Trump that helm. And now a lot of people are angry about that. But at least the Republicans use democracy and the Democrats basically ignored it.” —Benjamin Nofs
It’s that feeling of being ignored that has fueled voter frustration and even anger toward the political establishment. That’s not going unnoticed by the 10th District’s major party candidates. Republican Paul Mitchell says Washington needs to listen to the people, andpeople need to listen to each other.
“People can disagree…but at least do it respectfully. Walk away and understand that they were listened to and that everyone has the right to vote and that’s the way the system works. But I think the thing that people get frustrated with most is not being respectful enough to listen to their concerns. And no one likes to be discounted like that.” —Paul Mitchell
Like the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, Mitchell is financing his own campaign. Unlike his opponents, he has a lot more resources. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network says Mitchell lent his campaign more than $2.7 million dollars of his own money through June 30. The Center for Responsive Politics says Mitchell has raised almost $3.9 million dollars through Nov. 2. Lisa Gioia and Benjamin Nofs say money in politics is part of the problem. Mitchell says it won’t be if he’s elected.
“I’m not running because I need a job. I’m running because I think it’s seriously screwed up and we have a lack of people who will stand up and say this—we’ll participate in making it better. I don’t believe I have every answer in the world. It takes incredible ego to think you’re the only guy smart enough to solve a problem,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell says good lawmakers should care more about their constituents’ jobs than their own. Democratic candidate Frank Accavitti, Jr. tells 10th District voters that’s what he did when he served six years in the Michigan House of Representatives.
“They say ‘well, how can you be different?’ And I explain to them that when I was in Lansing I reached across the aisle and that there are people in the middle in both parties. We can reach to each other, we can work to make a difference for our nation,” Accavitti says.
Accavitti says that may mean leaving colleagues on the far ends of the political spectrum behind. He also says it meansputting constituents ahead of partisanship.
“It’s time to come back to your district as a congressperson and tell the folks what you’ve done for them, not what you’ve stopped from happening. You don’t send a Congressman to Washington to stop things from happening. You send them there to make your life better.” —Frank Accavitti, Jr.
Voters in the 10th Congressional District will decide which candidate to send to Washington on Nov. 8.