State law allows candidates to prefer any party they wish when filing for office. They can even make one up on a whim and have it listed on the ballot.
But just because a person can do something, as my father used to say, doesn't mean he ought to.
This year's primary provides hard and fast evidence of that adage. With enough money in the checking account, candidates were able to file for a wide range of partisan statewide offices, and many decided they preferred to be listed as something other than the Democratic or Republican labels with which most voters are familiar.
This probably gave voters a serious case of the what-the-freeks when they came across the Human Rights Party or the StandupAmerica Party or the System Reboot Party while perusing the ballot. All were listed in this year's U.S. Senate primary, which featured 17 candidates who either really wanted the job or just wanted to have their name on the ballot and in various voter guides.
The governor's race had the Holistic Party and Fifth Republic Party mixed in with a Socialist Workers Party candidate, who is, at least, a member of a real party with a national organization, albeit small. Both races had candidates who listed their preference as Independent Party when what they really meant was they are small "i" independents. This is a rookie mistake candidates often make, writing "independent" on the petition of candidacy instead of no party preference.
So how did these WTF candidates fare? Really, really poorly.
With just a smattering of votes left to count statewide, and setting aside for a moment the Libertarians, no third party, minor party or independent candidate got as much as 1 percent of the vote in any statewide race.
The worst showing for any statewide candidate was Christian Joubert, running for governor from the Holistic Party, who at last count had 4,081 votes out of nearly 1.4 million cast. Alex Tsimerman, running for Senate from the StandupAmerica Party, did a smidge better at 4,093 votes. They racked up three-tenths of 1 percent of the vote.
By comparison, Goodspaceguy, a perennial candidate who has had many party preferences over the decades but this year put down Republican, is pushing 1 percent in the governor's race.
Future candidates take note: A guy who changed his name – some might call it odd, others whimsical – to highlight an issue but stuck with a familiar party did better than anyone who invented a party name to convey their passion. It's tempting to declare 1 percent of the vote the Goodspaceguy metric for future races.
Not that having a preference for a major party guaranteed a decent showing. Uncle Mover, once known as Mike the Mover and before that Michael Shanks, is another perennial candidate who decided this year he preferred being a Republican. He got only .62 percent in the Senate race. But to Mover that doesn't much matter because getting on the ballot and into voter pamphlets is a way of advertising his eponymous business around the state. The filing fee is an advertising expense and the election results don't matter.
For everyone else, it's pretty much money down the drain.
Libertarians had an uneven showing. Joshua Trumbull got 27 percent in the attorney general’s race and will advance to the November election. He'll be the first Libertarian for statewide office on a general election ballot since the state adopted the top two primary in 2008. But that was pretty much a done deal ever since Republicans failed to field a candidate against incumbent Democrat Bob Ferguson, and Trumbull was his only opponent.
Although Libertarians filed for many statewide offices, none of the others did better than 6 percent and Mike Luke, who jumped into the crowded U.S. Senate race, got 1.5 percent. Or about one and a half Goodspaceguys. (Editor's note: Early versions of this post misstated the highest percentage that Libertarian candidates other than Trumbull received.)