As it was reported in PennLive, Democratic candidates running for governor in Pennsylvania will face off at the debates on Thursday, May 1st. Interestingly enough, there is no debate scheduled for the Republican candidates even though there are two names on the ballot at the primary this year. Third party candidates are not the only ones to face ballot challenges as one Republican candidate running for Pennsylvania governor learned when he decided to upset the apple cart in the political arena. When an incumbent is running for re-election, it is customary for their name to be the only one on the ticket for their political party. On May 20, 2014, Pennsylvania voters will be given the special treat of a choice between two candidates from the Republican Party running for governor. Not only will the current governor, Tom Corbett, appear on the ballot, but so will the name of his challenger, Robert "Bob" Guzzardi, who is also a member of the Republican Party. Even though Corbett has the backing of the Republican Party for re-election, Guzzardi was not dissuaded by the lack of support for his campaign. Instead, he decided to throw his hat into the gubernatorial race as an independent Republican supporting constitutional limited government, economic freedom, and personal responsibility which are three principles that are part of the Libertarian Party platform.
Part of the appeal that third party politics offers voters is an alternative view to the to two major parties who are known for their infighting, inability to work together for the common good, and platforms that are similarly opposing. Guzzardi, who writes The Liberty Blog, posted a blog about the differences between his and Corbett's positions on funding for charter schools and the veto of bills backed by teacher's unions. Corbett's campaign website encourages voters to look at his record and accomplishments over the past few years as Governor highlighting his promises kept in restarting Pennsylvania's economy as evidenced he says by a 2% reduction in unemployment since he was elected into office. In contrast, the front page of Guzzardi's campaign website highlights the slogan "Free People, Free Markets, Free Trade". Because Guzzardi is not a career politician, he does not have a list of political accomplishments to showcase. What he does express is his desire to advocate for liberty, freedom, and choice which align him closer to the common voter which is how a candidate sells themselves to the public. Voters want to elect candidates into office who represent them not just by their political ideologies but who also appear to be one of them. Getting the word out to the voters that he is one of them and to sell his political views is a whole other hurdle that is not so easily overcome.
One major hurdle to cross is the fact that he does not have the backing of his own political party. Similar to what often happens when a third party candidate gets too close for comfort at election time, four Republican Party members who were backed by the GOP attempted to block Guzzardi's access to the ballot. On April 15, 2014 Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt denied the petition from the challengers who wanted Guzzardi's name off the ballot claiming insufficient signatures as the reason. Unless the petitioners appeal Leavitt's decision, Guzzardi's name will appear on the ballot and Republican voters will be able to choose between two candidates at the primary which is monumental considering one of them is an incumbent. This moment in campaign history should not overshadow the fact that voters from both major political parties have a choice to make at the May 20 primary and there are 21 days left to get to know the candidates. Corbett stands tall riding the coattails of his record as governor while Guzzardi offers another perspective one that borrows significantly from the Libertarian Party to the extent that one might wonder if he is riding on the right platform on the wrong ticket. If Guzzardi does bring a win at the primary, he may want to consider switching political parties for the next go-around as he will probably feel quite at home with America's third largest political party whose slogan is "Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom" which seems very fitting for this Republican (in name only) candidate.