Independent

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In politics, an independent is a politician who is not affiliated with any political party. In countries with a two-party system, independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between the two parties, or may feel that neither of the two parties adequately represents their viewpoint.

Other independent candidates are associated with a political party and may be former members of it, but are not able to stand under its label.

Examples of independent politicians

Recent independent candidates for President of the United States include John Anderson in 1980, Elisha Shapiro in 1988, Ross Perot in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 2004. None of them were successful. Historically, George Washington was the first and only independent President, as he was not formally affiliated with any party during his two terms.

Maine, Minnesota, and Texas are the only states in American history that have elected independents as governor, having elected James B. Longley in 1974 and Angus King in 1994 and 1998 from Maine, Jesse Ventura in 1998 from Minnesota and Sam Houston from Texas.

Representative Bernie Sanders has been elected as an independent member of the United States House of Representatives for Vermont-at-large since 1991. Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat who ran as an independent in the 2006 election after losing the Connecticut primary to Ned Lamont. Though both representatives are technically Independent politicians, both have tended to vote with Democrats in Congress in the past, and have acknowledged they will continue to do so.

Vermont also elected Jim Jeffords, who became the only independent U.S. Senator when he left the Republican Party in 2001. Jeffords's change of party status was especially significant because it shifted the Senate composition from 50-50 between the Republicans and Democrats (with a Republican Vice President, Dick Cheney, who would break all ties in favor of the Republicans), to 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and one Independent. Jeffords agreed to vote for Democratic control of the Senate in exchange for being appointed chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Democrats held control of the Senate until the Congressional elections in 2002, when the Republicans regained their majority.

Jeffords will retire at the end of his current term in January, 2007. Representative Sanders successfully ran to replace Jeffords as U.S. Senator from Vermont in the 2006 election.

In 1971, State Senator Henry Howell of Virginia, a former Democrat, was elected lieutenant governor as an independent. Two years later, he campaigned for Governor as an Independent, losing the election by only 15,000 votes.

In 2006, there were 13 major independent candidates for statewide office including successful runs for the U.S. Senate by Bernie Sanders and Joseph Lieberman. In Alabama, Loretta Nall is ran for governor as a libertarian. In Alaska, former Republican state legislator Andrew Halcro ran for governor. In Arkansas, musician and music store owner Rod Bryan ran for Governor. In Maine, real estate developer David John Jones and state legislator Barbara Merrill (formerly a Democrat) made the gubernatorial ballot, while retired college professor Bill Slavick is ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. In Massachusetts, wealthy convenience store owner and former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board member Christy Mihos is ran for Governor. In Minnesota, former state Commissioner of Finance Peter Hutchinson is ran for governor as an independent, and also sought the endorsement of the Independence Party. In Oregon, state senator Ben Westlund, elected to office as a Republican, renounced his party membership and joined the race for governor as an independent. (He gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but withdrew from the race to avoid the spoiler effect.) In Pennsylvania, anti-incumbent activist and Philadelphia Inquirer "Citizen of the Year" Russ Diamond is ran for the Governor's office. Finally, in Texas, country music singer and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman and State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn both received several times the number of signatures needed to place them on the gubernatorial ballot.

A fifteenth candidate, entrepreneur and community activist John Dashler dropped out of the race for Georgia governor after he was unable to collect 40,000 signatures to gain ballot access.

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