Tags: | Midterms | Independents | Senate

Independent Candidate Victories Could Shake Up Senate

By    |   Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 03:01 PM

Whether Republicans gain the majority in the Senate or Democrats retain control, political analysts do not believe the level of partisanship will diminish as a result. However, some are contemplating the impact victories by Independent candidates could have on how business is done.

“If the leadership strategy on either side precludes engagement, I think the Independents and others will churn to do otherwise,” Patrick Griffin, a former Senate staffer and Clinton administration official tells Politico.

Currently, Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are the lone Independent members of the Senate, but their caucus could double in size with victories by Independent candidates Larry Pressler in South Dakota or Greg Orman in Kansas.

Pressler, a former Republican senator, is trailing in the three-way race behind Republican Mike Rounds and Democrat Rick Weiland and is seen as having little chance of winning. However, one recent SurveyUSA poll shows him within three points of Rounds.

In Kansas, Orman is in a statistical dead heat with Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, according to the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls.

Orman told The Atlantic recently that he would caucus with whichever party was in control.

Both King, who is more moderate, and the liberal Sanders caucus with the Democrats.

However, King recently indicated his allegiance could change depending on the outcome of the midterm elections.

"I'm not going to answer that question," King said in response to a question about which party with whom he would side, according to CNN.

He added: "My first priority is to try to make the Senate work better and to the extent that as an Independent I can help to do that, that's my goal."

If either, or both, candidates win, it would certainly change how the Senate is governed.

Senate historian Donald Ritchie says records show there have not been four independent or third-party members serving together since the 1890s, reports The Atlantic.

Because the Senate rewrites its rules every two years, Ritchie says, those Independent senators will "wind up having to negotiate with the parties to get the assignments they want."

A simple shift in control can have real consequences, as was the case in 2001 following the defection by Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords from the Republican Party to the Democrats.

"By changing the chairmanship and hence the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jeffords' switch is likely to affect everything from decisions over treaties to key appointments to congressional oversight of such policies as U.S. support for counterinsurgency efforts in Colombia as part of the war on drugs," noted Time magazine shortly after Jeffords announced his defection.

What might have greater influence on whether gridlock is broken are polls indicating the American public are exasperated at the legislative logjam on Capitol Hill.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found voters favored candidates who would compromise over those who would stand on principle by a 50 percent to 42 percent margin.

"That may not seem like much of a shout-out for compromise and consensus, except that it represents a stark reversal from just four years ago. Then, a clear majority, 57 percent, said they preferred candidates who stuck to positions, while just 34 percent opted for those who would compromise. Do the math: That’s a 23-point advantage for opposing compromise four years ago, compared with an eight-point edge in favor of it now. A 31-point swing is a significant movement," writes Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib.

Breaking gridlock was only behind the economy as the top concern among voters, according to the WSJ/NBC poll.

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Whether Republicans gain the majority in the Senate or Democrats retain control, political analysts do not believe the level of partisanship will diminish as a result. However, some are contemplating the impact victories by Independent candidates could have on how business is done.
Midterms, Independents, Senate
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2014-01-22
Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 03:01 PM
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