Voters casting their ballot this election may have noticed some unfamiliar names. Three independent candidates ran for U.S. Congress in Massachusetts this election to challenge the status quo and highlight issues they are passionate about.
Independent Jon Lott, who ran against Democratic incumbent Rep. Stephen Lynch in Massachusetts’ 8th Congressional District, said he ran out of concern for lack of action on pressing environmental issues.
“Our planet is at the edge of ecological collapse, and nobody else was challenging our congressperson in the general election,” Lott said. “I just couldn’t stand by and do nothing about it.”
Elected officials must address climate change, Lott said, even if they do not want to draw attention to issues that may elicit panic.
“For others, it just doesn’t serve their interests,” Lott said, “or they just want to kick the can down the road and they expect that someone else will be in power when the system finally collapses.”
Lott ran for Massachusetts Senate in 2016, and earned about 23 percent of the vote.
He said he would not have run if another “credible” candidate had challenged Lynch.
Some people trust independent candidates more, Lott said, while others dismiss voting for independent candidates because they wish to remain loyal to their established political party.
Many of Lott’s supporters first noticed him when they saw his name on the ballot, he said. They then chose to vote for him after looking into his candidate platform.
Lott said he hopes Question 2, which proposes statewide ranked-choice voting, passes so people who vote for independent and third-party candidates will no longer feel their vote is wasted.
“It’s never a waste if you just vote [with] your heart,” Lott said.
Anyone dissatisfied with the state of government as it currently stands should run for office, Lott said, along with anyone who aims for more representation or wants more to dip their toes into politics.
“It’s not easy, but you got to start somewhere,” Lott said. “You can’t win if you don’t try.”
Candidate Mike Manley, a retired softball coach, ran against incumbent Democrat Rep. Bill Keating and Republican Helen Brady in the 9th Congressional District. He said he ran to serve as “somebody in the middle.”
“As a 72-year-old guy, senior citizen, I don’t think I’ve been represented by either party,” Manley said. “The Democratic Party is turning socialist, and the Republican Party, they just like to fight among themselves.”
Manley said he is anti-abortion and believes increasing child literacy rates can help reduce crime. He said too many politicians strictly follow their party’s platform.
“It seems like every Democratic candidate that’s in office now said the same exact thing,” Manley said. “It seems like they just wrote out a script and said, ‘Say this.’ It’s unbelievable.”
Manley said he tells his softball players they can never lie to themselves, advice he wishes politicians would follow.
Massachusetts voters are an “automatic D” or “automatic R,” Manley said, because they often choose candidates based on party affiliation instead of research.
“More people research buying a microwave oven or a toaster instead of researching the candidates,” Manley said. “They’re uninformed. They’re lazy.”
Manley said media coverage often focuses only on those running under a major party, and does not offer a platform to non-establishment candidates.
“You have to give independents a voice,” Manley said. “There’s a lot of times I read articles about the 9th Congressional District and they only list two people.”
Money spent on expensive campaigns would be better used helping lower-income individuals meet food and housing costs, Manley said. His campaign has spent $1,400 on the race since it began.
Although no former independent candidates responded to Manley’s requests for advice, he said he is willing to offer guidance to future candidates who choose to run independently.
Roy Owens is running as an independent in the 7th Congressional District against Democratic incumbent Rep. Ayanna Pressley. Owens has run for other offices over the years, including the Massachusetts Senate, Boston City Council and Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Though he has not yet won a race, he said he continues to run for office as an independent because the country’s founders had warned against establishing political parties: former President George Washington had discouraged partisanship, for example, in his presidential farewell address.
“They did not want to have a party, such as Democrats, Republican Party,” Owens said. “They didn’t want parties because they become dictatorships.”
News outlets have also given Owens’ campaign less attention than his opponent, he said.
“We don’t get no help from the media,” Owens said. “You can’t even find a good truth on the media. You’re better off without even having the media today.”
Like Lott, Owen said he believes more citizens should run for office, because too many people criticize their elected officials instead of taking action.
Owens, a pastor, said Christians should vote for “what’s right” instead of for candidates who fall under any specific party affiliation.
Taking action by entering a race to advocate for what one believes in is more important than winning the election itself, Owens added.
“I’m not winning,” Owens said. “I’m standing for what’s right. When people think about Christ, they crucified him, but he stood for what’s right.”