Staying alive

Third-party and independent candidates for office have long enraged the major-party faithful with their ability to siphon votes and swing elections.

So when the big boys take independents and minor parties into their embrace, it rarely passes the smell test.

There are plenty of congressional and gubernatorial contests around the country that could see a minor-party candidate tip the race toward someone who might have lost had the underdog simply stayed out. Nevada's U.S. Senate race, with six small-party and independent candidates vying to take votes from incumbent Harry Reid and Republican nominee Sharron Angle, is one of them.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Two parties are simply not enough to represent all the principles, values and interests of the citizens of this country. We need more parties -- especially more viable ones -- not fewer. Voters should have real choices each election cycle.

But an increasing number of candidates, driven by ego and spite toward the anti-incumbent, anti-establishment movement sweeping the electorate, see independence and small-party politics as a path to resurrection.

Republican primary voters decided they'd had enough of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Delaware Rep. Mike Castle. All were rejected in their bids for the U.S. Senate, with tea party favorites winning their respective GOP nominations.

Gov. Crist decided to re-enter November's election as an independent, Sen. Murkowski launched a write-in campaign to keep her job, and Rep. Castle is considering an independent or third-party run. On Monday, Rick Lazio, who lost the Republican primary for New York governor, ended his Conservative Party campaign and finally got out of the race.

Most independent and minor-party candidate enter races because of specific philosophical or policy disagreements with the major-party apparatus. But Gov. Crist, Sen. Murkowski and perhaps Rep. Castle would have voters believe that after an entire career under the GOP brand, they've now adopted a new perspective on government?

They sought election under the partisan label and lost. Voters were given a choice, and they chose someone else.

Gov. Crist, Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Castle are not independents. They're defeated Republicans.

Independence and minor-party banners shouldn't exist to let stale Republicans and Democrats cheat political death. Voters everywhere should keep that in mind Nov. 2.