These third-party candidates could have a big impact at halftime

With less than three weeks until the midterm elections, observers are waiting to see which party can claim the better night: Republicans or Democrats.

But while most of the attention is understandably focused on the two major parties, a handful of third-party candidates are poised to make a huge impact on election night as well.

Most of these contenders have no chance of winning outright, but they could tip the scales just enough to shape the outcome of their races.

Here are five third-party candidates to watch as the deadline approaches.

Evan McMullin – Independent candidate for Utah Senate

Utah is the only state without a Democratic candidate running for Senate.

Instead, incumbent Sen. Mike Lee (R) will face Evan McMullin, a former presidential candidate who ran as an Independent. The Utah Democratic Party endorsed McMullin in his challenge.

Utah is a reliably red state, having elected Republicans to both Senate seats for more than 40 years.

But recent polls show a potentially tight race, with Lee leading McMullin by just a few points in some polls, far short of Lee’s more than 40-point victory in 2016.

The last Deseret-Hinckley poll shows Lee leading McMullin 41 percent to 37 percent, with 12 percent of Utah voters undecided.

If upset, McMullin would join two other independents in the upper chamber: Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

But both Sanders and King are making deals with Democrats, and McMullin has vowed not to make deals with either party.

That means a McMullin victory could trigger potential upsets for Republicans, who are counting on several battleground races to turn Democrats like razors.

Experts, however, are not so sure about McMullin’s chances. The Cook Political Report rates the race as likely Republican, and FiveThirtyEight’s model suggests Lee retains a 94 percent chance of victory.

Shane Hazel – Libertarian Georgia gubernatorial candidate

Shane Hazel has virtually no chance of winning the Georgia governor’s mansion, but his candidacy could still affect who wins.

Georgia is one of two states to hold a runoff election, meaning if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face voters again in a runoff on Dec. 6.

Incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has a slim lead, but with the state’s gubernatorial race coming down to the wire, Hazel is likely to get enough votes to prevent him or Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams from winning an outright majority.

That possibility is bolstered by the fact that Hazel gained renewed attention this week when he shared the debate stage with Abrams and Kemp, giving him a prime platform to make his case to Georgia voters.

Granted, most polls show Kemp with a majority—albeit just barely.

An Emerson College-The Hill survey conducted earlier this month found Kemp leading Abrams 51 percent to 46 percent.

Kemp and Abrams face the Georgians in a rematch of their 2018 race, when Kemp beat Abrams to avoid a runoff by just 0.2 percentage points.

Chase Oliver – Libertarian Georgia Senate Candidate

Like the state’s gubernatorial race, Oliver could cause trouble for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and his GOP challenger, former NFL star Herschel Walker (R), by pushing their race into a December runoff.

It could also throw the Senate’s fate into limbo for another month if control of the Senate comes down to Peach — as it did in 2020.

Only a handful of polls show one of the nominees reaching a majority, with most showing support for both Warnock and Walker peaking in the high 40s.

Recently Emerson College-The Hill Research found Warnock leading with 48 per cent support to Walker’s 46 per cent.

About 1.3 percent said they would vote for Oliver, while other polls that included the Libertarian as an option show him as low as 4 percent.

The Emerson College-The Hill survey and most others allow respondents to indicate whether they are undecided. Four percent of voters in the poll said they were undecided, and many are likely to make up their minds before showing up on Election Day and pushing one of the candidates over the majority ballot.

Betsy Johnson – Independent candidate for governor of Oregon

Oregon has consistently elected Democratic governors since 1986, but the introduction of Johnson as an independent has heightened Democrats’ concerns about retaining the seat.

Johnson, a former Democratic state representative who resigned from her Senate seat last year after announcing her campaign, is trailing Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christina Drazan in the polls.

But those polls also show Johnson with double-digit support in the state, fueling concerns that her appeal will siphon votes from Kotek and allow a Republican to become the state’s first governor in more than 30 years.

An Emerson College poll released earlier this month found Dražan only 2 points ahead of Kotek, 36 percent to 34 percent.

Meanwhile, Johnson received the support of 19 percent, while 9 percent of voters were undecided.

President Biden visited the country over the weekend in the latest sign, the Democratic hold on the Oregon governor’s mansion may be in jeopardy.

The party is also facing a number of competitive races in the Houses of Representatives in the state.

Erik Gerhardt – Pennsylvania Libertarian Senate Candidate

The Senate race in Pennsylvania is one of the few that could determine control of the upper house for the next two years.

Polls showed Republican Mehmet Oz catching up with Democrat John Fetterman as Republicans beat Fetterman on crime and his health.

A poll by the conservative Trafalgar Group showed Fetterman leading in Oz by about 2 percentage points.

But Gerhardt, the Libertarian candidate, won 3.4 percent, an amount larger than the gap between the two major candidates.

With the race turning into more of a disaster each week, a small number of voters choosing to vote for Gerhardt over another candidate could change the outcome of the race.

Polls show Gerhardt as the leading third-party candidate, but voters will also see Green Party candidate Richard Weiss and Keystone Party candidate Daniel Wassmer on their ballots.

A Suffolk University-USA Today poll late last month found that Weiss and Wassmer received a small number of votes in their sample, less than 1 percent each.

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