Write-In Candidates Fight the Odds

The Donkey and the Elephant dominate national politics, but occasionally, an Independent, a Green Party Candidate or a Libertarian on the ballot break through.

But the most difficult way to win an election is as a write-in candidate, and the 21 on the ballot in Cook County for the Nov. 6 election face a daunting task.

Write-in candidates are often first-time candidates with little political clout and a lot of inexperience – but sometimes candidates choose the write-in route to increase their chances of victory.

Anthony Williams is a candidate for Illinois 2nd congressional district as a write- in. He has run for office a total of six times, affiliated with different parties.

In 2004 he ran as a Democrat, in 2006 as a Libertarian, and in 2008 as a republican candidate.

“The status-quo party’s loyalty is to their candidate and unless someone has deep pockets it’s very difficult to climb that mountain.” Williams said.

“I used the art of citizenship, “Williams adds. “Whatever party it took to defeat Jackson (incumbent since 1995). I was willing to take that gamble based on constitutionality and citizenship.”

Williams did get 10,564 votes as a Green Party candidate for the 2010. But that was still only 5.65 percent of the votes – a sound defeat but not enough to keep him down in the long run.

“Voters should look at a person’s credentials and their body of work,” said Williams. “I am an unusual write-in candidate because a good number of people already knew me from my work in the community and my previous campaigns.”

Some write-in candidates face an even tougher fight, and they are the first-time candidates with little experience, support, or money to have an impact and get their name and message to the public.

First-time candidate Chris Michel is running for the 11th congressional district seat. He said he miscalculated what it would take to defeat a major party incumbent.

“I couldn’t make it by collecting signatures and getting my name on the ballot. I couldn’t get any support or any assistance doing it – it just wasn’t feasible for me,” he said.

But he didn’t give up his campaign, and was encouraged to stay the course.

“People said I shouldn’t give up and being a write-in candidate was the next logical step.” Michel said.

“I started off with a full head of steam thinking if I could get a few things to line up properly that I’d have a good shot at winning,” Michel said. “But I’m at the point where I thought I would get 10 percent or 10,000 votes, but now I’ll be lucky if I get 100 votes.”

Williams, with several years of campaigning experiences, recognizes his long-shot status, but also embraces 21st century technology to help boost his campaign’s profile.

“You have to work harder in terms of getting your message out,” he said. “But because of social media I’m touching every citizen by the way of Tweeter and
Facebook, email and email commercials.”

“I’m also at the polls everyday – people are clear that they do not need an absentee congressman,” Williams said, referring to Jesse Jackson Jr., who’s been absent from congress for several months.

The challenge of taking on the two major parties, along with the paperwork of getting on a ballot are difficult, and both need to be challenged Michel said.

“The only way to get any headway is to be a Republican or Democrat because the system isn’t designed for anything other than those two parties.”

“It’s along shot,” he adds. “Nobody pays much attention to write-in candidates at all.”