Amid the near-daily presidential candidacy announcements this summer was one from another woman – Jill Stein. Stein, the 2012 presidential nominee for the Green Party, launched her 2016 bid for the same party on June 22nd. She is not unopposed in her bid for the Green Party nomination this year, but her name recognition and infrastructure from 2012 positions her as a clear front-runner for the party’s spot on the presidential ballot.
Stein is one of the few third-party female candidates who have qualified for federal matching funds in U.S. presidential campaigns, joined by Ellen McCormack (Right to Life Party, 1976 and 1980), Sonia Johnson (Citizens Party, 1984), and Lenora Fulani (New Alliance Party, 1988 and 1992). In 2012, Stein qualified for federal matching funds for the primary season. Upon earning the Green Party nomination, she selected another woman – Cheri Honkala – as her running mate. The Stein/Honkala ticket never polled above two percent in public polls of the 2012 race. The team won 469,501 votes (0.36% of the popular vote) on Election Day 2012. No third-party women candidate has earned more votes than Stein to date.
What influence might Stein have on the 2016 race? The challenge for any third-party candidate to break through with media and voters is a steep one. This is made even harder in an electoral context where major party candidates now number 17 – with more likely to announce. Moreover, the recent change in Federal Election Commission rules for participating in presidential debates – requiring a candidate to earn at least 15% support in polls – makes an independent candidate’s presence highly unlikely. While there are efforts to change the credentials for entry, candidates like Stein will need to look beyond mainstream outlets and avenues for publicity. At Presidential Gender Watch, we will monitor Stein’s campaign along with the other men and women running, noting the historic significance of having women running for both major parties and one of the largest third parties in the U.S.