History is against Jim Bennett’s candidacy in November’s special congressional election

Just how well can we expect United Utah Party candidate Jim Bennett to perform in November’s special congressional election?

Historically, third-party candidates haven’t done particularly well in Utah congressional elections according to an analysis by Smart Politics. There have been 167 third party and independent candidates to run for U.S. House in Utah since statehood, but only 19 of them have garnered more than 5% of the vote. 10 of those have scored above 10%.

In 1896, Populist Andrew Bowen got 35.9% against Democrat William King, which is the best showing by a third party or independent candidate. 

Merrill Cook had the best result by a minor party or independent candidate in an election with two major party nominees in 1994 when he got 18.1% in a third-place finish behind Republican Enid Greene Waldholtz. Cook is the only candidate to get above 10% with both a Republican and Democrat in the race in the past 80 years.

Hank Huish scored 23.1% in 1982, but Republican Howard Neilsen was the major party candidate in the race. Same thing for Independent American candidate Will Christensen who got 15.8% against Chris Cannon in 1998. There was no Democrat in that race either.

The other six performances with third party candidates winning 10+ percent are:

  • 1906 (at-large): American nominee Orlando Powers (13.6 percent)
  • 1908 (at-large): American nominee L.R. Martineau (12.1 percent)
  • 1910 (at-large): American nominee Ferdinand Erickson (13.7 percent)
  • 1912 (at-large): Progressive S.H. Love (10.1 percent)
  • 1930 (2nd CD): Liberty nominee George Lawrence (13.0 percent)
  • 1930, special (2nd CD): Liberty nominee George Lawrence (13.2 percent)