Courtesy of her campaign website
Jill Stein (Courtesy of her campaign website)

Supporters of third-party Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein see Bernie Sanders’ failed Democratic campaign as an opportunity for their candidate to pick up new momentum and voters.

Mike DeRosa, Connecticut’s Green Party Chairman, said in a recent interview that “people who are Bernie supporters have been jumping to our campaign in recent days. Our phones have been ringing.”

“Bernie’s positions and Jill positions, especially when it comes to forgiveness on college loan debt, are very similar,” added DeRosa.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll indicates there has never been a better time to be a third-party presidential candidate.

Quinnipiac’s June poll of 1,330 Connecticut voters showed that six percent of voters said they would back Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and that three percent would support Stein.

The third-party candidates still track far behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s 41 percent and the 36 percent who support Republican Donald Trump.  But their showing in the poll is stronger than third-party-candidates in recent presidential races in Connecticut.

That third-party candidates have strong support in Connecticut comes as no surprise to Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

“There is an appetite for a third-party candidate due to the high negatives of the major party candidates,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz pointed out that the poll of Connecticut voters found neither Clinton nor Trump to be well liked by Connecticut voters.

A total of 37 percent of Connecticut voters have a “strongly favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of Clinton, while 55 percent have a “somewhat unfavorable” or “strongly unfavorable” opinion. Trump gets 33 percent “strongly favorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” and 61 percent “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.”

Schwartz called these unfavorability ratings very unusual. “I know nationally that these are historically the least favorably viewed presidential candidates ever,” Schwartz said. “So in Connecticut, I can’t recall in our own polling seeing two more negatively viewed candidates.”

Tim McKee, who lives in Terryville and is a member of the National Committee of the Green Party, said Clinton and Trump “are the most unpopular candidates of all time. This is a golden opportunity for a third-party.”

To be listed on the Connecticut ballot, a candidate must collect 7,500 signatures by Aug. 10.

DeRosa said 110 volunteers are working hard to make sure that Stein makes the Connecticut presidential ballot. Supporters of Johnson’s candidacy say they, too, hope to have the necessary signatures to make Connecticut’s presidential ballot.

“I expect that we will make the ballot,” DeRosa said. But he added that making the presidential ballot in Connecticut is not easy.

“The laws in this state are draconian and very complicated,” he said. “Even though we need 7,500 signatures, I’d estimate we need twice that to ensure we make the ballot — because of all the complicated, unconstitutional laws Connecticut has in place to ensure that the two-party system is protected.”

DeRosa said the petition campaign is limited by the fact that supporters of the Green Party can only gather signatures in “specific locations. We have been subjected to police harassment and other abusive behavior,” he said.

He added that the “very people in charge of validating the petition process are the ones who have a vested interested in ensuring the two-party system is protected at all costs.”

Being a third-party candidate has never been easy.

Third parties have never won a U.S. presidential election. Former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, running on the Bull Moose Party ticket, got 27 percent of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes in 1912. He finished second to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the only time a third-party candidate has finished that well.

Other notable third-party runs include former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who got 13 percent of the popular vote in 1968, winning 45 electoral votes; and billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot, who got 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 but no electoral votes.