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Meet the 3rd-party presidential candidates on Utah's ballot this year

By Graham Dudley, | Updated - Oct. 22, 2020 at 11:07 a.m. | Posted - Oct. 21, 2020 at 8:53 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — You're probably familiar with Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Maybe you've even heard of Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate for president in this year's election. But as Utah voters have probably noticed by now, their ballots include not two, not three, but nine different candidates for the highest office in the land, plus a write-in option.

So, whether you're looking for a third-party choice to get behind or are just curious, here's a quick primer on the lesser-known candidates vying to be president of the United States. The third-party candidates are listed in alphabetical order, followed by unaffiliated candidates.

Don Blankenship, Constitution Party

The Constitution Party advocates a strict, originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and opposes government programs not specifically listed in it. It's a lot like the Libertarian Party, in some ways, but differs in its opposition to abortion and places more emphasis on states' rights, fighting corruption, and the role of religion in society.

According to his website, Don Blankenship grew up in Kentucky's coal country, graduated from Marshall University and worked for Massey Energy Company from 1982 until 2010, when he retired. His vice-presidential candidate is William Mohr.

In a statement, Blankenship said he is "running for office for one reason: To let people know how dire the American situation is and what things must be done to fix it."

"We cannot survive as a country if we do not change the behavior of our government led by partisan Republicans and Democrats," he wrote.

Howie Hawkins, Green Party

The Green Party website describes members as "grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters and regular citizens who've had enough of corporate-dominated politics." The Green Party believes climate change is the biggest challenge facing the country and world today, and supports what it terms an "Ecosocialist Green New Deal." The party also calls for a reduction in military spending, public financing of elections, and a much higher minimum wage.

Howie Hawkins describes himself as the "original Green New Dealer" and has been involved with the American Green Party since it was first organized in 1984, according to his website. Hawkins is a retired trade unionist, a Teamster, who was the Green Party's candidate for the governor of New York in 2010, 2014 and 2018. His vice-presidential candidate is Angela Walker.

In a statement, the Green Party of Utah said Hawkins is "committed to independent working-class politics for a democratic, socialist, and ecological society."

The state party said Utahns should consider Hawkins because he will defend public lands and fight COVID-19 more directly. "Utah is plagued with pollution due to lax regulations on pollutants from refineries, mines, and development," the state party said. "Our candidates' plan would relieve the bad air quality."

Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party opposes most forms of government intervention in the lives of private citizens and businesses. Or, as the preamble to its platform puts it, Libertarians "seek a world of liberty: a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and are not forced to sacrifice their values for the benefit of others." Practically speaking, Libertarians support an unfettered free market, gun ownership, and lighter law enforcement, including the legalization of recreational drugs and prostitution. They oppose things like occupational licensing, Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service as examples of government overreach.

Jo Jorgensen holds a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology and has long been involved in Libertarian electoral politics. She was the party's vice-presidential nominee in 1996 and ran for Congress in South Carolina in 1992. Professionally, Jorgensen has worked in marketing for IBM and in software sales, and founded a business consulting firm in 2002, according to her website. Her vice-presidential nominee is Jeremy "Spike" Cohen.

Barry Short, chair of the Libertarian Party of Utah, said in a statement that for him, "the most crucial issue is always the economy."

"The truth is that it doesn't matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in control in Washington, the spending just keeps on rolling, totally out of control," Short said. "We need Jo Jorgensen to be a voice for sanity."

He also said Jorgensen would limit the use of America's military, stop subsidizing "corporations that pollute our environment," and end the war on drugs. "I want a country that understands that it is not the purpose of the people to serve the government, it is the purpose of government to serve the people. The only candidate for president who is interested in accomplishing those goals is Jo Jorgensen."

Gloria La Riva

Gloria La Riva is listed as unaffiliated on Utah ballots, but is backed by the Party for Socialism and Liberation. According to her campaign website, La Riva "stands in solidarity with the mass movement of millions in the streets demanding justice and an end to systemic oppression and racism."

"Our campaign platform exists to challenge the narrative of the Democrats and Republicans who aim to divide class unity and undermine the collective power of the people," it says. The PSL is a Marxist party that calls for the "revolutionary overturn" of capitalism and the "socialist transformation" of society. No vice-presidential candidate is listed on Utah ballots, but La Riva's website says the nominee is Sunil Freeman.

Joe McHugh

"A clean, green America is healthy, wealthy and free," says independent presidential candidate Joe McHugh on his website. McHugh wants to replace the Federal Reserve with a "Credit Union of the United States" and end qualified immunity and the war on drugs. McHugh says he is a Marine Corps veteran and has endured a decade of "governmental entrapment, obstruction, and interference on the false pretense that he stole classified information related to 9/11 being an inside job," which has led him to oppose the expansive powers of government surveillance agencies like the CIA.

Brock Pierce

The Brock Pierce campaign targets the two-party system as an "illusion" that protects the power of the "American political establishment." Pierce advocates the legalization of marijuana, establishing a universal basic income, balancing the budget, reforming the criminal justice system and providing health care to all Americans. His vice-presidential candidate is Karla Ballard; the music star Akon is also involved in the campaign.

Pierce was a child actor in movies like "The Mighty Ducks" and later co-founded the cryptocurrency Tether.

Kanye West

Apparently rapper Kanye West has changed his stance on one man having all that power, as he announced on July 4 his candidacy for president despite his well-publicized past support for Trump. West's campaign leans into the star's resurgent Christian faith, advocating for a return of school prayer and a greater public role for faith-based organizations. West's bare-bones campaign website features merchandise, a 10-point platform and testimonials from young Americans who plan to vote for him.

But his ultimate motivations for running, like many things about Ye's career, are not entirely clear. His vice-presidential candidate is Michelle Tidball.

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