Kentucky independents and third party advocates are reflecting on the death of perennial candidate Gatewood Galbraith, who brought attention to candidates outside the two main political parties. Since the early 1980s, Galbraith has been seeking public office and has run for governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner. He ran several times as a Democrat, but his most successful bid came in 1999. That year, Galbraith ran as a member of the Reform Party and garnered 15 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race.
Michael Lewis is chairman of Independent Kentucky, a non-partisan group that supports legislation to allow independents to vote in primary elections. He says Galbraith helped citizens who weren’t interested in either party get involved in the political process.
“When you talk about winning and losing, in the grand scheme of things Gatewood won every race because he was able to shake that race. But he also brought in a lot of people into politics, people who were tired and fed up with politics. And I think people recognize there’s a need for that and I think someone will definitely pick up his torch and carry it,” he says.
Lewis says his group is pushing for another bill to open Kentucky primaries for independent voters. The measure passed the state Senate last year, but died in the House.
Few railed against Democrats and Republicans better than Galbraith, who blamed partisanship for Kentucky’s perennial problems. And many who were fed up with the two-party system see him as a forefather of their movement.
Libertarian Ken Moellman ran for state treasurer and garnered five percent of the vote last November. He says no one will succeed Galbraith, but more independents and third party candidates are willing to run as a result of Galbraith’s notable campaigns.
“There are now more third parties operating in the state of Kentucky than there have been for quite some time. We’re not up to four operating third parties in the state and also the group there out of Louisville—Independent Kentucky—basically five different groups. We’re going to see more, not less, with Gatewood’s passing,” he says.
The General Assembly has only one independent member in the state Senate who caucuses with the GOP. No third parties hold statewide office.