Breaking down third-party candidates in the 2016 presidential election

From education reform to potential red flags, a look at Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.


Illustration by Celeste Andrews

Ryan Lynch, Editor in Chief

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have both received some of the lowest approval rankings from voters in election history. For some, that may mean having to pick

between which front-runner they see as the lesser of two evils.

For those looking for an alternative to the pair, there are two candidates on the ballot in all 50 states who may not make you want to pull your hair out.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Jill Stein – Green Party


Jill Stein is a Harvard-educated doctor who has practiced medicine for over 27 years. She previously ran for president in 2012 as a Green Party candidate.

In that election, Stein and vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala received 469,501 votes — or 0.4 percent of the total number of votes.

Her total from the last election stands as the highest ever vote total for a female presidential candidate. She also ran in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race in 2002 and 2006, losing both times to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Quick Hits:

Military spending: decrease military spending by closing all military bases overseas

Abortion: pro-choice

Marijuana: legalize recreational use

Gun control: stricter laws including background checks and psychiatric testing

Economy: small-scale economy, opposes free-trade agreements

Green energy: push for 100 percent green energy usage from the current 13 percent total


Under her presidency, Stein proposes that she would work to make college a right for the average American citizen, saying that she would start a system that promotes free education from preschool to the university level and create a debt-forgiveness program for those who currently owe money on their higher education loans.

Currently, U.S. citizens owe over a trillion dollars worth of student loan debt.

Stein’s plan involves the use of quantitative easing through the Federal Reserve by buying the debt and not collecting on it. The process involves a central bank buying assets from smaller banks to improve the value of those assets — this will then add money into circulation.

Her plan’s legitimacy has been criticized for being less than realistic. Ph.D. candidate in the Harvard Department of Government Tess Wise told New Times Broward Palm Beach that canceling private loans would be difficult to do and that public loans to students would require another challenge.


Stein’s party has a primary focus on investing in social issues through the government, which includes more funding for public schools, free universal child care, anti-poverty measures and a universal Medicare program.

Her platform includes a provision to repeal the Patriot Act — which was enacted after 9/11 to allow more security measures at a national level — because she believes  surveillance is against people’s constitutional rights.

Her tax plan would also put the highest tax burden on the wealthiest Americans, relieving middle and lower-class citizens of higher income taxes.

Creation of jobs:

A major part of Stein’s proposed platform is her Power to the People Plan, which involves the creation of 20 million jobs by 2030.

According to Stein, included in this plan would be a public job commision, much like the U.S. had during the Great Depression, that would find jobs for the unemployed.

As part of her employment plan, Stein also wants to push for a national $15 per hour minimum wage, which is about $7 higher than Florida’s current minimum of $8.05.


The Green Party candidate has previously garnered attention for her responses to questions from anti-vaccination and 9/11 conspiracy theorist groups. Stein first caused controversy after she changed her response to a question on Twitter.

She had originally tweeted on July 31 that there was no evidence of vaccines causing autism, but edited her tweet to be passive, saying she was not aware of any connection. In some voters’ eyes, this was seen as a way to pander to anti-vaxxers.

“I think there’s no question that vaccines have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases — smallpox, polio, etc. So vaccines are an invaluable medication,” Stein said in a July 29 Washington Post interview. “Like any medication, they also should be — what shall we say? — approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. And I think right now, that is the problem.”

She has also received criticism for her skepticism of the events of 9/11, with some going as far as saying she is a conspiracy theorist. As part of her platform, Stein said she wants an independent commission to look into the events surrounding the event.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Gary Johnson – Libertarian Party


Gary Johnson previously held office as the governor of New Mexico, serving two terms from 1995-2003. He later ran for the presidency in 2012, first as a Republican but later dropping from the party’s nomination race to run for the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

Johnson and vice presidential candidate James P. Gray received 1.27 million votes, which represented 1 percent of all votes cast.

Quick Hits:

Military spending: decrease spending by withdrawing America from foreign conflicts

Abortion: pro-choice

Marijuana: legalize recreational use

Gun control: protect Second Amendment freedoms/does not support gun regulations

Economy: free-market capitalist system, continue free-trade agreements

Green energy: supports use of fossil fuels and government-free renewable energy development


Johnson’s plan calls for giving more power to state and local governments to control schools instead of having the federal government set standards for how public schools operate.

He said he would eliminate the federal Department of Education as well as the Common Core curriculum in favor of people being able to choose what type of education they want to pursue. According to Johnson’s platform, competition between schools would serve as a driving force for change and innovation in education.


As a Libertarian, Johnson holds several positions supporting reduced government control in people’s daily lives.

Johnson’s potential presidency would call for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service — the federal government’s main tax-collecting body — and it would also eliminate corporate tax exemptions. According to Johnson, this would give Americans more money to invest into the economy.

Johnson said he believes in a free-market economy with free trade, which plays into his plan to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act passed by President Barack Obama’s administration.

His proposed system would instead allow Americans to purchase which privatized plan they want. Although, many U.S. citizens may not be able to afford a health care package as private insurance companies have more expensive rates.

Creation of jobs:

To create jobs, Johnson said he would use his reduced tax plan to take out any taxation he believes hinders businesses from being able to hire more workers.

According to his website, Johnson does not believe that governments are able to create jobs. Instead, he maintains that a loosening of taxes and policies regulating businesses would create a better environment for workers.

To replace revenue from taxes on income, Johnson’s presidency would install a 28-percent national sales tax on consumption.


When it came to foreign policy, many voters first got to know Johnson after a verbal slip on the MSNBC show, “Morning Joe,” on Sept. 7.

The Libertarian candidate was asked about Aleppo, Syria, a place where anti-government rebels currently hold a portion of the city as part of an ongoing civil war. Johnson openly admitted to not knowing what the city was, causing the commentators on the show to question his qualifications.

Johnson was also criticized by the public for not being able to name a single politician from outside the U.S. that he currently admired during another appearance with MSNBC on Sept. 27.

The Real Clear Politics polling index — which combines the results of several polls — listed Johnson polling at an average of 9 percent in the polls on Sept. 8. After the Aleppo remarks, Johnson fell to as low as a 5.8 percent average on Oct. 24.

Ryan Lynch is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @RyanLynchwriter.