Florida’s third party candidates face long odds

Profiles of third-party and indepdendent candidates for governor, attorney general and Congress

You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody on the ballot this season with more passion and frustration about the current state of affairs in politics than Al Krulick. Krulick is running what many would consider a quixotic campaign – he’s running against Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, an established Congressman who’s held his office for more than a decade. As if that weren’t daunting enough, Krulick is doing it with no money and no party backing him.

“I raised just enough to get on the ballot,” he says. “I have no office, no staff, no money, but I’m out here all the time, talking to people, holding my sign in traffic, and I enjoy the hell out of it. This is not the campaign I would have preferred, but it’s the campaign I have. Can I win? Probably not.”

But that’s not always the point for third-party candidates – those who put their names, money and reputations on the line to get their names and issues on the ballot. For some it’s a legitimate attempt to get elected, despite the fact that most third-party candidates only receive a fraction of the vote, but for most, including Farid Khavari, a Miami businessman who’s running as an independent in the gubernatorial race, it’s more about sharing his ideas for improving the lives of Floridians.

“I’m spreading the seeds everywhere, planting the seeds and they will grow,” Khavari says. “And that is what I’m doing. If I’m elected, so much better, because I can do it and train people and get the right people in place and do it fast. If not, at least I have planted seeds.”

Following are some of the candidates who are trying to plant the seeds in Florida’s 2014 races.

For continued elections coverage, see our Oct. 22 and 29 issues.

Click on each candidate's name to visit his website. 


Glenn Burkett

Party: No party affiliation
Opponents: Rick Scott, Republican (incumbent); Charlie Crist, Democrat; Adrian Wyllie, Libertarian; Farid Khavari, no party affiliation

Glenn Burkett is a natural-health “innovator and educator” who runs Glenn Burkett Wellness and Fitness in Fort Meyers and Naples.

He has never held public office, though he has run before. In 2005, he ran for governor as a Republican, and in 2012, he challenged U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the Democratic primary.

At the moment, Burkett has no web presence for his campaign – his website, glennburkett.com, redirects to his business site, gb1com.com – and he doesn’t appear to be doing much active campaigning. – Erin Sullivan

Farid Khavari


Farid Khavari (continued)

Party: No party affiliation

Opponents: Rick Scott, Republican (incumbent); Charlie Crist, Democrat; Adrian Wyllie, Libertarian; Glenn Burkett, no party affiliation

Perhaps the candidate with the most intriguing backstory in this year’s election is Farid Khavari, an Iranian-American who has lived in the United States since 1977. When asked about his motivation to run for office, he tells the story of his father, who was executed in Iran in 1980.

“My father was executed after the revolution,” Khavari says. “We are not Muslim, and they asked my father to denounce his religion. He would not do it, so they executed him. Then they went to my mother, and charged her for the bullet. They told her that if she would renounce her religion, she could keep her house. She would not. She walked out.”

Like his parents, Khavari refuses to accept ultimatums, and he’s minces no words when it comes to expressing his opinions on issues that matter to voters.

On women’s rights? “I am especially disgusted when gray old men try to make laws to control women,” he states on his website.

On marriage equality? “I believe that a person has the right to love whom they wish. I believe that people have the right to marry whom they wish. I believe that discrimination against any person or group is wrong, and completely against most sacred traditions of America.”

On medical marijuana? He supports it, and he thinks Amendment 2 is just the beginning.

But it’s really on the economy and the environment that Khavari has much more to say: “I know I can fix the economy,” he says. “It is the easiest thing in the world to do, if you know how to do it. And I know I can do it. And that is the reason I am running. I know I can fix the economy and put an end to people’s suffering.”

Khavari believes we need to stop thinking in terms of “supply side” economics and deficit spending and think in terms of demand. He suggests that Florida focus on industries, such as solar power, where the state could become a leader in job creation and manufacturing. He also talks about creating products that help “hurricane-proof” houses, and other energy-saving endeavors that would help save people money, improve the environment and create what he calls “SuperJobs” – jobs that pay more than minimum wage.

If Khavari is so sure his plan could improve the economy and the lives of the state’s residents, why doesn’t he join a party and try to work from within the system to make improvements? Because, like his father and his mother, he refuses to compromise.

“With certain things, I do not agree,” he says. “The party dogmas – you have to be this way and that way and so on. And they think they have to tax people. I do not like taxes. We have to create jobs, middle class jobs in the private sector, to put people in a position where they can have good lives on their own.”

He says he knows his candidacy is a long shot, but he thinks of it as a beginning: “Every reform starts with the first step,” he says. “If I say and you say, ‘Oh, this is a big problem, we are never going to get anywhere,’ then we never will.” – ES

Adrian Wyllie

Party: Libertarian
Opponents: Rick Scott, Republican (incumbent); Charlie Crist, Democrat; Farid Khavari, no party affiliation; Glenn Burkett, no party affiliation

Of all of the third-party candidates running for governor this year, Wyllie is the one who’s receiving the most attention – and that is primarily because he recently sued to be allowed to be part of the gubernatorial debates that thus far have only been open to Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. (On Tuesday, Oct. 14, a federal judge rejected Wyllie's suit requesting inclusion in the debate.)

His campaign thinks that is ludicrous.

“We have been building momentum through grass roots for the past year and a half,” says campaign manager Danielle Alexandre. “Being a third-party candidate, the media is always skeptical.”

Until you reach a certain polling percentage, she says, the media (and debate organizers) tend to ignore third-party candidates; but you can’t gain in the polls – or even make the polls – without attention being lavished on you by the media.

“It’s an uphill battle, and it’s a Catch-22,” she says, but Wyllie finally got a small break when a pollster from Quinnipiac finally agreed to include him in a recent poll.

“And he ended up polling at 9 percent, and everything snowballed from there," Alexandre says.

Wyllie still has to fight for inclusion, though – the major parties are generally invested in keeping third-party candidates out of the race because they tend to split the vote. Undecided voters, or voters who have qualms about their party’s anointed candidate, may gravitate toward a Libertarian or independent because they like the message they’re hearing – so, particularly in close races, third-party candidates can be seen as unwelcome competition, if not an actual threat in a contentious race.

Wyllie, who was born and raised in Dunedin, says he has a seven-point economic plan for the state, which includes dramatically cutting the state budget, reducing regulation on various industries and keeping the federal government out of Florida’s economy. He is strong on gun rights, is in favor of choice in education, and would eliminate state marriage-licensing laws and leave it up to individuals and churches to determine how to handle the concept of marriage. As for social services, Alexandre says Wyllie believes in freeing up charities to be able to do more to get involved to help out in the community.

Finally, she says, the most important thing the Wyllie campaign wants people to know: “Nobody owns your vote.”

“We’ve been voting out of fear for many years now,” she says, “and we’ve been getting the same government every time. We have the current Republican governor against the former Republican governor, and people aren’t happy with the jobs either of them has done. But in this race, you do have a third option.” – ES


Attorney General


Bill Wohlsifer

Party: Libertarian
Opponents: George Sheldon, Democrat; Pam Bondi, Republican (incumbent)

Prior to the Oct. 6 televised attorney general debate between current Attorney General Pam Bondi, former assistant Attorney General George Sheldon and Libertarian outlier Bill Wohlsifer, there wasn’t much information about this race’s third-party option. In fact, it’s been confirmed by someone close to one of those major party campaigns that Bondi would not participate in a debate with Sheldon unless Wohlsifer were there to help split the vote, or at least the impressions, with Sheldon’s liberal positions.

Wohlsifer’s performance, while at times refreshingly honest in that regular-guy way, wasn’t as impressive as Bondi might have hoped. A down-the-line Libertarian, Wohlsifer seemed out of touch with most of the softball thematic lines drawn by the moderators – pill mills, marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act. He, as third-party candidates often do, played the armchair quarterback without offering much in the way of ideas about how the office of attorney general could be better used. (Wohlsifer’s campaign did not return calls for this story.)

But there is a lot to like about Wohlsifer, at least according to the positions listed on his website. He’s into water sovereignty – via a campaign called Hemp4Water – because, he says, industrial hemp would make for cleaner water. (He is also a supporter of medical marijuana, of course.) He’s anti-fracking, pretty strong on rights restoration, typically Libertarian-likable on LGBT rights and likes to throw the term “civil liberties” around when speaking about police.

Things get a little hazier on gun rights (he thinks the open-carry laws in the state are too strict), labor
unions (he’s a “strong advocate for arbitration and mediation efforts,” so, not so much for unions) and abortion (no mention of it on his site). But he also, like most Libertarians, is taking a stand against
Common Core in public education. Wohlsifer’s big television moment might have raised his stakes in public recognition, but whether he is a “viable candidate,” as he stated in the debate, remains to be seen. – Billy Manes




U.S. House of Representatives, District 7

Al Krulick

Party: No party affiliation
Opponents: U.S. Rep. John Mica, Republican (incumbent); Wesley Neuman, Democrat (has ceased campaigning but remains on the ballot)

This race is a bit unique, in that Wes Neuman, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, has abruptly ceased campaigning. That leaves Krulick (who is a former freelancer for Orlando Weekly) as the only other active candidate in this race, even though Neuman’s name will remain on the ballot.

“He did the wrong thing by walking away,” Krulick says. “He didn’t tell his party, he didn’t tell his supporters, he didn’t tell anybody. … The Sentinel got in touch with him and confirmed that he was out of the race. I wish that he had the courage and the right thinking to take his name off the ballot.”

But he didn’t, which frustrates Krulick because it means that many voters will vote for Neuman simpley because he has a D after his mame. And Krulick, who’s running independently but who is a registered Democrat who has volunteered time with the party, could have had some standing in this race if it weren’t for Neuman. He tried to get the party to disavow Neuman, but that didn’t work. So now Krulick is just out in the community, talking to people and hoping that he’s motivating some of them to cast their vote for change, rather than for the initial after a person’s name.

Krulick says he thinks that the greatest threat to the United States (and Florida) right now is global warming. “Mica is a climate-change denier,” he says. “He’s a lackey for the fossil-fuels industry.”

Krulick has also long been an advocate for ending the war on drugs and for public financing for elections. “We have to get the money out of politics,” he insists. “We’ve ceded our ideals to the wealthy, and we need to raise the minimum wage and move to the next level of universal healthcare. We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have it, and we spend the most per capita on healthcare, yet we are 17th in terms of services received.”

If Krulick’s message seems familiar, well, that’s because it is: He’s discussing the same frustrations that many in the progressive faction of the Democratic party have been expressing for well over a decade. And yet, in this race against Mica, there is no active Democrat on the ballot.

“Here’s my fantasy,” Krulick says, when asked how, if he were elected, he’d manage to get things done as a party outsider in a Washington dominated by insiders. “On Nov. 5, after the votes are counted, there are 217 Democrats, 217 Republicans and me. That makes me the most powerful man in America for just one day.

If I get there, I will be a loud voice. Will whatever caucus I work with give me a big office? No, they’ll probably give me a tiny office and banish me to some pointless committee. But there’s still C-Span. There’s still the bully pulpit. If there’s room for the likes of Michele Bachmann to get up there and speak nonsense, then there’s room there for Al Krulick to speak truth to power.” – ES

U.S. House of Representatives, District 9

Marko Milakovich

Party: No party affiliation
Opponents: Alan Grayson, Democrat (incumbent); Carol Platt, Republican; Leon Ray (write-in)

“I’ve never run for office before, and I don’t have plans to do so again,” says Marko Milakovich, independent – extremely independent – hopeful for the District 9 seat currently held by outspoken Congressman Alan Grayson. “It’s very frustrating because I am discriminated against by so many people and so many organizations because I’m independent.”

With a self-described campaign staff of “myself, my wife, my two sons and a homeless person,” Milakovich will have a hard time standing up to Grayson’s notorious national “money bombs,” but that’s not keeping him from trying. On his website, Milakovich leads with a drawing of Alexander the Great, though he allows that his positions on issues are malleable given the presence of more information.

“I know that very few people will agree with all of my positions and values on the full range of topics,” he writes. “But I am honest and believe it is important that you know my thinking. My viewpoints are developed based on my life-experiences and my knowledge-base on each topic. As I continue to experience more and acquire more information on each topic, my position on each topic may be modified and become more focused.”

For instance, he says, he doesn’t know enough about the “bullet train” to comment on it, even though he says he’s an engineer. “I’m going to have to go out and do some hard research,” he says.

“I’m very conservative,” he adds, meaning that his positions on most issues – including marriage equality – aren’t exactly nuanced: “I am against same sex couples fighting to hijack that word. I believe that a ‘civil union’ between same-sex couples can provide all the same rights, privileges and obligations of a traditional ‘married’ couple. Why must same-sex couples be so divisive in wanting to use that word?”

As a military veteran, he thinks that denial of gun rights to those with PTSD is discriminatory. Likewise, he thinks fracking is a good thing, the Affordable Care Act is a bad thing, increasing the minimum wage is dangerous and immigration reform means closing the borders completely.

Asked to comment on his incumbent (and very liberal) competitor’s handling of the position, he won’t answer. “I’m not a politician,” he says. “I will not badmouth or discuss any other candidate, period. I’m my own person. I don’t like labels.” – BM

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