It’s been more than a century since a third-party or independent candidate for New Jersey governor got more than 6 percent of the vote, but that hasn’t stopped five of them from hoping to make history this year – or at least, make a point.

Three are the nominees of minor parties: Peter Rohrman of the Libertarian Party, which has 8,309 registered voters; Matthew Riccardi of the Constitution Party, which has 5,939 registered voters; and Seth Kaper-Dale of the Green Party, which has 5,337 registered voters.

Those numbers are all up sharply over the past few years, after the state Motor Vehicle Commission began providing a list of parties to choose from rather than a fill-in-the-blank form for voter registration, though they’re still far behind the 2.12 million Democrats and 1.24 million Republicans.

Two independents are also on the ballot: Gina Genovese and Vincent Ross.

“I truly see that New Jersey needs an independent candidate. I just don’t frankly see how a Republican or a Democrat could change New Jersey,” said Genovese, who said nominees from the major parties would stand up to party bosses and public unions as taxpayers need.

Genovese has worked around New Jersey for eight years to reduce property taxes through a nonprofit group called Courage to Connect NJ. The former Long Hill mayor said those efforts were not being supported by the state, which is why she’s a candidate.

“I feel that I know exactly what to do as governor to accomplish reducing property taxes, instead of just talking about it,” Genovese said. “Unless you have someone in the Statehouse that’s a strong advocate and willing to get into the details and work on this issue that nothing really is going to be accomplished.”

Genovese said voters are generally skeptical when she says property taxes can be lowered. Her goal would be to reduce them by at least 15 percent by 2022, or $4 billion.

“I’ve been battling the apathy and I think that people just don’t believe me,” she said. “But, you know, I’m the real deal, and that’s why I’m running for governor.”

A second former Democrat, Kaper-Dale, is running for governor from the Green Party. He said he vowed never to vote for a Democrat again “when Democratic Party bosses threw Barbara Buono and voters under the bus” in the 2013 governor’s race in which Chris Christie won re-election.

The Highland Park pastor and community organizer then went a step further and became a candidate for governor when establishment Democrats coalesced behind Phil Murphy last year.

“In in the year of Bernie Sanders, to hand-select a Goldman Sachs executive as your so-called progressive is very cynical, and I was offended by that decision,” said Kaper-Dale said, who said Murphy “is a product of everything that makes our economy wrong.”

Kaper-Dale wants to close youth jails, establish at least four new income-tax brackets to raise rates on the wealthy and, most importantly, make New Jersey a demonstration project for single-payer Medicare for all.

“Until a few months ago, it was a popular notion on the left to say that Obamacare was needing to be replaced because it was not the solution for health care for this country,” Kaper-Dale said. “It continues to bless the health insurance industry as a key component, and as long as you do that, you don’t have a system that’s going to be financially reasonable, and it’s not going to provide care for all.”

“We suffer economically because of the for-profit health insurance industry that makes our taxes so high,” he said. “Twenty percent of all of the money we pay as taxpayers into our town budget goes into unregulated private health insurance. We know we could drive that down dramatically, probably to 8 percent of our budget, if we had an excellent single-payer Medicare for all plan.”

Rohrman said the Constitution’s framers were libertarians and that the party’s focus is on freedom – across the spectrum, from gun rights to legal marijuana.

“Most people, when they meet us, they really love us. Not just us but they love the policies. They like the idea of, yes, I can tolerate someone else’s freedoms as long as I get mine,” Rohrman said.

Rohrman would allow school districts to close and instead issue checks to families with kids to pay tuition at the school of their choice. He’d abolish most taxes, instead charging a flat 10 percent and allowing people, not lawmakers, to decide how it’s spent. He calls that “fiscal democracy.”

“You get to decide. It would be a choice program where you get to decide what you want to fund and what you want to defund,” Rohrman said.

Rohrman said it would probably help the pension funds back to health sooner, as public workers and those relying on them would direct their taxes into the retirement funds. People on either side of the abortion debate could also control how their taxes are directed, he said.

“Under my plan, Christians and Catholics will no longer be required to put their money into Planned Parenthood,” Rohrman said. “And the plus side, too, is that people who are on the other side, people who are pro-choice, they can put their money into Planned Parenthood through the government if they want.”

Riccardi did not respond to messages seeking comment. He has positioned himself in social-media posts as a kindred spirit of President Donald Trump and the only conservative candidate in the race.

Ross hasn’t been talking with any media outlets. His campaign slogan is “We the People.”

Not since 1913 has a third-party or independent candidate for governor received more than the 5.8 percent independent Chris Daggett received in 2009.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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