The 'other' presidential debate: Third-party candidates make their cases (+video)

Excluded from the mainstream presidential debates, four candidates representing third parties face off Oct. 23 in a debate, moderated by former CNN talk-show host Larry King. The forum, described by sponsors as the Free and Equal Debate, will be broadcast live by C-SPAN and livestreamed over the Internet, starting at 9 p.m. EDT.

Those taking part – Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson – typically are left out of mainstream media analysis. None is polling in sizable numbers – as the Reform Party's Ross Perot did in 1992, when he won almost 19 percent of the vote.

But as Al Gore can attest, it doesn't take all that much to count in a close race. Ralph Nader siphoned off 1.6 percent of Florida's vote in 2000, a good chunk of which would likely have otherwise gone to Mr. Gore, and the rest, as they say, is history. Here are the four third-party candidates – and their issues – that you can expect to see vetted in their lone debate in Campaign 2012.

1. Rocky Anderson (Justice Party)

Ross “Rocky” Anderson wants get the US back on its “constitutional moorings” – no more engaging in what he sees as illegal wars or violating due-process rights.

The best way to accomplish this is by removing corporate influence in politics, Mr. Anderson told The Nation. He would seek a constitutional amendment to limit such campaign contributions, in effect overriding the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010. His campaign accepts donations only up to $100.

"The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper. It is gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party," wrote Anderson to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, denouncing his affiliation with the party.

He co-founded the Justice Party – with its “economic, environmental, and social justice for all” motto – in December and announced his presidential candidacy in January.

If elected president, Anderson would focus on issues he advocated as a two-term mayor of Salt Lake City: climate protection, immigration reform, ending the war on drugs, and repairing infrastructure. He also supports gay marriage and a single-payer national health-care system.

Anderson was a lawyer in Salt Lake City for 21 years, representing clients in civil litigation on issues ranging from product liability to civil rights violations. He ran as the Democratic candidate for Utah’s Second Congressional District in 1996, but lost because of his support of same-sex marriage.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader endorsed Anderson in April, touting his progressive mayoral record, his work as a constitutional and civil rights lawyer, and for being a “candidate of conscience.” (Mr. Nader's decision to run for president in 2000 as the Green Party candidate is still viewed by many Democrats as contributing to the defeat of Vice President Al Gore in an election ultimately settled by the US Supreme Court.)

Anderson will face challenges at the polls on Election Day: He is on the ballot in only 15 states, and write-in votes will be counted in 20 states. In 11 states, no votes for Anderson will be counted, and he is still trying to register for write-in votes in four remaining states.

Allison Terry, contributor

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