Jill Stein and friends fight the good fight

Quick: Who is the only presidential candidate to be arrested this year?

Answer:  Lexington’s Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, was arrested at the Hofstra University town hall presidential debate last week for disorderly conduct during a protest over her exclusion from the forum featuring Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Stein and the three other third-party candidates, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, finally took matters into their own hands Tuesday night during the “fourth” presidential debate – the one between the candidates who were kept out of the big kids’ talkfest by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Unless a third-party candidate is polling at least 15 percent in national polls, the commission does not allow that person to participate in the debates with the Democratic and Republican candidates. But some groups took Johnson very seriously. Three sponsors pulled out of the sanctioned debates when the former governor of New Mexico was not allowed to participate.

Moderated by former CNN talk show host Larry King, the third-party forum, sponsored by the Free and Equal Election Foundation, was live-streamed and aired on C-SPAN.  Not surprisingly, all the candidates strongly criticized the two-party system. A few provocative proposals were put on the table. Johnson favors legalizing marijuana; Goode would suspend green cards for immigrants until unemployment falls below 5 percent; Stein would make public college education free.

Stein ran for governor against Mitt Romney in 2002 and against Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010. But  aside from a few complimentary profiles, all asking different versions of the “why are you wasting your time?” question, Stein has not received much attention at home in the Bay State or elsewhere.

Yet where Romney is concerned, she’s been quite perceptive. “He will basically respond to his electorate,” she told The Washington Post.  “As governor, it’s hard to find differences between him and Deval Patrick…Having lived under Mitt Romney for four years, I’m not quaking in my boots any more than I am at the prospect of Barack Obama’s re-election.”

Third-party candidates should not be ignored. There are plenty of people who still blame Ralph Nader, who ran on the Green Party ticket in 2000, for Al Gore’s defeat.  Johnson and Stein appear on the ballot in more than 40 states, but Johnson is the most likely to have a spoiler effect on this year’s election.

A Suffolk University/News 7 poll found that, in New Hampshire, Johnson was helping President Obama by taking away votes from Mitt Romney. In Nevada, Johnson could take votes away from Obama and boost Romney. (At any rate, he has the crowd-surfing vote locked up.)

Johnson put it this way during last night’s debate: “Wasting your vote is voting for somebody that you don’t believe in, that’s wasting your vote. I’m asking everybody here, I’m asking everybody watching this…to waste your vote on me.”

A September Gallup poll found that 1 percent of those surveyed planned to vote for Johnson, Stein, or Goode. The same poll also found the country conflicted about third-party candidates: 46 percent of Americans felt the country needed a third party, while 45 percent thought the Democrats and Republicans were doing an “adequate job.”

A third-party candidate would need a Herculean effort and then some to get any serious traction in a presidential race which, after all, is all about Electoral College math.

The best showing by a third-party candidate was Ross Perot’s in 1992; he hauled in 19 percent of the popular vote. But, as the Daily Beast noted, he got a “perfect zero in the Electoral College.” The only third-party candidate ever to make any showing in the Electoral College was the segregationist George Wallace running on the American Independent Party ticket in 1968. He won five states and racked up 46 electoral votes.

Absent a major election reform that does away with the Electoral College, third-party candidates will languish in obscurity for the foreseeable future.  Unless one emerges as a spoiler.

                                                                                        –GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

State officials move to revoke the license of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham following the national meningitis outbreak tied to its drugs, WBUR reports. Gov. Deval Patrick says state inspectors will begin making annual, unannounced visits to compounding pharmacies.

The Lowell City Council tells town officials to ask the state for $2 to $3 million to deal with inmates released as part of the Annie Dookhan scandal, the Sun reports.

The Salem News, in separate editorials, urges no votes on Question 1 and Question 2.

A Suffolk County judge rules that Revere can’t force employees to work on Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day unless the state picks up the tab for their overtime. Howie Carr likens the episode to a horror movie: The Hack Holidays that Wouldn’t Die.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The city attorney in Lawrence rules two Licensing Board members are ineligible to serve, leaving the ex-wife of Mayor William Lantigua as the only remaining member, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Lynn officials say they need $1 million to prevent Classical High School from sinking, the Item reports.

Porkchop the pig is in custody while Brockton health officials try to boot the swine out of the city claiming its owner can’t keep the peripatetic porker under control.

Foxborough activists want the Kraft Group’s no-casino pledge in writing.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Jeb Bush co-authors a Wall Street Journal op-ed column attacking the Castros on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

ELECTION 2012

A new WBUR poll finds Elizabeth Warren leading US Sen. Scott Brown by a 48-43 margin, a turnaround from a poll earlier this month. The Globe gives front-page exposure to Brown’s modeling days, which also included frontal exposure. The paper also looks at his campaign’s last-minute bid for votes in black neighborhoods, but suggests it’s not likely to yield much. The Herald endorses Brown for Senate, arguing that Brown “has kept the promises he made during that special election campaign,” and that there “is every reason to believe Brown will continue to be a voice of fiscal sanity and of bipartisanship” in the Senate.

This is for entertainment purposes only: The European betting company Paddy Power issued its top 10 bets on The Donald’s promised “game changing” announcement today, including 250 to 1 odds that the 21st century carnival barker will accuse President Obama of being an alien, as opposed to an immigrant. Paddy Power also makes Obama an odds-on favorite for reelection, setting the odds at 2 to 5, while the chances of Mitt Romney winning are 15 to 8.

Ben Stein was very discouraged by Romney’s third debate performance. The Weekly Standard pulls apart the Tampa Bay Times endorsement of Obama, focusing on the fact the paper is the parent of the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking site, PolitiFact. Both candidates pour their energies into a handful of battleground states. Those states are also seeing the nastiest bits a nasty campaign has to offer. The Atlantic argues that Obama’s new second-term plan isn’t new, and says it’s barely even a plan.

With the presidential race looking like a cliffhanger, the Globe’s Glen Johnson looks at the possibility that the electoral college winner might lose the popular vote, a constitutional quirk that worked out quite nicely for George W. Bush.

Patrice Tierney, the wife of US Rep. John Tierney, was injured in a car accident, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Gloucester officials endorse the congressman, the Gloucester Times reports.

EDUCATION

WBUR’s On Point looks at iPads in the classroom. CommonWealth wrote about their use at BC High School this summer.

HEALTH CARE

Governing examines Massachusetts programs to rein in the cost of treating the state’s heaviest health care users, called dual eligibles.

New Bedford public housing will be completely smoke-free within the next year.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Globe’s Erin Ailworth  traces Waltham battery maker A123’s fast climb — and hard fall.

Despite several setbacks, Freetown officials are determined to put a solar array at the town’s former landfill.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A former Plymouth police sergeant pleaded not guilty in federal court yesterday to civil rights violations when he allegedly assaulted a handcuffed prisoner in a station cell then tried to cover it up.

MEDIA

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan questions whether the newspaper’s incoming chief executive, Mark Thompson, is the right person for the job, given his role at the BBC and the revelations that a popular entertainer there sexually abused hundreds of women and girls over the course of six decades. “How likely is it that he knew nothing?” Sullivan asks.