Angela Green got caught up in the spirit of the midterms. Green is a former accountant who lives in Chandler, Arizona, and runs a company “focused on organic products and hemp clothing,” and, like so many other Americans, she decided that this was her year to run for office. Over the summer, she got into the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, the onetime Republican rising star whose nose-pinching response to the ascendancy of Donald Trump left him with few political allies in Washington and eroded his support back home. Green initially wanted to run as a Democrat, but the primary field was dominated by Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, a seasoned politician from the Phoenix suburbs. In July, to keep her hopes alive, Green changed tack and decided to shoot for the Green Party’s nomination instead. Through a little organizing and a little luck, she got enough write-in votes during the primary, in late August, to qualify for the general-election ballot on the Green Party line. Her campaign platform included support for increased education funding, net neutrality, housing equality, and tax breaks for organic farming.
Sinema won the Democratic nomination, and in the general election she ran a tight race against the Republican nominee, Congresswoman Martha McSally. It was so close, and the stakes were so high, given how few seats separate the majority party from the minority in the Senate, that Green started to have second thoughts about her place in the race. A few days before the election, she put up a statement on her Web site, saying that she was dropping out and endorsing Sinema. “Although not perfect, she is better than the alternative,” Green wrote. Things then got more complicated, when the Arizona Green Party issued its own statement, disowning Green’s. “The AZGP does not endorse the candidates of the corporate ruling class,” the statement said. “Green was not endorsed by the AZGP and was running as an individual on the Green Party ballot line because state law allows her to do so without our permission.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Arizona was still counting votes, with potentially hundreds of thousands still not tallied. The Sinema-McSally race looks to be as close as the polls had predicted, and the preliminary numbers place McSally ahead by a single percentage point. Green, meanwhile, despite her last-minute bailout, still garnered thirty-eight thousand votes, which added up to 2.2 per cent of the total. On Wednesday evening, Green spoke by phone about her campaign and her thoughts on being called a “spoiler.” “I am a human, just like anyone else,” she said. She dismissed the idea that her presence had changed the outcome of the race. But she did say that the situation had opened her eyes to the merits of rank-choice voting, where voters might be able to support third-party candidates without giving up their voice in close major-parties contests. This account has been edited for clarity and condensed.
“The reason I ran for the U.S. Senate is because I wanted Arizonans to see another choice. During the primaries, I saw that Jeff Flake was retiring, and I said, ‘O.K., cool. Seat’s open.’ I got into the Democratic primary against Deedra Abboud and Sinema and everyone. It was my first race, and everyone was, like, ‘You’re jumping into the ocean without a life jacket.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m good with this, I want to get on the ballot to show everyone that we’ve got a new thing going.’ But there was no way I was going to be able to—based on timelines—get my name out there as fast as I needed to as a Democrat. So I went to the Green Party, talked to them, explained to them what I wanted to do. And I got on the ballot as the Green Party candidate.
“Running as a candidate, one thing people just don’t get is, we are sticking our necks out. Literally. I mean literally. I feel like, when I went for the debates, they were looking at me like, ‘Who are you? Oh, you’re Angela?’ Like, wait. I am doing this for the people of Arizona. I’m not doing this for me. If I was—why would I do this? If I could pick anything in the whole wide world to stick my neck out for, it wouldn’t be this. So that everyone could come and chop it off? You know what I mean? I was doing this, literally my basis for doing this was for the Arizona people, to have choices.
“One of my friends and advisors was, like, ‘Angie, you’ve got to promote ranked-choice voting.’ And I didn’t do that in the beginning, because I thought, ‘No, I’m in it to win it. I’m going to win it.’ I always stated, throughout my whole campaign, ‘Please vote for the person that best represents you.’ Check out all of your options. I’m hoping that this is going to be an eye-opener. For the Green Party. For the red and blue parties. I hope that this opens their eyes to everything, and people will see, like, maybe we need to look into something new.
“I did talk to some people from the Green Party prior to making my decision to drop out. And they did tell me, ‘Please don’t do that, Angie. If you’re going to drop out of the race, then don’t endorse either one.’ They did ask me that. But, to be neutral, in Arizona, it was like—no. This is not the time to be neutral, unfortunately. That’s part of the decision. But, at the same time, that’s why I’m trying to get my voice out there as much as I possibly can. Because this is not just for me. This is for the people that supported me, who are saying, ‘Hey, why can’t a third party do something? Why can’t my vote matter?’ This is why a lot of people don’t vote. Because of this stuff right here.
“Of the thirty thousand, forty thousand votes that I got, what I have to say is this: I hope this wakes up everyone to understand why ranked-choice voting is so important. Because here’s the thing—if I dropped out of the race, and we had ranked-choice voting, then we really would know if I was the swing vote. True? Because, you’ve got to think, forty-thousand people that voted for me had to have gone through and said, ‘I don’t like McSally, and I don’t like Sinema.’ I have had e-mails and calls on both sides. Like, a Republican saying, ‘I would never have voted for McSally. That’s why I voted for you.’ I have people who said, ‘I would have never voted for Sinema, Angie, why would you endorse her?’
“I don’t like being called the quote-unquote spoiler. Because the bottom line is that people are intelligent. When people say I’m the spoiler, I’m the swing vote—you’re really going to say that? That one person can dictate an election like this? Well, then I guess you better change the voting system. Because it’s broken. The two-party system, because a third-party candidate like me, who feels they could have beat Sinema, could have beat McSally, with the right funding? On top of the fact that I ran with less than a thousand dollars versus their fifty million plus? C’mon. Democrats couldn’t pull it out? That’s not my fault.”