Think there are a lot of candidates in this presidential primary season? Well, there are, but get a load of the fascinating group of people running in 1980.
- The election of 1980 is best remembered as a landslide that installed Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, displacing Jimmy Carter. But it was actually a three-way race, one of the few modern-day elections in which three tickets ran a candidate. (Most recent comparison: the Bush-Clinton-Perot election of 1992.) Moderate Republican John Anderson lost in the primaries to the more conservative Reagan, but then opted to run in the general election as an independent. However, Anderson primarily leached support away from moderates who had voted for Carter in 1976. Anderson (and running mate Patrick Lacey, a Democratic former governor of Wisconsin) ultimately finished with a sizable 6.6 percent of the popular vote.
- The Koch Brothers are well known in political circles for spending billions to support candidates at all political levels. In 1980, one of the Kochs, David Kochs, was a little more hands-on and ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket with Ed Clark. They received 920,000 votes, just over 1 percent of the national total, the best showing ever to date for a Libertarian ticket. In Alaska, Clark and Koch finished in third place, behind Reagan and Carter but ahead of Anderson. Had Koch won, he would’ve been 41 years old at inauguration, the third-youngest vice president in American history.
- The Socialist Party’s ticket consisted of David McReynolds and Diane Drufenbrock. With this election, McReynolds became the first openly gay man to run for the highest office in the country. And Drufenbrock was a nun, the first nun to run for national office in the U.S.
- There was even a joke candidate or two, notably Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. He ran a mock campaign in 1979 as a write-in candidate, promising to make gas free and his solo hit “Life’s Been Good” the national anthem. (He didn’t get very many votes.