Usually third-party candidates in Colorado don’t do much besides whine that nobody is paying attention to them. Most of the time these candidates — from the Green, Libertarian or Reform parties, primarily — put their names on the ballot just for the sake of it and don’t raise any money or try to do much else.

But every now and then a third-party candidate sticks his head into a race with enough gusto to change the election (remember Ralph Nader in the 2000 Presidential election), which is exactly what is happening in the fourth congressional district. Republican Marilyn Musgrave is once again facing a still challenge for her seat, this time from Democrat Angie Paccione. A recent poll from Survey USA shows Paccione trailing Musgrave by just four points, thanks in part to a strong showing from Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness, who is picking up a surprising eight percent in this new poll.

Normally a third-party candidate runs at 1-4 percent of the vote, picking up straggling votes from his or her own party and from people who don’t want to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican. But Eidsness is no regular third-party candidate. Eidsness is a former Republican who once considered challenging Musgrave in a primary, and he’s actually raised a few thousand dollars for his campaign. Eidsness has no chance of winning this seat, but if he can siphon enough votes from Musgrave he could give Paccione the edge she needs to scoot ahead.

Reform party candidates usually take votes from Republicans — just as Green party candidates would take votes from Democrats — because the Reform party more closely resembles the Republican party. If Eidsness can crack 10 percent of the vote, he could singlehandedly switch CD4 from Republican to Democratic hands.