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Meet the New Girl, the Intellect, the Advocate, the Guardian and the Whistleblower -- otherwise known as the Independence Party's candidates for statewide office this year.

Minnesota's longtime alternative to the DFL and GOP, the IP still enjoys major-party status in the state -- at least for now. This year's candidates, led by gubernatorial candidate Hannah Nicollet, on Thursday debuted a television ad that mimics a movie preview as it introduces them as a series of characters.

IP Chairman Mark Jenkins said the ad buy is only $7,000, meaning it won't be widely seen.

Nicollet, a 40-year-old former software developer from Roseville, took on the "New Girl" identity because of a physical resemblance to actress Zooey Deschanel, who stars on the Fox Television show of the same name. The rest of the "cast" is rounded out by lieutenant governor candidate Tim Gieseke as the Intellect, attorney general Brandan Borgos is the Advocate, auditor candidate Pat Dean is the Whistleblower and secretary of state candidate Bob Helland is the Guardian.

"Together they are the Independents -- coming Nov. 4 to a State Capitol near you," the ad's narrator intones. The four campaigns are paying for the ad jointly.

The Independence Party has been a major party under Minnesota law since 1994, when U.S. Senate candidate Dean Barkley collected just over 5 percent of the vote. It later became the political party of former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

IP statewide candidates have collected more than 5 percent of the vote in every successive election, and have at times been a factor particularly in governors' race. In 2002 former DFL congressman Tim Penny won 16 percent of the vote as the IP candidate, while in 2010 former Republican operative Tom Horner got about 12 percent of the vote.

But a Star Tribune poll earlier this month showed Nicollet had only 1 percent support, and her fundraising has also been meager. As of the most recent campaign finance filing, she had about $11,000 in the bank.

"It can only go up from here," Nicollet said Thursday.