Friday, March 29, 2013

Two Libertarians In 2012 Came Close to Being Elected State Legislators

This article was published on IPR on February 7, 2013. 

By Krzysztof Lesiak

In 2012, though not a single Libertarian candidate won election to either upper or lower house of any state legislature, two came quite close. In Colorado, Tim Menger managed to secure an impressive 13,951 votes, or 41% of the vote in a two-way race with Republican Jared Wright in the 54th district. The former incumbent in that race, Laura Bradford, had stepped down after her party asked her to resign for using her political post to attempt to avoid a citation for driving while under the influence. However, the candidate chosen to replace her on the party ballot line, Wright, had problems of his own. These included lying about his reason for termination from his employment in a police department and also lying about his reason for filing for personal bankruptcy. These circumstances likely provided fertile ground for Menger and contributed to his strong showing. The race was Menger’s first, and he largely was dependent on a grassroots campaign that utilized homemade signs and word of mouth, during which he stressed the need for legalization of marijuana and a concealed carry law. Menger’s hard work campaigning paid off: he was endorsed by the biggest newspaper in his district, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Prominent endorsements like these are rare treats for candidates running outside of the two-party realm.

In South Carolina, Jeremy Walters fared even better. Walters, a high school dropout, won 5,243 votes, or 46.77% against Republican (but on the ballot as a petition candidate) candidate Raye Felder. Had he won, South Carolina would’ve been the fourth state to elect a Libertarian state legislator, after Alaska, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Felder originally was to appear as a Republican on the ballot but was removed to due a technicality. She subsequently collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot as a petition candidate. The local GOP, sensing she was vulnerable,  tried to get Walters knocked of the ballot, but was unsuccessful in doing so. So, with a place on the ballot secured, Walters proceeded with his campaign that was essentially a match-up between a David and Goliath. Walters was outspent 7 to 1 and produced no TV, newspaper or radio ads. He received only $4,620 in total donations, compared to Felder’s $31,251. A newcomer to politics, Walter originally wanted to run as a Republican, but switched his affiliation to the LP after a dispute with the local GOP, who discouraged him from running. Walters said his campaign received a surge of fresh momentum after LP presidential nominee Gov. Gary Johnson spoke at Winthrop University in his district. Walters received $1,800 in donations following Johnson’s public endorsement of him. Despite the big endorsement, Walters ended up just short of what would have been a key milestone victory for the LP.

Even though he lost, Walters doesn’t necessarily view it in that way. He said:
“I lost but I really didn’t lose.”

Building on that positive attitude and very strong showing as a first-time third party candidate, Walters has stated that he will run again in 2014.

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