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Kaplan’s ability to make an impact in the race is minimal. He was not allowed to participate in any of the debates because he was not included in any of the statewide polls conducted during the campaign, and he has not had a single television ad because he’s shoestring campaign is running on a budget of less than $5,000 in an election when special interests on both sides have dumped millions into the coffers of the two major candidates.
But Kaplan says this is still a high water mark for Libertarians in New Jersey. When he ran for governor in 2009, he got less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote.
“It’s going to be a Christie landslide, so if you want to protest Christie but you don’t like the Democratic candidate, you can vote for me,” he said Friday during an interview with Watchdog.org.
Growing up, Kaplan says his parents were liberal Democrats, but they were an entrepreneurial bunch who owned a men’s clothing store in West Orange. That combination of social liberalism and business-friendly economics is what is missing in the political discussion today, he said.
While much of Sarvis’ success is a rejection of the two major party candidates, something else seems to be happening, too — a philosophical shift towards a more socially liberal, while still fiscally conservative, Virginia. A place that’s tolerant — but not when it comes to government over regulation or overspending.
Sarvis’ campaign line boils it down: “Virginia — open-minded and open for business.”
And with Virginia acting as a barometer for elections nationally, all eyes are on the race to see how well that philosophy does at the ballot box.
“To a certain degree I do think that the voter population as a whole is, if you look at polling, just even nationally, is economically a little more conservative, but socially a little liberal,” said Geoff Skelley, political scientist with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “That seems to be kind of the way things are going.
“From that perspective, I would think that kind of platform going forward could be a winning one with the right candidate,” Skelley said.
That’s what Sarvis hopes, too. Reaching the 10-percent threshold on Tuesday would pave the way for future candidates to get on the ballot and into the race.
Sarvis, who ran as a Republican for a Virginia State Senate seat in 2011 and lost, has come under fire recently for supposedly lacking pure Libertarian credentials. Although opposed to Medicaid expansion, he says things like he couldn’t support expansion “absent” an overhaul of the system. And on taxes, he’s suggested a miles-driven tax is one example of a transportation tax that would be more efficient than increasing the sales tax, which is what Virginia did this year.
“Nobody knows what can happen with whether we’re going to find the candidates to run,” Sarvis said last week in an interview with Watchdog.org. “But I certainly hope to help us search for candidates who can put forward a good message.”
Just being on the New Jersey ballot is a victory for Kaplan. He said he knows that his policy plans — he wants to get rid of the state income tax by reducing state spending until it is no longer necessary, change state policy for housing density requirements and implement a tuition-based model for public education — would require more than just a Libertarian in the governor’s mansion.
Asked if the Libertarians could be the third party that exploits the nation’s dissatisfaction with the two major parties, Kaplan is both hopeful and reserved.
“I’m not sure that Libertarians will ever come to power, because we are principled and we are ideological,” he said. “And that’s not how people vote in this country. People vote for what they think the politicians will be able to do for them.”
Kaplan was right — he won’t win. Still, he and Sarvis say they run with the hopes that one day, Americans will value free markets, and a free society, more than things politicians can give them.
This article originally appeared on Watchdog.org.