Libertarian Party Candidates: 7 Who Might Shape the Senate

The Washington Post looks at seven Senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate has some chance of enough traction, according to the Post's headline, to beat the spread between the major party winner and loser, thus affecting the shape of the Senate majority.

While the evidence the Post presents in all these cases doesn't convince me they are correct in every case that the L.P. candidate will be a player—though they mention Alaska, Kentucky, Montana, and Arkansas in the story they lack a likely case for those states—here's some examples of how that might shape up:

•North Carolina's Sean Haugh "has pulled between 8 and 11 percentage points, enough to make a big difference in the race between Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R)."

•West Virginia's John Buckley, who was actually a former state legislator from neighboring Virginia, and although Republican Shelly Capito is favored, "Buckley could tap into conservative anger over Capito’s voting record," saith the Post.

Virginia's surprisingly high-polling gubernatorial candidate from last year, Robert Sarvis; polls "show Sarvis attracting 6 percent of the vote, including 11 percent among crucial independent voters." See my recent interview with Sarvis.

I blogged last month about some L.P. candidates polling unexpectedly well in the south.

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  • CE||

    Beating the spread is nice. Getting elected is better. Eventually the voters will vote for real change.

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    Normally I would be pissed that they're helping the Dems retain the Senate, but after what the GOP did in Mississippi I'm having a Sandor Clegane moment. Fuck the GOP.

  • Tak Kak||

    Can you condemn the entire GOP because of Mississippi?

  • ||

    No.

    Because of Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, the undermining of libertarian votes at the convention and assaults on members at state conventions, the removal of libertarian congress members from key committees, repeatedly putting RINOs up for election, condemning any libertarian resistance to statism, weak resistance to the proggies bordering on collusion, .....shit, I don't have all night to make this list. You get the idea.

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    It wasn't just the Mississippi GOP that did what they did. It was the national party establishment, the US Chamber of Cronyism, etc. Fine. They don't want me in their party, I won't be in their party.

    After we rescued them from the brink of annihilation in 2010 you'd expect gratitude, but all we got is attitude.

  • Stickler Meeseeks||

    Regarding the Cochran race-baiting bullshit in MS, I believe the better response is "Fuck the GOP Establishment!"

    Fight like hell to support the Tea Party candidate over the Establishment candidate, when possible and preferable.

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    That's what I was saying before, and what I was doing before. But not anymore.

    What the Cockrun fiasco taught me is that all the Tea Partiers in the House and Senate are doing is increasing the power of the GOP establishment, and giving McConnell/Boehner/etc a better position in divvying up the loot from bigger govt with their Dem pals.

    If we ever have a chance of actually rolling back or limiting government, the establishment will join with the Dems and stab us in the back. So we need to completely starve out the GOP establishment before we can do anything. Maybe McConnell will learn his lesson when he's the minority leader of an entirely RINO caucus in the Senate, all 20 of them.

  • Jerryskids||

    I've heard that lesser-of-two-evils shit about supporting the GOP over the Dems all my life and I stopped buying it a long time ago. If the GOP puts winning over any principle worth winning for, then what's the point?

    I'm hoping there are enough Mississippi voters who realized that Cochran's primary campaign was essentially "OMG! This McDaniel guy's one of them damn Republicans!" and take him at his word that voting for a Republican is the worst thing they could possibly do. The Tea Party ought to cross over and vote for the Dem candidate.

    Here in Georgia, we had a three-way race for the GOP nomination between the TP-backed nutbag Karen Handel, career pol Jack Kingston and business exec David Perdue. Handel mostly attacked Kingston as being a Washington insider/RINO type, but when she finished third and Perdue and Kingston went to a run-off, she endorsed Kingston over Perdue, the lower taxes/smaller government candidate. Her argument was that Kingston had experience and connections that would better serve to get him elected than Perdue.

    Unfortunately, the Dem candidate is Michelle Nunn, whose platform seems to be "I'm Sam Nunn's daughter" which makes her fully as qualified as Amy Carter or Chelsea Clinton so I don't think the LPs Amanda Swafford can even play a spoiler role. (But she was elected as an LP member of a city council!)

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    And you can bet the Rovians and Chamber of Cronyism will be out in force in Georgia with the same dirty tricks for that runoff.

  • Cytotoxic||

    So we need to completely starve out the GOP establishment before we can do anything. Maybe McConnell will learn his lesson when he's the minority leader of an entirely RINO caucus in the Senate, all 20 of them.

    And...then what? McConnel won't learn. And we're left holding our breath for nothing. Didn't Mississipi just force the GOP to scrounge as hard they could? They still lost Cantor.

    It may be that we are in a period where nothing is going to work and it is best to rest, recoup, and wait for the next economic cycle to upend politics and get the wind back in our sails, be those sails in the for of the Tea Party and/or something better. Sometimes, you just gotta tread water and wait.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Sigh...the first paragraph is supposed to be italicized.

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    They still lost Cantor.

    And his place in the House leadership was immediately taken by an even worse RINO from California.

    The establishmentarians and RINOs are much better at this game than we are. Giving them a House majority to play with hasn't endeared them to us, quite the opposite. So I'll be damned if I give them a Senate majority. They need to learn that stealing primaries has consequences.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Why is Kevin McCarthy worse than Cantor? He seems set on killing the Export-Import Bank. And if Cantor hadn't lost McCarthy would still be there, no? So knocking of Cantor is still an unqualified good.

  • Stickler Meeseeks||

    I guess I don't see how Cochran's race-baiting, old-south tactics against McDaniel means that tea partiers in the house are strengthening the establishment in D.C. McDaniel was the outsider that the establishment undermined by financing racist adds designed to scare black democrats to such a degree that they would cross over and vote for Cochran in the run off.

    What the Cochran fiasco taught me was that the establishment will stop at nothing to keep their guy in D.C. so that he will tow the McConnell line.

    I have not gone "apolitical" or decided to support a third party (yet). I support liberty-minded candidates who challenge establishment candidates. I don't give money to the GOP, but send it directly to the candidate.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    NO SPOILERS.

  • Almanian!||

    GAME OF THRONES IS REALLY MUPPETS!

  • PapayaSF||

    We talk about this regularly around here, but here's my take. I vote Libertarian most of the time, because it's closest to what I believe, and because my vote here in SF rarely comes close to making a difference. But when things look like a close race between a Dem and a Rep, I vote GOP on a lesser-of-two-evils basis, and I think other libertarians should do the same.

    I think it makes strategic sense: we didn't get into this semi-socialized bankrupt mess because the Socialist Party won elections. We got here because socialists took over the Democratic Party. Libertarians aren't going to make a positive difference by merely running candidates who lose, and possibly throw races to Democrats. It's tempting to do that on "fuck the GOP" and "a pox on both their houses" grounds, but I don't think it's optimum. Libertarians can make the most difference by taking over the GOP via the Tea Party, although to do that they'll have to drop some unpopular planks (like open borders).

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    I argued strongly for this position in 2012.

    But it's been obsolesced by the events of the past year. It's clear that if we ever have a chance of getting out of this semi-socialist mess, the US Chamber of Cronyism and the GOP establishment is going to join with the socialists and stab us in the back. They like the big govt gravy train just as much as the Dems.

  • PapayaSF||

    But as a practical matter, elections are still D vs. R. As flawed as Republicans often are, they are still usually better for liberty than Democrats.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    I see no evidence of that contention- that the average (R) nominee is less anti-libertarian than your average (D) nominee.

    Voting Libertarian, particularly in races where the LP beats the D-R spreads, *does* have the effect of influencing the major parties, more-so than does running failed primary candidates. In an election where the D-R spread is beat by an L, both the D and R go home knowing that the difference in the outcome was made by their ability or inability to win Libertarian-leaning votes. For every one person who votes Libertarian, there's another four or five who are inclined to do so but break D or R (and they break evenly between the two, not just R). But if there's no L candidate in the race, that signal doesn't get sent. Meanwhile running yet another failed primary candidate does nothing to actually influence the party's general election and elected behavior.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I'd like to see some evidence of this. I still think primary infiltration is a better bet than awaiting the forever on-the-horizon Rise of the LP.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    Primary infiltration has a success rate negligibly higher than the LP, in terms of winning elections. 90%+ of incumbents will win their major party primaries, period. Those few who do sneak through, do so by minimizing and denying their libertarian tendencies to the greatest degree they can, minimizing the impact of their victory on moving the national discourse in a more libertarian direction (see: Ron Paul running for US House as an anti-immigrant candidate, Amash running as "the #1 conservative" in his primary, etc.)

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    That's one way to measure success, though, the number of candidates elected, in which regard I concede working within the GOP beats (just barely) the LP. Another way to look at it though, would be actual influence on public policy, in terms of the incentive structure for politicians. In that regard a primary loss accomplishes nothing- any ideological concessions made by the establishment in the primary will be wiped out in the general. This means that 90%+ of libertarian primary challengers accomplish bupkis. Whereas a general election Libertarian challenger, forces both parties to seriously compete for Libertarian-leaning votes, as those marginal votes could well decide the D vs. R outcome. I embrace the spoiler effect, in other words. A Libertarian candidate beating the D-R spread and getting 6% in the general election, does more to influence the policies of *both* major parties in a libertarian direction, than does some psuedo-liberatarian conservative-fusionist getting 20% on his way to defeat in the primary. In this regard I judge that the LP has a *higher* return on investment that does "primary infiltration.". Not that I'm necessarily opposed to libertarians working in the GOP or Dem parties- I think these are complementary, not exclusive, strategies.

    For what it's worth, I've also put my money where my mouth is: I'm currently running as the Libertarian candidate for Wisconsin Secretary of State.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    Also note, my argument is contingent on the kind of results the LP usually pulls and can continued to pull as it grows: middle-to-high single digits, in good races maybe up to as high as the 10-12% range. It has nothing to do with suddenly jumping into the 36-50% range and winning elections, your nebulous "future Rise of the LP"

  • Cytotoxic||

    Sorry, but while I have seem some evidence of primary infiltration getting results-the coming end of the Export-Import Bank is definitely a result of that-I cannot see a damn thing having come of the LP. The LP is a black hole that sucks in libertarian energy and resources and gives nothing back.

  • PapayaSF||

    I see no evidence of that contention- that the average (R) nominee is less anti-libertarian than your average (D) nominee.

    Democrats are the party that supports big government as the solution to every problem. Republicans only do, sometimes. Republicans tend to more fiscally prudent. Only in some social issues are Democrats more libertarian, and those are far less important IMO.

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    Republicans tend to more fiscally prudent.

    You were asleep 2001-2006, I take it.

  • PapayaSF||

    It's all relative, dude. Do you really think President Gore and a Democrat Congress would have spent less?

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    Actually, yes, I do really think that. And I think there's plenty of evidence to support the proposition.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    I could name many Democrats that have been on the right side of foreign wars, NSA spying, civil liberties, executive power, the drug war, marriage, and many Republicans who are on the wrong side of all of those issues. Name me one issue where Rick Santorum or Bill Kristol is "fiscally prudent" or doesn't support "big government".

    If you think none of those issues matter, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you're not a libertarian but rather just a fiscal conservative. In which case I still think you're irrational to vote for 90% of Republican nominees, but you would at least have some grounds for your assertion that the GOP is preferable to the Dems. I see no evidence of that looking at it from a balanced libertarian perspective which isn't skewed to the right, though.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Really? You can name 'many' Dems that are on the rights side of those issues?

  • No Tulpa 4U||

    But you see there's a trap there. Same trap blacks fall into with the Dems.

    If the GOP knows they just have to be 5% better than the Dems to get our votes, they're never going to be more than 5% better... because that would necessarily make them worse in the eyes of the apathetic, shallow "centrists" that actually swing elections.

  • Nicholas Sarwark||

    "But as a practical matter, elections are still D vs. R. As flawed as Republicans often are, they are still usually better for liberty than Democrats."

    Do you have an example of Republicans governing better than Democrats? I hear this line a lot, but the actual data (e.g. on government spending) shows this is not the case.

  • PapayaSF||

    Look at what government spending goes to, not under which President it occurs. It's entitlements that are bankrupting us, not programs invented by Republicans. Which party pushed Social Security, the Great Society, and Obamacare? And which party is most eager for regulations like Dodd-Frank and the CFPB?

  • Cytotoxic||

    Both and both. You're scraping the barrel for excuses.

  • Cytotoxic||

    At the state levels the GOP is definitely pulling ahead in many places.

  • Vulgar Madman||

    I'm just done. I can't wait to vote for Haugh.

  • John||

    So do Libertarians ever tip a race against Democrats?

  • PapayaSF||

    There was some talk that Sarvis in VA took more votes from Democrats, but the Democrat still won.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    FL-13 special election. Lucas Overby almost certainly cost the D the election (or at least beat the spread while the D lost), and is now facing a two-way rematch with the victorious R candidate. Every study that's looked at the matter finds that L candidates generally pull roughly equally from both major parties, though much depends on the candidate (some have more appeal to the right, some, like Overby, have more appeal to the left)

  • Cytotoxic||

    That is glorious.

  • PapayaSF||

    I wish that were true, pangloss, but I fear not. Democrats and the left tend to be fixated on government solutions. I doubt that they break and vote for Libertarians nearly as often as Republicans do.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    The typical breakdown is something like 30-35% otherwise R, 20-25% otherwise D, and the rest otherwise-neither. That's the baseline though, some candidates skew more R and some skew more D, based on the issues in the campaign and that the candidate choose to run on. Overby is almost certainly one that skews more D.

  • PapayaSF||

    L-13 special election. Lucas Overby almost certainly cost the D the election (or at least beat the spread while the D lost), and is now facing a two-way rematch with the victorious R candidate.

    Jolly (R) won outright and has been sworn in.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    Jolly (R) got 48.4%, Sink (D) got 46.6%- Libertarian Overby got 4.8%. By the standard being used, the L "cost" the D the race. And that view does have some plausibility, given that Overby is generally viewed as a candidate with more appeal to left than right. The upcoming regular election is Jolly v. Overby with no D candidate (the presumptive D nominee dropped out and actually endorsed Overby).

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    (FL, like most states, doesn't have runoffs for Congress if no candidate gets over 50%. Only a few states- LA comes to mind- do that. This is two separate elections, one a special election already completed for the remainder of the term, and the upcoming one the regularly scheduled general election. It just happens to be the same two R and L candidates)

  • Azathoth!!||

    No. Not really.

    The simplest proof of this is that LP presidential candidates have come from the GOP. How many have been Democrats?

    All the libertarian Congressmen are Republicans--despite the attempt to dragoon Polis into libertarianism.

    The socialist infested Democratic party simply has aims that are too at odds with libertarianism.

    It is very sad to see the glee that accompanies the fact that LP candidates serve only to spoil elections for the only party that has shown them even an inkling of respect.

  • Mt low rider||

    I'm watching Cspan at present, I see many who should be in jail, others like the head of the Epa that has her position because she is a dyke. If a dyke is a credible playa, no problem, this woman is the definition of incompetent.

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