Florida

Did Libertarian Lucas Overby Throw Florida Special Election to Republican Jolly?

|

As noted, Republican David Jolly won a special election for Congress in Florida's 13th district. He beat Democratic candidate Alex Sink by about 2 percentage points (48 percent to 46 percent) and the Libertarian Lucas Overby came in with almost 5 percent.

Forget whether FL-13 is a bellwether for national midterms later this year (the short answer is always maybe). Here's a more interesting question: Is this another instance where the Libertarian candidate drained votes from the Democrat, not the Republican? And if so, what does that mean in the bigger picture?

Recall that in last year's Virginia governor's race, arguably the most interesting development was that high-performing Libertarian Robert Sarvis actually drained votes away from eventual winner, Democrat Terry McAuliffe. By a two-to-one margin, Sarvis voters told exit polls that had Sarvis not been in the mix, they would have voted for the Democrat, not the Republican.

I haven't been able to locate any detailed exit polls from FL-13, but there are indications the same dynamic was in play in the Sunshine State. According to local reports, the Libertarian Overby was the only candidate in the race who broached the topic of medical marijuana and larger drug legalization. He was in favor of both, which would sit well with the 80-plus percent of Floridians who support medical pot and the 48 percent who favor recreational pot. 

Without exit polls, it's not clear that the Libertarian pulled votes from the Democrat rather than the Republican. Going into the election, the Democrat Sink (who almost made it the governor's mansion in Florida, losing by a slim margin) was favored. The final weeks of the campaign were buried in a blizzard of attack ads made on behalf of the major-party candidates, often with reference to President Obama and healthcare reform. There's no question that most of election was fought over those and related issues.

But when you look at Lucas Overby's positions, it's easy to see him pulling as many or more votes from a Democrat. He is fully supportive of cutting spending and for gun rights, but he is equally outspoken in terms of non-interventionist foreign policy, in favor of gay marriage, and, as mentioned, drug legalization. There's every reason to believe that he may well have "taken" more votes from Sink than from Jolly.

Assuming that's true, Democrats should start recognizing what Matt Welch and I laid out in The Declaration of Independents. That is, liberals have for far too long simply assumed that they own all votes related to issues such as drug policy, free speech, tolerance, and restrained foreign policy. Forget for a moment about the abysmal economy under the Obama administration and a Democratic Senate. If the president has underscored anything, it's that liberal, progressive Democrats are often as bad or worse than Republicans when it comes to drug policy, civil liberties, and reckless overseas intervention.

The FL-13 election may or may not be a premonition of what's to come in the midterms. But it should definitely be a wakeup call to Democrats who are interested in capturing libertarian-leaning voters that they, just as much as Republicans, cannot simply assume that voters take them seriously on "liberal" issues.

NEXT: A.M. Links: Republican David Jolly Wins In First 2014 Election, Snowden Calls Feinstein a Hypocrite, Obama Gets Game of Thrones Episodes Early

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. liberals have for far too long simply assumed that they own all votes related to issues such as drug policy, free speech, tolerance, and restrained foreign policy.

    Their voters were never quite that dumb.

  2. “Is this another instance where the Libertarian candidate drained votes from the Democrat, not the Republican? And if so, what does that mean in the bigger picture?”

    It means three things.

    1) Libertarians are swing voters in swing states. Gotta like that!

    2) As socially conservative issues become increasingly unimportant, Republicans beat Democrats on economic issues.

    Weren’t the Dems smearing Jolly as a capitalist who wants to destroy unions and privatize social security?

    Maybe the Republicans should actually run on that platform!

    3) As Republicans win on economic issues, social conservatives will become increasingly convinced that it’s because of their immigrant bashing and a socially conservative stance on gay rights. Because everything that happens validates social conservatism in the minds of social conservatives. …and that includes elections, hurricanes, and airplane crashes.

    1. so-cons lost in VA and the Libertarian garnered enough votes to more than make up the difference. My favorite current-day example of blowback against over-intrusive govt is CO: weed was legalized AND some gun-grabbing state lawmakers were recalled. Statism is increasingly viewed for what it is; painting it Red or Blue does not make it more attractive.

      1. These post are making me optimistic. What a wild, weird, and wonderful feeling!

        1. Yes, it is strange. And exhilarating. But rather than get giddy at our prospects, now is the time to put forth our greatest effort to win. Remember that both of the Teams hate us and will work together for our distruction.

          History is offering us a chance, it is up to us to seize it.

          1. History is offering us a chance, it is up to us to seize it.

            Don’t infect me with your horrible, horrible optimism, you fools.

            1. Oh, come on, CN, just a little taste. You won’t get hooked, I promise.

              1. That’s how the gays recruit! I knew it! 😀

                1. Oh, noes, they’re on to me!

    2. I agree with you. The Kultur Wawr has been been fought and lost by the social conservatives. But, that leaves a real question for libertarians. As much as the progressives will be delighted to keep pushing them as the bogeyman who will legislate women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, gays in perpetual fear of lynching, and everyone under a fog of religiously influenced cultural purity, there’s really no particular danger in any of this actually happening. A more honest assessment is that social conservatives are more at risk of having mandated upon them. But, if libertarians really believe in the NAP, then that strongly argues that libertarians need to stand behind the social conservatives’ right to live their lives without having standards they object to forced on them.

      1. “libertarians need to stand behind the social conservatives’ right to live their lives without having standards they object to forced on them.”

        They have every right to live their lives entirely as they choose, right now, today! Nobody’s forcing them to get abortions that they don’t want! Nobody’s forcing them to smoke pot! Nobody’s forcing them to watch gay scat porn! Nobody’s making them read the Q’ran at Mass!

        They just get their panties all in a bunch because they think it’s OK to send men with guns to mercilessly punish anyone who even wants to do any of those things!

        I wonder if the Social Conservatives can grasp the fact that allowing a woman to abort an unwanted fetus isn’t the same as forcing a woman to abort an unwanted fetus, or even paying a woman to abort an unwanted fetus? As a metaphysicist, I’ve received a message from God as I understand Her: Allowing unwanted fetuses to incarnate opens space for the kind of spirits that have no compunctions about overriding the Free Will of their Mother, the Divine Will.

        God’s Will is Free Will.
        Freedom is my Worship Word!

        1. “[Social conservatives] have every right to live their lives entirely as they choose, right now, today!”

          That isn’t so.

          The government protects doctors who give the children of socially conservative parents abortions without their parents’ knowledge–much less consent. Otherwise, a doctor couldn’t touch someone’s children!

          The government forces socially conservative taxpayers to support public schools, where they teach people things that go against social conservatives’ religious convictions. They even make social conservatives financially support public schools when the taxpayers in question send their own children to private religious schools–and when they home school.

          You may have heard, recently, that social conservative bakers can’t refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples.

          Just because I want social conservatives the eff out of the GOP doesn’t mean I have to pretend that the government isn’t just as brutal to social conservatives, in regards to their rights, as the government is to everyone else, too.

          Two oppressions don’t make a right.

          1. OK, you make good points. But if the social conservatives got “the eff out of the GOP” then the GOP would be the Libertarians. ;-D

          2. “The government protects doctors …” from what? They protect them from criminals, yes, that’s government’s job. Other than that, anything between a family and a doctor is their business, and not the government’s. It’s not the doctor’s job to police the daughters of people whose daughters are so terrified to tell them that she’s pregnant that she has to sneak out of the house to have it terminated.

            “The government forces socially conservative taxpayers to support public schools, ”
            That’s true, and it’s wrong.

            “that social conservative bakers can’t refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples.”
            Yeah, that too.

            OK, so I used a little hyperbole. Other than that, did my tirade get my point across, or do you want to help me refine it to get a similar point across, that Freedom is Better?

            1. “It’s not the doctor’s job to police the daughters of people whose daughters are so terrified to tell them that she’s pregnant that she has to sneak out of the house to have it terminated.”

              But, the status quo is that, somehow or another, it is the job of the doctor to inform the legal guardians of a minor patient of any other medical procedure he performs on them. When you make an exception for abortion, you’re specifically limiting their rights as the minor’s agent.

          3. “Just because I want social conservatives the eff out of the GOP doesn’t mean I have to pretend that the government isn’t just as brutal to social conservatives, in regards to their rights, as the government is to everyone else, too.”

            Well, I finally got to this part, and, well, thanks!

          4. I don’t want social conservatives out of the GOP, I want to convince them that givng government the power to enforce virtues as they see them will lead to liberals forcing liberal virtues on them (which means they cannot live according to conservative virtues), and that we’re all better off limiting government to dealing with those that harm others, and giving people the freedom to be offensive.

            Just like with free speech, it’s not speech you agree with that needs to be defended, it’s offensive speech that needs to be defended. If you don’t think offensive speech should be protected, it’s your speech that will be seen as offensive by at least one other person. Do you want a majority to decide what’s offensive? You may not like the result.

  3. “…but he is equally outspoken in terms of non-interventionist foreign policy, in favor of gay marriage, and, as mentioned, drug legalization.”

    Gillespie’s theory only makes sense if two out of those three are actually issues that Democrats politicians promote. I think that’s largely in Gillespie’s head.

    1. Were those even issues in this race? Voters typically vote on only a few issues, and outside of your activist single-issue tupes, those aren’t on the short list.

      1. Exactly. Obamacare is the big one right now, and the fact that Lucas Overby didn’t seem to mention it at all caused me to vote for Jolly, even though I am Libertarian. Social issues are important, but not as important as the impending financial collapse. Thanks to Alex Sink, I got jazzed up about David Jolly being for privatizing social security.

      2. I suspect there’s a growing group of discontented civil-libertarians on the left.

        They won’t vote Republican, because they may very well still believe in welfare and wealth redistribution, but they’ve seen themselves betrayed by “their” party.

        If you were a liberal who believed Obama was going to shut down Guantanamo and keep us out of the Middle-East, well now you’re looking elsewhere, and the republicans aren’t exactly chasing your vote.

    2. Dems may not actually promote these ideas, but they do purport to promote them, which is all a sleeping electorate seemingly needs to swallow the blue pill.

  4. Georgia Libertarians have just nominated a few candidates for statewide office, but they’ve been slow to update their web site.

    1. Any idea what ballot access is like, there? Automatic, or does each candidate have to collect signatures?

      1. From their press-release e-mail thingy…

        “Due to the burdensome restrictions in place for independents and political bodies in Georgia, there often are not Libertarians on the ballot for state legislature races.”

        I should know the answer (being a Libertarian in GA), but I don’t. The context made it sound like they’re sure to be on the ballot.

        1. I usually see them on my ballot for statewide races, but if a Libertarian has ever run for my state House or Senate districts, I’m unaware.

  5. Just another exercise in LP related wishful thinking. Wanna know what it meant? It didn’t mean shit. Because the only thing that matters is the LP candidate’s vote totals. I mean, who gives a fuck where the votes are coming from anyhow? What is this, Chicago? Is the LP the “Party of Principle” or not?

    BAH.

    1. I mean, who gives a fuck where the votes are coming from anyhow?

      Alex Sink’s camp, I’d imagine.

    2. Because the only thing that matters is the LP candidate’s vote totals.

      False. The only thing that matter is the degree to which libertarian ideas get promoted and implemented. It doesn’t matter which party does that. We didn’t get into the semi-socialized mess we’re in because Socialist Party candidates won elections. We got here because socialists took over the Democratic Party and implemented their ideas.

  6. If this is true, why do a (probably small) margin of typically Democrat voters vote Democrat? Social programs? Protectionism? Or civil liberties?

    1. Not getting it, Fist. Was one of those D’s supposed to be an L?

      1. Why do people who routinely vote Democrat do so? What’s the reason? Specifically, the small group here who supposedly jumped ship. What is the normal appeal of the Democrat candidate, and what was the appeal for them of Overby here?

        1. Civil liberties? Not that democrats have been all that good, but I can totally see a contigent that saw Obama as their ticket to a rollback of the War on Terror’s abuses.

          Now they’re realizing they’ve been duped on that front.

  7. Expect to see more smear articles about libertarians from the liberal media outlets as a result of this. They think they will be able to shout us down, but they will ultimately give us free publicity and we will eventually win.

    Interesting side note about how the Teams characterize libertarian candidates’ effect on races: Republicans say we steal votes, Democrats say we confuse “their” voters.

    1. Yes, voting for limited government and freedom is obviously evidence of psychosis, because there are no rational grounds for fearing and distrusting government. None!

    2. Democrats say we confuse “their” voters

      Isn’t that pretty close to the D take every time they lose an election? If people don’t vote Democrat they’re confused, or dumb, or both?

      1. Yes, the characterization of “their” voters by that Team is very telling.

    3. Tonio|3.12.14 @ 10:50AM|#
      “Expect to see more smear articles about libertarians from the liberal media outlets as a result of this.”

      Gee, Tonio, we’ve already been getting them:
      ‘Libertarians starve women, children and minorities while polishing monocles!’

      1. Why would you starve your monocle polishers? They do substandard work that way. Now, a little hungry is fine…

  8. Doesn’t data generally show that LP votes are cast by people (1) who vote LP, and (2) otherwise pull from the parties fairly equally? I’d say there’s more chance of someone with libertarian leanings living in the GOP than in the Democratic party, given the latter’s deep and profound love for the Total State, but I also suspect that most people voting LP who aren’t registered LP are independents.

    1. There are at least a few Democrats who really are disgusted by the corruption and incompetence and abuses of power of the Obama Democratic Party. If those people vote L in 14 ad again in 16 in enough numbers to put the Democrats out in the wilderness, it would force the Democrats to clean up their act. And that would not be a bad thing.

  9. If it becomes a trend that Libertarian candidates take more Dem votes than Republican votes, it will force the Democrats to repudiate Obama’s misuse of the IRS and NSA and various other things.

    It won’t make the Democratic party anymore pro capitalist, because that is not why Democrats are voting L. But it could force the party to clean up its worst corruption and abuses of government power. Remember, the Democratic candidate in Virginia was Terry McCulliffe, a man who has literally never made an honest dollar in his life. A good number of Democratic voters couldn’t stomach being insulted the way the VA Democratic Party insulted them in nominating McCulliffe. Nominating him was the party telling VA Dems, go fuck yourself, what are you going to do vote Republican?

  10. “And if so, what does that mean in the bigger picture?…But it should definitely be a wakeup call to Democrats who are interested in capturing libertarian-leaning voters…”

    Here is what it means so clearly, yet is so often ignored by so many at Reason. That there is a greater synergy between Democrat and Libertarian ideology, rather than there is between Republicans and Libertarians. But you wouldn’t know that here…in fact, you would think the opposite.

    1. Hard to see how you could have much synergy when you consider the liberal view of property rights, regulation and general economic freedom.

      How exactly could one claim to be a Liberal Democrat but then also think that things like the FDA should be eliminated or that we need to have a flat tax or that commercial speech should get the same protections under the 1st Amendment that other forms of speach get?

      There is synergy with regard to some social issues and that is about it. But even regarding the social issues the synergy is limited. Libertarians and liberals agree about gay marriage, but they don’t agree about public accommodation. They agree about marijuana laws, but they certainly wouldn’t agree about the regulation and taxation of marijuana if it were legal.

      1. Never said they are lock step about everything, John. They aren’t for sure. Just a tad more than Republicans and Libertarians…at least Nick is unwittingly hinting at it with the results for past elections.

        Its more than social issues, although clearly its synergistic there. But also defense spending and foreign policy. Please remember that on those things I am speaking about the views of the typical Democratic voter, not the typical Democratic politician.

        The finer points can be argued all day long…I’m just using Nick’s own point about who the Libertarian can attract…the Democrat voter or the Republican voter…and which of those voters feels more comfortable with Libertarian viewpoints.

        1. I think the reason why Libertarians are attracting Democratic voters is because of the sleaze and incompetence of the Obama run Democratic Party. No matter how hard the media tries to ignore it or lie about it, people know the truth. And a few Democrats have enough principles to walk away from the party over it.

          I think that is a good thing because like it or not Democrats will be in power from time to time and I would prefer them to be at least not as batshit insane and corrupt as they are now.

          But I think you are kidding yourself if you think those Democratic voters are going to stay voting L for the long term. The best case scenario is that their defection causes the Democrats to suffer a couple of real soul shattering defeats forcing them to clean up their act and stand for something besides government spying and state sanctioned theft. But once they reformed, those D voters voting L right now will go back to voting D.

          Seriously, if you are voting on social issues what does the Libertarian Party offer than the Democratic Party doesn’t?

        2. Please remember that on those things I am speaking about the views of the typical Democratic voter, not the typical Democratic politician.

          Ha. So the people who vote for the Ds didn’t really mean it? That’s a larf.

          Also, Democrats aren’t “better” on defense spending and foreign policy AFAICT. They believe the DoD should be a big social-welfare experiment and that we should invade countries for “good” reasons like remaking them in our own image, not for “bad” ones like “justice” or whatever it is icky cowboys like Booosh believe in.

          1. Funny that you quote me, and then go straight toward proving what I said.

            Let me make it clearer…the typical Democratic VOTER wants military spending reduced, along with a less interventionist foreign policy. The typical Democratic POLITICIAN does the opposite.

            Get it?

            1. Yeah, but the typical Democratic voter and politician agree: tax “the rich,” more regulation, more welfare, affirmative action, etc. All that trumps everything else, and is why the Libertarian-Democrat link is inherently weaker then the Libertarian-GOP link.

        3. Nonsense. Team Blue doesn’t have five fiscally conservative members in Congress. And they have about 3 that give a shit about civil liberties with Chocolate Nixon in the White House. Team Red isn’t much better, but they are the party that is out of power in the Senate and the White House, so they can at entertain the possibility of fiscal restraint.

          1. Team Blue used to at least pretend to care about civil liberties. Their total betrayal of that under Obama is really depressing and disturbing.

            Whatever you think of Team Red, losing in 06 and 08 flushed a lot of the worst actors out of the party. The party is better today than it was then. Losing did it some good. Maybe they will go right back to what they were if they ever win again. Who knows. But at least they are better now.

            What you hope is that the Democrats lose and learn the lesson that they can’t sell out on civil liberties and expect to stay in power.

  11. First, I don’t believe there will ever be enough people voting for the Libertarian party to change national politics. What is more important is that a candidate has libertarian values and voting record. If he or she needs to be a republican or democrat to get elected because our system is rigged for a two party system, do it. Then vote for laws as a person who holds libertarian values. Our goals will be accomplished and I don’t care what party claims credit.

  12. I’m assuming that Sink was in favor of gay marriage, just like Overby. If Overby captured more of the vote that would have gone to Sink had he never ran, then the question is, just how big SSM is a factor in these races. Maybe Jolly also supported SSM, but his party isn’t quite on board with it. Same for drug legalization.

    A hunch of mine – despite all the talks about changing demographics, the country is still 77% white. Older white men are the most reliable voting group. The “blue dog” among them might feel alienated by racial pandering and certain anti American rhetoric used by far left groups. So they’re looking into alternatives. And when a significant amount of people vote third party or stay home, the advantage probably goes to GOP.

    Theoretically, the Democrats are in a better position to win libertarian votes. They already agree on libertarians on social issues, so they just have to go a little to middle on reducing the size of government…..

    Oh, but what if their support base is all about an activist government? Using the force of government to promote equality, diversity, and free stuff? What if 30-50% of blacks and Asians actually oppose SSM and drug legalization? Dilemma, dilemma.

  13. I’m a Friedmanite who votes Republican because I hate socialism.

    1. And Republicans are against socialism because they support Social Security, Medicare, and militarism?

    2. And let us not forget that Nixon advocated comprehensive national health coverage that would have exceeded Obamacare.

  14. This story is total nonsense. People motivated by a desire for smaller, less intrusive government and those opposed to Obamacare are far, far more motivated to vote than are those wishing for legalized marijuana and same sex marriage. This is a BIG win for the Republicans who — minus Overby’s admirable showing — would have won by a comfortable five to six points.

  15. Gillespie actually thinks that Democrats are against the drug war, in favor of free speech and tolerance, and opposed to imperialism? It’s as though he’s never even read his own publication, much less history books.

  16. Libertarians tend to pull across the spectrum and mostly from infrequent voters. This has been known for decades.

    For more on the world Libertarian movement, see http://www.LibertarianInternational.org

  17. How was the turnout?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.