The Boston Globe today endorsed the Libertarian Party's Dan Fishman for the position of Massachusetts state auditor, the office tasked with checking under the hood of government and rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse.
"It is rare for the Globe to back a candidate outside the two major parties, let alone the nominee of a party known for unconventional positions including decriminalizing recreational drugs, reinstating the gold standard, and repealing the income tax," the paper editorialized. However, "Fishman would bring a sorely needed independent streak to the office. Give this Libertarian a shot."
Fishman, a gregarious 51-year-old software engineer and regional director of the 2016 Gary Johnson/Bill Weld campaign, attracted notice in the race for his cheesy yet oddly compelling ad analogizing the auditor's position to that of a football referee:
The candidate is a close ally and early endorsee of former Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nominee Bill Weld. "I belabored Dan about the head and shoulders throughout 2016. I said, 'You've got to run statewide,'" Weld recounted at the state Libertarian Party convention two weeks ago. "And he's going to finish certainly no worse than second in that race, and maybe first."
Fishman is running against Democratic incumbent Suzanne Bump, Republican challenger Helen Brady, and Green-Rainbow nominee Edward Stamas. Bump has become vulnerable due to a State Police payroll scandal that she failed for years to detect—"a good example of the sort of waste and abuse that a real activist in the job might ferret out on behalf of taxpayers," the Globe noted.
Fishman's big idea is to publish auditing data of state agencies not just every year but every day. That way if a department is waiting until the end of the fiscal year to max out its budget—thereby locking in the usual increase for the following year—taxpayers will be hip to the scam.
For Weld, Fishman's viability fits into what me called the potential 2020 presidential candidate's second-place strategy. "I suspect he's going to beat the Republican," Weld said at the Libertarian National Convention in New Orleans this summer. "All over the country it looks as though our people are not going to be third in the in the docket. If we can just book together four or six elections where the Libertarian Party in this cycle came in even second, not necessarily winning statewide or countywide races, that's going to be a national story, because the press is hungry to write the story about a third party."
In an era of bare-knuckle two-party partisanship, Fishman's candidacy suggests an interesting strategy not just for Libertarians but for Greens, independents, and other nontraditional candidates: to emphasize their outsider status for elected positions tasked with being nonpartisan arbiters. The State-Journal Register in Springfield, Illinois, for example, used that logic to endorse Libertarian Steve Dutner for secretary of state: "Dutner offers the most practical solutions that could improve and modernize the office," the paper editorialized, "and comes with the least political baggage."
Newspaper editorials matter less and less, as President Donald Trump can tell you. But at a time when fear and habit are motivating a pre-election flight to the two major parties, no matter how hated, it's noteworthy when a representative of the political class bucks the trend.
Related viewing: How third parties are being screwed this election.