Election 2018

Party-Switching N.H. State Rep. Brandon Phinney Gets Slaughtered as a Libertarian

"Voters care more about party than literally anything else."


Brandon Phinney ||| Brandon Phinney
Brandon Phinney

Until tonight, Brandon Phinney was a model for one genre of elected Libertarian: The party-switcher.

The New Hampshire state representative, elected to the 400-member body in 2016 as a Republican, switched to Libertarian in June 2017 after watching the machinery of allegedly small-government Republicanism up close. "I saw how they wanted to spend all of our money," he recalled to me in an interview this summer, "and that immediately set off every red flag imaginable." He targeted archaic laws to be stricken from the books, helped effectively legalize visiting bands drinking beer on stage, and prepped for his first election wearing the "L" right there on his sweater.

With a win tonight, Phinney could demonstrate that the most libertarian among Republicans can safely switch to the more ideologically sympatico smaller party, and still protect a seat. Other major-party politicians, surely, would take note in these polarizing times.

Phinney did not win. He got trounced.

"After two years of voting to protect personal freedom, control spending, provide transparency and after two years of proposing legislation to do the same (with two bills as a prime sponsor signed into law)," Phinney wrote on his Facebook page, "my district rewarded me with 377 votes." It got more bitter from there:

As the incumbent State Representative who is capable of thinking for himself, isn't a brainless pawn for a political party and works very hard for all NH residents, this election sent me the message that they do not want that kind of representation.

The Democratic candidate, who barely campaigned, received 1,548 votes. The Republican, who did NOTHING but put out yard signs, received 1,720 votes.

I received 377 votes.

In another post, Phinney complained that "voters care more about party than literally anything else and that's the biggest problem in this country. The Republican victor is going to be just another pawn for the party, going along with whatever they say."

We're still waiting to hear on Phinney's fellow N.H. state-rep party-switcher Caleb Dyer. Stay tuned to this space for news of Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke.

NEXT: Florida Approves Ballot Amendment to Restore Voting Rights of 1.4 Million People With Felony Records

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. Party is everything in state legislatures. Odds are the same people that voted for him in ’16 voted against him tonight and didn’t even realize it.

    1. Exactly. Those voters who are really into the issues & other details pay att’n during the primaries. In the gen’l election, most voters don’t have time for that sort of study, so they use party label as a labor-saving device?which is how it’s supposed to work, right?

  2. …Phinney complained that “voters care more about party than literally anything else and that’s the biggest problem in this country. The Republican victor is going to be just another pawn for the party, going along with whatever they say.”

    I’m pretty sure the biggest problem in this country is that Pete Davidson broke off his engagement to one of the Kardashians.

  3. He seriously expected a different result?
    News flash: no one really pays attention to what individual state house reps do

    1. Esp. in such a disproportionately large legislature as NH’s.

  4. The lesson here that libertarians need to learn is that tribalism is something that they’ll never be able to overcome, and that they better pick a large party to align themselves with if they want to win elections or they’re going to get smoked. Amash understands how this works, Phinney doesn’t.

    1. Think of it as an experiment. This is in New Hampshire, so libertarians were hoping that they could catch at least a little traction. Apparently not. So much for that approach.

      1. Exactly. We know we can get libertarians elected as major party nominees, because he did. So that’s what they should do from now until for some reason that situation no longer obtains. What’s wrong w that?

    2. Except the large parties are now so pro-government it’s crazy. The Democrats will actively throw libertarians our of their party, and Republicans will actually endorse the Democrat against you.

    3. Red Rocks White Privilege: Wrong. Your 30,000 foot view is utter bullshit.
      The Republicans who were “liberty Republicans” were utterly abandoned by the Trumpanistas running The Party.
      The mistake Phinney AND those liberty Republicans made?
      Believing the discussion should have been New Hampshire issues, in a local New Hampshire election.
      New Hampshire laws.
      New Hampshire spending.
      New Hampshire taxes.
      New Hampshire’s bankrupt retirement system.
      New Hampshire bucking the Federal system.

      The entire discussion, the entire election came to one simple equation.
      You were on board or not, so it’s time to pick a side and let everyone know:

      I forecasted this when seeing the Bernie Jr., ProgDem Steve Marchand get kicked to the curb in the Dem Primary.
      His mistake? Talking issues.
      The Democratic Machine opponent? Merely posted photos of herself (Kelly), Shaheen and Hassan with HILLARY. Message?
      LOYALIST… not radical.
      Marchand’s percentages were no better than Phinney’s.

      Phinney? Would have accomplished 0 for two more elections as a Republican.
      Or for that matter, Democrat.
      Be a third term loyalist, who votes as-TOLD in caucus, and get a minor leadership position.
      Do as you’re told in that position, and in your fifth term become Chair.
      Then do as you’re told, run for State Senate, and we’ll back you.
      Six years as a State Senator who toes the line, does as he’s told?

  5. Most people don’t even know who their local reps are. They just vote party loyalty down the ticket, because humans are stupid tribalists.

    1. Not stupid, just smartly ignorant. Do we want a world in which smart people feel compelled to pay more att’n to politics?

  6. Goddamn shame.

  7. It appears, according to the local TV station site, that Caleb Dyer also got trounced in Hillsborough District 37, underpolling all Republicans and also all Democrats.

  8. “”voters care more about party than literally anything else and that’s the biggest problem in this country.””

    Glad he’s finally woke. Big Two party affiliation is the only thing that matters. Even when the majority of voters are unaffiliated or decline to state, they will not vote for someone who isn’t Big Two. That’s how it works.

  9. “[V]oters care more about party than literally anything else” says the guy who switched parties because doing so was important to him. All I have learned is that he’s a bad strategist.

  10. It is always tough being he first one in the pool. Phinney found the water to be mighty chilly. EVery election will find LP candidates getting more votes and more recognitions for their ideas. I hope he runs again!!

  11. Repellent as the thought my be, ours is a two-party system. Seems that Brandon Phinney did some decent things as an elected Republican – much more than he can do as an unelected Libertarian. The lesson is: Join the majority party in your district but still be a Libertarian. Work inside the system. It’s the only way.

    1. Tankboy, you read in-error.
      Phinney was told to sit-down, shut-up, and mind his betters.
      You rise and vote AYE when told. You sit and vote NAY when told. Otherwise? Stay home.

      He switched to LP, submitted legislation, and became successful, as “Leadership” couldn’t block him.
      Which also meant, no amount of effort would be expended in talking about him in a derisive manner:

      “Phinney. Do you really believe he backs The President?
      Have you once seen him with a MAGA hat, or TRUMP button?
      Next election, he has to GO.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.