Marc Victor, the Libertarian Party (L.P.) candidate for U.S. Senate from Arizona, today announced he is dropping out of the race and endorsing his Republican opponent Blake Masters.
Victor, a lawyer who runs an advocacy organization called the Live and Let Live Global Peace Movement,** has polled as high as 6 percent in the past eight days, though more typically at 2–3 percent. Masters seemed eager to court libertarian support in the campaign's end game where he's now on average nearly 3 percentage points down from Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly.
Masters got an endorsement last week from 1988 L.P. presidential candidate Ron Paul. Masters also received support from podcaster Dave Smith, the likely L.P. 2024 presidential frontrunner. Smith earlier dismissed Victor as a "clown" after the L.P. candidate brought up the notion that age of consent laws were something that could be decided democratically at a televised October debate featuring all three Arizona Senate candidates, though Smith revoked the "clown" accusation in the wake of Victor's endorsement of Masters.
Victor's campaign raised over $128,000, high for an L.P. race, mostly from Democratic-leaning organizations that clearly seemed to believe he would take votes from Masters and help Kelly win. Victor says in a phone interview today that he understands why they might do that although it's "dirty politics and it's disgusting and I don't support it. But on the other hand, I'll take money from whoever wants to give it to me and use it to support freedom and peace."
Victor notes that neither the national nor state L.P. had supported him, and that he did not consult either institution on his decision. "From the people in the national party, I got nothing but aggravation. They did everything they could to make me look bad. I got no love from the Mises Caucus."
"Lots of people emailed me, some people even threatened me" about possibly being a spoiler in the race, but Victor insists that's not why he dropped out: "That stuff has zero effect on me. I'm not easily intimidated. I'm a guy that does what I want to do and I do the right thing."
Victor, who seemed like he might have more than beat the spread between Masters and his Democratic opponent Mark Kelly, had reached out publicly to both men to talk about potentially gaining his support. Masters took him up on it, agreeing to Victor's demand that their entire conversation be public. "Nothing behind closed doors, I wanted it to be 100 percent transparent," Victor says. He had vowed that if "either one of them convinces me it's in the interest of freedom and peace for me to step down, that's what I'll do."
Masters agreed to the video interview:
In the conversation with Victor, Masters said lots of things designed to appeal to a libertarian audience: that he carried around Ludwig Von Mises's massive economics tome Human Action as a teen; that he believed in the non-aggression principle; that he was a fan of Murray Rothbard; that he learned from his dad that you can't have an honest society without honest money; that he believed in low taxes and a balanced budget and a foreign policy only about national defense and not offensive wars abroad for democracy or nation building.
Most libertarians differ with Masters on his stances on immigration, bellicosity toward China (he is confident China is to blame for COVID, and vaguely vows on his campaign website to "get tough"), his enthusiastic public association with neoreactionaries, and his belief that government should manage the content moderation decisions of private tech companies and eliminate Section 230 liability protection for user-generated content, regulate them like common carriers, and use federal antitrust powers to curb them. Masters also wants to declare a federal war on "woke" policies in private businesses. Victor failed to get Masters to declare he was against any kind of federal drug war or for the unrestricted right for personal choice in substance use, as per the Libertarian position, with the Republican singling out fentanyl as a problem demanding federal response.
As former Rep. Justin Amash, the only sitting Libertarian ever in the U.S. House of Representatives, tweeted today: "I'm a libertarian, and Masters is an authoritarian grifting as hard as he can to convince both libertarians and nationalists he's one of them. We disagree on immigration, policing, war, economics, free speech, and more. In all those areas, he wants less liberty and more tyranny."
Victor felt he and Masters were close enough in believing that immigrants need to be vetted at the border and denied government benefits if let in with what Victor hopes should be a "very simple work visa" process. Victor also thinks those immigrants already here without criminal records should have a "reasonable path to citizenship."
Masters is 100 percent against all illegal immigration on his campaign page (though in his younger, more libertarian days he believed in "unrestricted" immigration) and otherwise says we need a new national conversation on who is let in and for what reasons. With his Trump endorsement, Masters is part of a movement that wants to build a wall across our border and otherwise spend more on border enforcement. In his conversation with Victor, he talked about stopping "Mexican drug cartels from selling people into slavery in our own country."
One big thing Masters has said that Libertarian voters might find objectionable is a straight-up declaration that "libertarianism doesn't work," made at September's National Conservatism Conference in Miami.
Victor confronted Masters with this, and in line with the general attitude of Masters' biggest supporter and co-author of Zero to One, Peter Thiel, he told Victor he has come to believe that the fight against an "authoritarian left" demands the control and use of state power to crush that left. "If we don't fight back," the left will lead us to a world of "death pits and concentration camps."
Victor grants there is not 100 percent agreement between him and Masters, but given a situation where he knows he was not going to win, he believes the cause of "freedom, peace and civility" is furthered more by a Masters win than a Kelly victory.
"Do I think I would have been a better candidate than him? Sure," Victor says. "Do I think he's a bad candidate? No. Do I think he's better than Kelly? For sure. And do I think he'll probably be one of the better or best U.S. senators if he gets into the Senate? Yeah. And so for me, that's worth stepping down in and trying to push him to get across the finish line….I think in his heart he understands the non-aggression principle."
"Until we get ranked choice voting or some other mechanism that allows people to vote for who they think is actually the best candidate," Victor says, "I think we're stuck."
Emily Goldberg, chair of the Arizona Libertarian Party, who both sides agreed had very little to do with Victor's campaign, nonetheless says in a phone interview today that she feels "punched in the gut" by Victor's decision to essentially ally with the Republican Party that has for years in Arizona, she says, been fighting to tighten ballot access requirements to crush the L.P. Tens of thousands of voters wanted to vote for a Libertarian, and this move, she thinks, "disenfranchises them, and I can't forgive him for that."
Victor will still be on the ballot, and many people have already voted, so the chance that he grabs some votes that might have gone, or might be perceived as likely having gone, to Masters remains. "A lot of people are upset that I'm backing out," he grants. "But, you know, I try to make the decisions that are best for the cause."
**CORRECTION: Victor's advocacy group was misnamed and wrongly linked in this story's initial posting.