Election 2022

Will Pennsylvania's Libertarian Senate Candidate Drop Out? 'That's a Hard No.'

Like Arizona's Marc Victor, Erik Gerhardt is a potential spoiler in one of the nation's biggest Senate races. Unlike Victor, he's embracing the role.


Unlike his counterpart in Arizona, Erik Gerhardt says he isn't going anywhere.

Gerhardt is the Libertarian Party candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, which is likely to be one of the closest and most important races in the country. The same could be said of Arizona's Senate race, which was shaken up on Monday by Libertarian Marc Victor's decision to drop out and endorse the Republican in the race, Blake Masters, seemingly in an effort to throw the key election to the GOP.

Despite that, Gerhardt says there's nothing that would make him drop out of the Pennsylvania race to clear the way for either Democratic candidate and former Lt. Gov. John Fetterman or Republican nominee and reality TV star Mehmet Oz.

"They can't promise me anything that would make me happy enough to do so," Gerhardt tells Reason. "There's no monetary value to the morale that would be lost with either of [those] candidates winning that seat."

"So, yeah, that's a hard no," he added. "That's not happening."

The closeness of the race in Pennsylvania has already inspired one alternative candidate to drop out. Independent candidate Everett Stern ended his write-in campaign last week and endorsed Fetterman.

That sort of zero-sum politicking seems antithetical to the very point of third parties. It makes little sense to spend the time and effort to get on the ballot—in Pennsylvania, Gerhardt needed to get 2,000 signatures to qualify—only to genuflect to one of the two major parties in the week before the election.

But that's exactly what happened in Arizona.

Although Masters' background includes working in the libertarian movement, he has more recently stated that libertarianism "doesn't work" and embraced more authoritarian positions on a variety of issues—particularly on immigration and his promises to get "tough" with China.

Victor's announcement sparked another round of an ongoing fight over the purpose and function of the Libertarian Party. Some prominent libertarians including podcast host Dave Smith (who, like Ron Paul, had previously endorsed Masters outright) defended Victor's decision as a strategic move "in the interest of liberty." Others, like former congressman Justin Amash, condemned it.

Chase Oliver, the Libertarian candidate in the hotly contested Georgia Senate race, wrote on Twitter that "any Libertarian who endorsed Masters should be laughed out of the convention hall." That's a shot at both Victor and Smith, who is widely considered a leading candidate for the party's presidential nomination in 2024.

"If you support endorsing Republicans, you ought to be one," Oliver wrote.

There's little doubt that Victor moved the needle in Arizona, where he was polling well into the double-digits at one point and as high as 8 percent in the past week. As Reason's Brian Doherty reported Monday, Victor's campaign raised over $128,000, which is high for a Libertarian candidate, though most of it came from Democratic-leaning organizations that clearly seemed to believe he would take votes from Masters and help Sen. Mark Kelly (D–Ariz.) win reelection.

In Pennsylvania, Gerhardt is polling less well but the close race between Fetterman and Oz means every vote he gets could be important to the outcome. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Fetterman leading by 1.2 percent despite ongoing concerns about his health and a shaky debate performance last week.

The results could also affect the Libertarian Party's future ballot access—garnering more than 2 percent of the vote would guarantee the party statewide ballot access in 2024.

Rather than running from the role of being a potential spoiler for Fetterman or Oz, Gerhardt is embracing it.

"I say split the divide and take everything that they don't have," Gerhardt, a 37-year-old general contractor and master carpenter, told Reason on Monday. "And I take some stuff they already do have and I bloody both their noses and then I come back harder next time."