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Indiana Democrats Encourage Conservatives to Vote for Libertarian Lucy Brenton for Senate

Weird new wrinkle for the purported "spoiler" in a toss-up race

||| POOL/REUTERS/NewscomPOOL/REUTERS/NewscomIn a two-part article published late last week, longtime conservative direct mail entrepreneur Richard Viguerie warned that Libertarian candidates are on the verge of setting back the cause of liberty by contributing to the defeat of Republicans on Election Day. "The peculiar tendency for libertarians and constitutionalists to turn on anyone who works to change the Republican Party from within," Viguerie wrote, "has reared its ugly head again in this year's life or death struggle for control of Congress and key state Governorships."

Of the races for U.S. Senate—currently balancing on a 51–49 knife's edge favoring the GOP—that are most susceptible to Libertarian spoilage, Viguerie contended, "Indiana may be the most noteworthy."

As we have noted here, the Libertarians' nominee in that race, Lucy Brenton, has been consistently polling the second-highest of all 17 Libertarian Senate candidates, behind New Mexico's Gary Johnson (who on Monday was buffeted by an unhappy new Emerson poll putting him at 18 percent, well behind Republican Mick Rich's 32 percent, let alone incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich's 48 percent).

In the six independent surveys that have included Brenton as an option, she's averaging 5.8 percent, far outpacing the difference between incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly (43 percent) and GOP challenger Mike Braun (42.3 percent). She won 5.5 percent of the vote running for Senate in 2016, and will be appearing tonight in the second and final candidate debate.

Brenton is also appearing in a new Indiana Democratic Party mailer aimed at conservative voters to talk them out of voting Republican, according to the Indianapolis Star:

The words "Looking for a candidate who will really lower your taxes?" appear on the front of the flier. On the back, the mailer says that Brenton "is an anti-tax conservative" while Braun "raised Indiana taxes 159 times." Donnelly isn't mentioned.

"I am grateful for the free publicity highlighting my tax stance, but think it will backfire," Brenton told the Star. "Many Democrats are Constitution loving, fiscally conservative voters and my message resonates with them, too. Ultimately, how well they targeted the addresses will determine which voters learn that they have a choice in this race that demands all of their freedoms, all of the time."

It is unclear how Brenton's campaign is affecting the two-party race. In the only survey that asked respondents both with and without the Libertarian's name, the net effect of her inclusion was that Donnelly's lead shrank from six percentage points to three. In the Star article, Purdue political science professor Andy Downs says that, "The conventional wisdom is that Libertarians take votes away from Republican candidates. The idea being that the focus is on fiscal issues....However, Lucy Brenton has done well among folks who are traditionally Democratic voters as well."

I asked Brenton a month ago at the Texas Tribune Festival to theorize why she might be pulling more Democratic votes than Republican. Her answer:

[Donnelly] is widely known for crossing the aisle, advocating for Trump's wall, and would likely vote for [Supreme Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh (note: days later he did not), but he's afraid to, so they're just trying to kick that can just a little bit further, a few more weeks. So he's a Democrat that, in a Republican state, does the smart thing of often voting with Republicans.

My Republican opponent bought the election, the primary, against two very hated Republican contenders. But the point is that this guy was actually a Democrat for many, many years, voted Democrat in his local elections, and so people see him as a Democrat. So in my race, I'm really against two Democrats.

So I'm taking votes, I'm spoiling, the more Democrat of the two, the incumbent, because he's the one who has advocated for medicinal marijuana, reluctantly. He is the one who's changed his position on gay marriage, reluctantly. But because I'm more on the side of freedom for the people who want that type of social freedom, those are the ones who are more likely to vote for me, because they're like, "You know what? He's just not going far enough. We want all of our freedoms all the time. The only person that's promised to do that for us is Lucy."

As a general principle, the "spoiler" charge rests on the assumption that the votes of a third-party candidate belong inherently to one of the other two. This is the case neither in principle nor practice: Exit polls consistently show that more than half of Libertarian voters would rather not vote than go D or R. The remaining minority is usually split one way or the other, depending on the characteristics of the race.

Still, here come the headlines: "Polls show Lucy Brenton as potential 'spoiler' in Indiana Senate race," "Libertarian candidate threatens to spoil Indiana Senate race," and "Will Libertarian Sink Republican in Indiana Senate Race?" If Brenton performs well at tonight's debate, and the Senate majority hangs on the balance of Indiana, this may be the race that Republicans or Democrats get most mad at.

Photo Credit: POOL/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • damikesc||

    "I am grateful for the free publicity highlighting my tax stance, but think it will backfire," Brenton told the Star. "Many Democrats are Constitution loving, fiscally conservative voters and my message resonates with them, too. Ultimately, how well they targeted the addresses will determine which voters learn that they have a choice in this race that demands all of their freedoms, all of the time."

    So, the LP's official plan is to constantly nominate absolute morons to run for office?

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    Bill Clinton and Obama were far more fiscally responsible than Dumbya and the Dotard, you idiot. Both greatly reduced the deficit and actually CUT spending modestly.

  • TuIpa||

    Is this a lie like the lie I caught you in yesterday that caused to to desperately and pathetically try to find ANYTHING to attack me for, which led you to defend Google for their human rights abuses in China?

    It is!!!!

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    Shut up, you lying GOP hack.

    It is well known that Clinton left office with the US with an annual surplus and Dumbya and the GOP cranked the spending up to trillion dollar deficits.

    But you lie again.

  • TuIpa||

    See how pissed he is that I caught him lying!!!

    "But you lie again"

    No you have me confused with YOU!! AHAHAHAHH YOU COULDN'T EVEN POST A QUOTE!!!!

    AHAHAHAHAAHAH

    POLITIFACT!!! YOU BELIEVE POLITIFACT!!!!

    AHAHAJAJAJHJA

    WHY NOT JUST THROW SOME CHICKEN BONES !!!

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Nigga, please............

    It's well known the only reason Clinton showed any fiscal restraint was because the GOP congress forced him to. Dick Morris's talks about this a lot, and he was there.

    Obama showed no fiscal restraint. He normalized stimulus spending, amd his insane budget proposals were DOA in the congress.

    https://tinyurl.com/ydxrrrfe

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +1000

  • rchive||

    Nope, if you go look at the federal government's official surplus/deficit numbers, the US federal deficit decreased every year between 1992 and 2000 and every year between 2009 and 2015, when Clinton and Obama were President, respectively. Part of Clinton's presidency, we actually had a surplus. Bush, Jr.'s presidency, a couple years had deficit decreases, a several had increases.

  • TuIpa||

    So it was a lie, and when you said "Nope" you were wrong, and cherrypicking.

    Great!!

    Ps, the numbers are public knowledge, no ome needs you to shill, which won't work anyway because THE NUMBER ARE PUBLIC.

  • TuIpa||

    And seriously, you suck at socking that one was obvious screeeeech.

  • Mickey Rat||

    To the extent that is true, it is largely because of having oppositional Congresses for most of their terms. It was counter to their preferred policies.

  • tlapp||

    Neither cut spending at all.

  • Wizard4169||

    Half-true, anyway. To suggest that either Clinton or Obama were fiscally responsible is laughable. Spending under both was controlled (to the extent it was) because they had Republican congresses, and the GOP congresscritters managed to maintain some tiny sliver of backbone as long as the Pres had a D after his name. (Too bad those same congresscritters proceeded to reopen the floodgates as soon as they had a Pres with R.) As for Obama cutting spending, that's true, but something of a technicality. He inherited a wildly inflated baseline, and only managed to drag deficits back down to where they were before Bush II exploded them on his way out. That's not nothing, but it's not much, either.

  • Sarah Palin's Buttplug||

    A year ago, President Barack Obama said during his 2015 State of the Union address that the United States has seen "our deficits cut by two-thirds" during his tenure. We rated that claim Mostly True. During his 2016 State of the Union address, Obama raised the bar.

    After citing some of his administration's economic accomplishments, he said, "We've done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters."

    Has the deficit-reduction expanded during the past year? We took a closer look.

    Let's start with an important reminder: The deficit is not the same as the debt.

    Politifact

  • TuIpa||

    Bro you defend human rights abusers by lying and attacking their critics.

    "Politifact"

    AHAHAHHAAHHAAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    POLITIFACT!!!

    AHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAJAH. HE THINK AHAHHAAHHAHAHHA CREDIBILE AHAHAHAHAHAH YEAH CREDIBLE LIKE SWETNICK AHAHAHAHHAHAHAJAAJ

    POLITIFACT!!!

    AHAHAHHAAHHAJAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAH OMFG AHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHJA

    PAY YOUR BET YOU FUCKING WELSHER!!!

  • TuIpa||

    Shorter screeeeeech "I BELIEVE WHAT POLITIFACT TELLS ME TO BELIEVE"

    AHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH OMFG AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA

    I LOVE THAT I GOT TO YOU BY POINTING OUT YOUR LIES YOU OBVIOUSLY HATE IT AND WILL DO AND SAY ANYTHING TO GET ME BACK AHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHA I FUCKING OWN YOU AHAHAHAHAHAAHHA

    POLITIFACT !!!!! HE FUCKING BELIEVES POLITIFACT!!! AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAJA

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    PB, see my comment up thread. You are wrong. I prove it.

    Best you shut up and learn to obey.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Open wider, bigot.

    Your betters are not through with you.

    Mutter all you want, though. Muttering bitterly is free!

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Blah, blah, blah. More boringly unoriginal bullshit from Rev. Retard. And I still proved I'm right.

  • rchive||

    What about this comment is moronic?

  • TuIpa||

    That's not what he said.

  • rchive||

    If the implication wasn't that Brenton's comment was moronic, what did that quote have to do with, "The LP plans to constantly nominate morons?"

  • TuIpa||

    "If the implication"

    Stop. I don't care what your tiny mind thought was implied screech, we are talking about what he said.

    Try to keep up.

  • damikesc||

    Brenton told the Star. "Many Democrats are Constitution loving, fiscally conservative voters and my message resonates with them, too..."

    So, LP candidates are required to be idiots?

  • damikesc||

    Fucking squirrels

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Another glitchy website day at Reason.

  • Jerryskids||

    LP candidates can be politicians, if you're trying to appeal to Democratic voters you'd do better to say good things about them rather than denounce them as deplorables. But I'm sure someone as wise as yourself (not to mention handsome and successful and sexually attractive) intuitively understands this and your smart and witty comment was only a sarcastic display of your disappointment in realizing that some LP candidates are just like any other politician.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    No you're right. We all know that every single Democrat everywhere is an extremist progressive campus activist demanding human rights for squirrels and proclaiming that there are 2,293 genders. Especially those radical Democrats from Indiana!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Vote against Democrats every chance you get. Destroy the Democratic Party, so the Libertarian Party can replace them as the best of two.

  • Eric||

    Spending your days trolling a libertarian website isn't going to gain you any traction with your "Destroy the Democratic Party" plan. Instead you should take your charming self to left leaning websites. Those poor folks at Huff Post would be putty in your hands, just like the rest of us here at H&R.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Eric, how is he trolling? I would love to see the LP supplant the democrats as the second national party. It would make the country better, and make the republicans better too.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Is that the official advice from Libertarians For Authoritarian Immigration Restrictions, Statist Womb Management, Government Gay-Bashing, Crony-Protecting Trade Policy, and General Right-Wing Bigotry?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Notice Lefty trolls trolling the Reason website which is not very Libertarian these days but does have some Libertarian commenters like myself.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Based on what I'm reading and hearing, desperate Donnelly is going around campaigning as the democratic party version of Donald Trump, disavowing practically every single position the democrats hold dear.

    Pretty darn shameless, and I still think people aren't going to be too quick to forget that he voted "No" on Kavanaugh.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The reason to not vote for this Brenton candidate is because she is a moron.

    Unless the LP has great candidates for office, I will vote Republican to utterly destroy the Democratic Party and get them from as many political seats as possible.

    Then the Libertarian Party can be taken back by actual Libertarians who have a good head on their shoulders and then defeat the GOP to get fiscally conservative and socially liberal Americans back in charge of the USA.

  • juris imprudent||

    Your one single vote is about as threatening to the Democrats as a stand of overcooked spaghetti.

  • juris imprudent||

    strand, fookin' pirates stole the 'r'

  • loveconstitution1789||

    My one vote is not much but my vote with thousands like mine mean enough to get Democrats scared shitless.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Every electoral victory starts with a single vote.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    Who are you trying to fool? We know you're voting Republican regardless. I admire your passion, but it's pretty obvious what side you're on so you might as well just say it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why would I vote blindly for the LP that has non-Libertarian candidates running? No thanks.

    And after the Democratic Party is destroyed as a major political party, us Libertarians will take back the LP and wreck the GOP's political aspirations.

  • JFree||

    The peculiar tendency for libertarians and constitutionalists to turn on anyone who works to change the Republican Party from within," Viguerie wrote, "has reared its ugly head again in this year's life or death struggle for control of Congress and key state Governorships.

    Fuck you! Such typical nonsense from the DeRps. Any time they need small-l votes, present the election as life-or-death and 'GOP is your friend'. Even if this particular candidate offers nothing beyond the usual economic top-down cronyism and blather. And once the election is over - well it'll be back to normal where small-l's surrender on all issues within the GOP but hey 'better to work within the tent cuz lesser evil and in 50 years the tent might change blahblah BS'.

    I bought that BS for a decade- then realized it's all just part of the DeRp scam

  • Kivlor||

    As a general principle, the "spoiler" charge rests on the assumption that the votes of a third-party candidate belong inherently to one of the other two.

    I've always viewed it as the political version of the board-game term "kingmaker". A person who is playing the game, but has no option for victory, however, is in the position to help and chooses to secure victory for an opponent. They pick the winner, because they cannot win.

  • Nardz||

    Since the LP is a joke and not viable, I don't see how they think they're owed respect

  • Dizzle||

    This. What the libertarian party should be doing is pouring money (what little they might have) into promoting these candidates who actually poll decently in their states. Run not attack ads, but ads that simply explain the candidates libertarian position on a certain issue and why its beneficial. These races should be used by the lp to spread their message just as much as they should be to win the actual election.

    In this time of people leaving both parties and the "independent" middle group growing...the lack of growth and recruitment by the national LP is just fucking pathetic. This is the time to turn/inform voters our way but they're completely whiffing their opportunity. If the LP can't pull in voters now, they never will. Honestly the worst part of being a libertarian voter is knowing the parties leadership sucks so bad.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Sorry, that scaremongering won't work on me anymore. Both parties can go to hell. If Republicans lose because Libertarians were the spoilers, it's entirely their fault for selling out the cause of liberty and being generally awful. Blaming libertarians for not voting reflexively for Republicans is like blaming the customer for not buying a company's shitty product. Sorry, not the customer's fault. Try not being shitty next time.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We know that you wont vote Republican or Libertarian anyway.

  • TuIpa||

    Boom.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Jeffy gets a tiny Chinee chubby for the Dems when he votes. Assuming he's even old enough.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Many Democrats are Constitution loving, fiscally conservative voters and my message resonates with them, too.

    In a normal election year, maybe. But not in the most important election of our lifetime. (If we're even allowed to vote this year.)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If Brenton performs well at tonight's debate, and the Senate majority hangs on the balance of Indiana, this may be the race that Republicans or Democrats get most mad at.

    Libertarian Moment!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    As we have noted here, the Libertarians' nominee in that race, Lucy Brenton, has been consistently polling the second-highest of all 17 Libertarian Senate candidates, behind New Mexico's Gary Johnson...

    There are 17 LP candidates up for a senate seat??? Why are they bunched up like that? THEY'RE WATERING DOWN THE VOTE.

  • juris imprudent||

    Oh, and don't you talk bad 'bout Lucy!

  • H. Farnham||

    As an unaffiliated (independent) voter who leans right and votes Republican more often than not... I say good, I hope she does spoil it for Braun.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    I'm surprised that she didn't say that lots of Democrats support the 2A as well....

  • General_Tso||

    Libertarians will never be more than spoilers. Sorry Charlie

  • josh||

    I voted for her.

  • markuzick||

    It's truly a shame that Libertarians as spoilers is a myth: when Republicans control both houses and the executive branch, they just run amok with spending and wars on everything and everyone to an extent that the Democrats can only envy. They behave much better when they're not in complete control, otherwise they just steal Democrat ideas like Obama Care, renaming it Trump Care, and declaring victory. Since Libertarians are not really spoilers, then maybe they need to just pinch their noses shut and vote for Democrats when it's strategically necessary, only voting for Libertarians when there is more of the political balance known as gridlock.

  • vek||

    At the national level, sure.

    But what about state and local? Rs have ACTUALLY cut taxes, cut spending, cut deficits, etc in MANY states. Name a Dem who has done that lately.

    It's sellout RINOs going to DC that is the biggest problem on non culture war fronts.

  • rano del||

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  • Jon Watts||

    It is good that the Democrats cheer on the demise of their duopolist partners.

    We intend to take votes from both.

    We will do that until one or both of them are irrelevant, or as libertarian as we are.

    We are the "new product" in the market for freedom. This is what many people want.

    As long as either of them produce toxic false freedom or cheap liberty knockoffs, Libertarians will get those votes, and duopolists will lose elections.

    We look forward to the advance of freedom for all. Join us, or prepare to share your lunch.

    Jon Briggs Watts
    Chair,
    Alaska Libertarian Party

  • vek||

    Here's the deal: It all depends on the race. The fact is many Republicans are really moderate libertarians in disguise. The problem is almost none of them make it to high office in DC, although a fair number that ACTUALLY want to trim back government make it into the house. Locally and in state government though, there are a pretty solid number of decent folks.

    Try to look into the particulars of a race... If the Republican is a B, but the Democrat is a D+, even if the Libertarian is an A-, if the R actually has a shot at winning, why would one not go for that? If the R is REALLY a horrible one, then fine, protest vote Libertarian... But a lot of them really aren't. It's mostly just the dirt bags in DC who are especially horrible.

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