Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Legislatosaurus Rex?


There's been plenty of hype -- some of it justified, some a little over the top -- about the prospects of Libertarian congressional candidates this years. The lion's share of that hype has gone to Texas and the campaigns of Michael Badnarik and Bob Smither. The attention is justified, based on Badnarik's warchest and Smither's status as the only non-Democrat on the ballot in a heavily Republican district.

Of course, I'm skeptical. The latest polls I've seen show both candidates in single digits (granted, the last Badnarik poll was awhile back). I think they'll do better than their polling numbers would predict, but I'm not convinced that a victory is in the offing. I hope they both prove me wrong. Either way, I believe we'll see a number of "balance of power" showings in which the LP's candidate has a significant impact on outcome. Those may include US Senate candidates Frank Gilmour in Missouri and Bruce Guthrie in Washington.

The more likely prospect for outright victory is that Libertarians will be elected to state legislatures in two or three states: New Hampshire, Vermont and, just possibly, Indiana.

In Vermont, five "fusion" candidates (Benjamin Todd, Jeff Manney, Bob Wolffe, David Atkinson and Hardy Machia) won their districts' Republican primaries to run on both the GOP and LP tickets. There's a good chance that some or all of them will be elected to office.

New Hampshire has been the site of "fusion" victories in the past, and a number of LP candidates are seeking legislative seats there this year as well. Notably, state LP chair John Babiarz is running as a Democrat. The trend there seems to be away from fusion per se and toward seeking major party nominations. That hasn't been a reliable way of winning office in the past, but it sometimes works and in particular areas it may be key (not just for state races -- Frank Gonzalez ran as a Libertarian for Congress from Florida in 2004, and is the Democratic nominee in that same district this time around).

And in Indiana, Rex Bell is apparently polling in the 30%+ range, slightly behind the Republican incumbent and slightly ahead of the Democratic candidate for a legislative seat. I haven't seen any hard information on the poll's methodology and such, but if it's accurate the Indiana LP may finally see its years of hard work pay off.

Best of luck to these candidates, some of whom are personal friends. I'll be thrilled and surprised if we elect a congresscritter this year, but I'm actually confident that we'll see some Libertarians in the statehouse.

Update/Correx -- Thanks to Seth Cohn for two factual corrections: 1) The trend in New Hampshire isn't just "away" from fusion, it's off it altogether as the New Hampshire LP isn't on the ballot. 2) John Babiarz lost his Democratic primary, but a number of other Granite State Libertarians made the election cut, including Don Gorman (see here for a list of 132 candidates endorsed by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance). Also thanks to Seth for this analysis contesting the notion that Bob Smither is really polling in single digits. FWIW, I predict that both Smither and Badnarik will do better than 10%, polling or not (partly because I think they'll get out a higher percentage of their voters).

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