Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Congratulations to Alison Foxall

Yes, really.

I'm already hearing some Libertarians (both in Florida and nationally) who are down in the mouth about Foxall "only" getting 3.x% of the vote in yesterday's special election for Florida state legislature after running a professional campaign that raised more money than any Florida house or senate campaign in the Libertarian Party's history.

Some will point out that 3.x% is pretty much average for a Libertarian candidate, but one thing they're not taking into account is the role special elections are assuming nationwide right now due to, in a word, Trump.

Democrats are pouring on the money and ground game as they take advantage of discontent with Trump to set themselves up for big gains in the US House/Senate midterms this November.

Republicans are doing the same thing as the Democrats in an attempt to fend off those prospective Democratic gains.

All of these special elections are being portrayed by both major parties as 1) incredibly tight and 2) of earth-shaking importance, which is the perfect storm for "wasted vote syndrome." They're the hardest kinds of elections for Libertarian candidates to break out in.

If I'd been forced to make a bet on yesterday's outcome, I'd have put my money on Foxall getting 1-2% of the vote. The extra 1.x% is, in my eyes, a function of better than usual campaigning. So yes, congrats.

That doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned here.

In an early stumble, Foxall appeared to endorse pending state legislation against "sanctuary cities" (she later clarified that she opposes the legislation on "home rule" grounds). Whether or not that stumble could have been avoided (the media will misinterpret Libertarians at every opportunity), it did probably hurt.

Her web site campaign platform ("The Plan") emphasized three issues (good! If you try to talk about too many things, nobody gets any of your many messages), but it may have been that those were not the three issues her prospective constituents cared most about (Libertarians can't control which issues the electorate cares about in any given election; the best we can do is offer good answers on those issues instead of trying to replace them with issues we care about).

And the LP is always having, and needs to have more, discussions on whether "professional campaigns" are as important as, or as effective as, more radical messaging. If the "professional campaign" aspect gained 1.x% of the vote for Foxall versus the notional base I posit, would big Hail Mary plays on the issues (for example, "end occupational licensing in Florida" instead of "end 80% of occupational licensing in Florida") have received more publicity and brought in more votes than, or combined with, the good pro mechanics?

But the fact that there are lessons to be learned does not overshadow the fact that she did a damn good job for her party and her district.

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