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Libertarians Hope To Make a Dent in November

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is in town this week for a fundraiser

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 17, 2012

Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson

So it's Obama and Biden vs. Ryan and Romney in November, but they won't be alone on the ballot. This week, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson will be guiding what he calls his Texas Swing Tour through Austin for a fundraising dinner.

A former Republican governor of New Mexico and a seasoned mountaineer, Johnson is running on the party's traditional anti-tax, small government platform (his two proudest claims are that he climbed Mt. Everest and that he vetoed almost a third of all bills passed during his tenure). Don't be surprised if he name-drops his endorsement from Willie Nelson during his Aug. 17 fundraiser at Hill's Cafe in South Austin. Political bargain hunters may note that a $500 donation gets you a seat next to the former governor, compared to $25,000 a couple when President Barack Obama dropped through town in July. The cheap seats start at $5.

Historically, Libertarians have been perceived as a thorn in the GOP's side, occasionally nudging elections toward the Democrats by pulling away some right-wing voters. In 2008 the GOP actively courted the Libertarian Party of Texas and asked them to pull candidates from the ballot in marginal seats (see "State GOP Fears Libertarian Upset," Aug. 8, 2008). Locally, Libertarians could become a factor in two key House races. Republican Paul Workman survived a bruising primary in House District 47, and Dem Chris Frandsen may be hoping that the addition of Libertarian Nick Tanner – running against Workman for being "pro-Amnesty, anti-free market" – may increase his chances. Next door in HD 48, Democrat Donna Howard narrowly squeaked out a multi-recount victory in 2010 and, while she is still favored over self-proclaimed moderate Republican Robert Thomas, Libertarian Joe Edgar could help her by further splitting the GOP base.

While the odds of a third party candidate winning the presidency are long, to say the least, Johnson is not the only White House hopeful not riding a donkey or an elephant to the polls. Only July 14, the Green Party nominated Massachusetts-based environmental health activist Jill Stein to head their slate, beating San Diego-based food self-sufficiency advocate Kent Mesplay and actress/macadamia farmer Roseanne Barr. Not to be deterred, Barr then became the presidential nominee for the Peace and Freedom Party, and is currently seeking signatures to get on the ballot in Minnesota, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

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