State GOP Fears Libertarian Upset

Republicans see the future, and it is the Libertarian Party of Texas!

Wes Benedict
Wes Benedict (Photo by John Anderson)

The Republican Party of Texas is so concerned that Libertarians could win votes away from the GOP in November that party leaders are asking state Libertarian Party candidates not to run. "They're telling our candidates they're worried," said Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas.

On Aug. 1, Benedict released a press statement saying former Lampasas state Rep. Suzanna Hupp had contacted several Libertarian candidates, including Jason Jordan, running against Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, and Joe Allport, challenging Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. (This is not the first time this year Republicans have asked Libertarians to drop out: GOPer Don Zimmerman turned up at the Travis County Libertarian Party's convention, to ask Mike Burris not to run for tax assessor-collector, the post Zimmerman is seeking.) Benedict said Hupp, who resigned in 2006 to become a lobbyist, "alluded to potential board seats and other enticements" if the candidates dropped out. On Aug. 4, Benedict and LPT Chair Pat Dixon had a meeting with House Speaker Tom Craddick's staff. Benedict said Craddick's representative told him, "'The conversation in the papers seems to be that you don't want to talk with us' – and we said we're always happy to talk, but we're recommending that our candidates stay on the ballot."

LPT candidates have filed to run for 12 state Senate seats and 84 House seats, and the party estimates it could be a deciding factor in potentially dislodging the incumbent party in 16 races. While some of those projected switches could be from Democrat to Republican, Libertarians hope discontentment among Republican "small l" libertarians, as evidenced by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's strong presidential primary showing, will give them a boost. It seems the GOP fears the same thing. "They think we're Republicans," Benedict noted and said his party's candidates have received "offers of spots on campaign commercials" to promote their agendas. But when Craddick's staff asked Benedict what particular policies were the biggest issue, he named three – the $3 billion bond for the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute, the governor's Texas Enterprise Fund, and the business margin tax – that have become cornerstone initiatives for the administration.

Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto said that while he was surprised the Republicans were concerned about such seemingly safe seats as Crownover's and Christian's, "With us being only five seats away from regaining the House, I'm not surprised that former representatives and the speaker would do anything to hold on to power."

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