The Libertarian Party of Arkansas’ chairman and U.S. Senate candidate say the party has a good chance to break the 3% threshold to qualify for ballot access without collecting signatures after their national party nominated its presidential and vice presidential candidates this weekend.
“I think the prospects look very good. It’s hard to tell which twists and turns the election will take,” said Dr. Michael Pakko, state LPA chair. “But at this time, it just seems like the Libertarian Party and our candidates for president and vice president are getting more media attention than we ever have received before, and so I think that can only work to our advantage to help us to get a higher vote total.”
The national party’s nominating convention in Orlando drew 250 reporters seeking media credentials, which was 10 times the amount who covered the party’s 2012 convention.
Reporters were drawn to the event because of the high unfavorable ratings of the expected major party nominees, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, and because the LPA was choosing two candidates with high profiles: for president, the party’s 2012 nominee, former Republican New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and for vice president, former Republican Massachusetts Gov. William Weld.
Longtime LPA activist Frank Gilbert, who is running as the party’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2016, said he was “tickled to death” about the party’s selections.
“If you just look at it from experience, from every empirical standard that you can think of in politics, the Libertarian ticket is going to be the most experienced, the most governance-ready pair in November,” he said.
If Johnson wins 3% of the vote in Arkansas this year, the party would avoid having to collect 10,000 signatures in 2018 to qualify for ballot access – an exercise that cost $34,000 for this year’s cycle as well as a lot of energy and legwork. Johnson won only 1.5% of the vote in Arkansas in 2012.
This was a contested convention where both candidates were nominated on the second ballot – a quick selection that surprised Pakko, who was a delegate. Pakko said there were raucous rallies held in support of candidates, who wooed delegates with suites offering coffee and donuts while their sign-carrying backers marched through the convention hall.
Many were skeptical of Weld, who only recently joined the LPA. Gilbert said Weld assuaged his concerns about his support of gun rights and effectively expressed his party loyalty by displaying his lifetime membership card. Gilbert said Weld’s selection was a reflection of the party’s growing maturity as well as the influence of Johnson, who wanted Weld as his running mate.
“It’s not something he’s doing as an opportunist,” he said of Weld. “If there were opportunities, I am sure he could find better ones other places. But I think he sees an opportunity for the party and the country more than himself.”
Gilbert said some members of the party were complaining about the two “GOP-lite” Republican governors selected by the party. He said Johnson and Weld were able to govern in heavily Democratic states because they held anti-war, ant-surveillance state, and anti-drug war positions contrary to Republicans.
“To think of men who hold those positions as GOP-lite is laughable,” he said.
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