SC Libertarian Jeremy Walters comes close to major LP victory, plans 2014 run

Part of a series highlighting significant stories from the 2012 election

Jeremy Walters,
2012 candidate for SC House

Libertarian Jeremy Walters was in the unique position of being the only partisan candidate on the ballot for a state House seat. On a small budget, he ran a spirited race but fell short of winning by just 3 percent of the vote, or 656 votes. Had he won, South Carolina would have become the fourth state to elect a Libertarian to a state legislature, joining New Hampshire, Vermont and Alaska.

Walters received 5,243 votes (47 percent) and Felder won 5,899 votes (53 percent).

Walters ran for an open seat in the newly-created 26th district of the South Carolina House against Raye Felder, a Republican, who had been disqualified from the ballot on a technicality. She had neglected to file a paper copy of her statement of economic interest. But she subsequently collected enough signatures to get on the ballot as a nonpartisan “petition candidate.”

The Republican Party had tried, but failed, to get Walters knocked off the ballot too, accusing him of not getting his papers correct.

‘’It was exciting to fight a machine like that,” Walters said.

He ran no radio, TV, or newspaper ads, and was outspent by his opponent seven to one. Walters received $4,620 in donations, while Felder received $31,251. Felder also allegedly had the Republican “machine” working on her behalf.

“I lost but I really didn’t lose,” Walters said.

New to politics, Jeremy Walters initially announced he would run on the Republican ticket. After GOP leadership discouraged him from running, he sought the LP nomination, which he won unanimously after delivering a passionate speech at the party’s state convention in April.

He said he gained momentum once LP presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson spoke at Winthrop University. Walters received $1,800 in contributions after a Johnson endorsement.

York County LP Chair Jennifer Schulz said that Walters was cautious not to over-promise when dealing with voters. “I’m not going to lie to you. I’m going to stand for the Constitution,” Walters told voters.

Schulz helped spread his campaign message through social media, which he estimates comprised about 30 percent of his campaign efforts. He also went door to door in his district, hung around at the local Starbucks talking one on one with voters, staked yard signs at the entrance to residential subdivisions, and attended homeowners’ association meetings.

“It was a full time [job],” he said.

In hindsight, he wishes that he had used some funds for advertising, to point out his opponent’s admission that she wants to raise taxes. During their live-stream debate, hosted by the Fort Mill Times, the candidates were asked if they would eliminate many of the state’s tax exemptions, thus raising state revenues. Walters responded by saying his goal was to end the state income tax, pointing out that taxes hinder job growth. Republican Felder countered that the loss of revenue from ending the state income tax would need to be replaced, assuming that cutting state spending is not an option. Further, she wants to eliminate sales tax exemptions to increase tax collections.

As the new vice chairman of the York County LP, Walters said that he’s going to spend the next two years mastering the art of fundraising and trying to convince people to join the LP.

“[I want to] build a libertarian caucus in the state of South Carolina,” he said.

Walters plans to run again in 2014, hoping to parlay his recent near-success into a higher profile that he can use to speak in front of far more people during his next race.

“We’re going to speak to every group,” he said. “Every time I spoke to people, a lot of people responded and they went and told their friends.”