The toxic tribal warfare between Democrats and Republicans is benefiting the Libertarian Party in two ways. First, candidates for office who actually want to fix the problems caused by government are running as Libertarians — and winning. Two county commissioners, Joshua Beal and Erika Ebel, and Mayor Stephen Chambers were all Libertarian Party candidates elected in Tennessee on Aug. 2. They join the 174 Libertarians holding elected office nationwide.
Meanwhile, serious public servants who were originally elected as Republicans or Democrats, are switching to the Libertarian Party in increasing numbers. If the thorough drubbing suffered by Austin Petersen in the recent Missouri election is any indication, leaving the Libertarian Party to get elected doesn’t work so well. Although Petersen had placed second in the nomination for the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2016, after Gov. Gary Johnson, he later switched to the Republican Party in order to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri. There, he placed a disappointing third in the Republican primary, with only 8.3 percent of the vote.
Following is a partial list of sitting officeholders who have recently switch from the Republican or Democratic parties to the Libertarian Party.
New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. switched from Republican to Libertarian last January, becoming the first statewide Libertarian Party officeholder. Dunn’s father served as a senator in the New Mexico legislature as a Democrat from 1965–1980. Dunn considered running for U.S. Senate as a Libertarian this year, but stepped aside to make way for former Libertarian Party presidential candidate and former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson to make that run instead.
Nebraska state Sen. Laura Ebke was elected as a Republican to the state’s unicameral Senate in 2014. In 2016, she switched her affiliation to the Libertarian Party. “I got frustrated with some of my colleagues who don’t recognize civil liberties and don’t seem to agree with getting government out of people’s business,” she told the Omaha World-Herald. As a Libertarian legislator, Ebke was able to pass a comprehensive tri-partisan reform of the state’s onerous occupational licensing laws and bring new opportunity to countless Nebraskans. In June’s top-two primary, she advanced to the general election in November despite the concerted opposition of a vengeful Republican Party and governor.
Three New Hampshire state representatives, a Democrat and two Republican, all made the switch to the Libertarian Party.
Joseph Stallcop was elected in 2016 after running unopposed as a Democrat in the New Hampshire House 4th District. In 2017, he announced his switch to the Libertarian Party in a speech on the steps of the New Hampshire State House. He said that his views as a classical liberal and civil libertarian meshed more closely with the Libertarian Party than with the Democrats. He was also frustrated by criticism over his votes to kill a bill raising the minimum age for marriage to 18 and to allow concealed carry of firearms without a permit.
Brandon Phinney did not run unopposed. Campaigning in 2016 as a Republican in the New Hampshire House 24th District, he beat his Democratic opponent by only 116 votes. In 2017, he switched to the Libertarian Party. “I was not elected to do the bidding of a political party at the expense of my principles,” he said. “Establishment partisan politics do nothing to protect the rights of people, but instead only serve to prop up and expand government with arcane plans to irresponsibly spend our money and enact burdensome regulations on businesses, small and large alike.”
Caleb Q. Dyer was elected in 2016 as a Republican to the New Hampshire House 37th District. He said he spent approximately $400 on his campaign. In 2017, he switched to the Libertarian Party. When Democratic Rep. Joseph Stallcop later announced his own switch to the Libertarian Party a few months later, Dyer announced that he and Stallcop would create the House Libertarian Caucus. They invited as potential members “any and all legislators who find themselves in a similar situation to where we had found ourselves. The Libertarian Party welcomes all who have the courage and conviction to think and live freely.”
Mark Madsen was elected as a Republican to three consecutive terms in the Utah State Senate. In his last campaign, he ran unopposed. Before retiring in 2016, he announced his switch to the Libertarian Party and his support for the Libertarian Party’s presidential ticket of Gov. Gary Johnson and Gov. Bill Weld. ”Both parties use the government to pick winners and losers, in business, in health care, in the environment, in education, in every aspect of life,” he said during his announcement address. “Both parties expand existing programs, create new programs, and expand programs set to sunset even if the purpose is no longer needed. Differences among us are accentuated, and our core rights, enshrined in our Constitution, rather than being upheld as inviolate, are too often seen as impediments to the expansion of the state.” Madsen was the grandson of President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson.
Zakk Maher was elected in 2016 in Maine as an Androscoggin County commissioner, running as a Republican. In 2017, he switched to the Libertarian Party. ”In an effort to reaffirm my own principles, as well as my passion for community service, I am enrolling in the Libertarian Party of Maine,” he announced on his website. “As a Libertarian, I feel confident that when I say we believe in you, there are no ifs, ands, or buts. And by freeing ourselves from the current political dichotomy I am positive the path forward for the County, the State and the Nation will be less turbulent, allowing our interpersonal relationships within our own community to bear much more fruit.”
Ed Zielinski was elected in 2015 to the nonpartisan Town Council of Elsmere, Del. In 2016, he switched to the Libertarian Party. “I had received no support for liberty legislation,” he said when announcing his switch. “The council has continually pushed for spending and tax increases.” In 2017, Zielinski was reelected as a Libertarian with a landslide vote of 74 percent.
Jeremy Rodman was elected as a Republican in 2015 to the Glenwood City Council in Iowa. He switched to the Libertarian Party in 2017. “The values I grew up with are no longer the values of the Republican Party,” he said.
Mike Becallo was elected as a Republican in 2014 to the Town Council of Cicero, N.Y., where he is known as the “Taxpayer’s Watchdog.” He switched to the Libertarian Party in 2017. “In my time in office, I have met many disenfranchised voters who are fed up with the political system,” he said. “I want to give them another option. I hope this motivates additional elected officials with similar views to join the growing liberty movement.”
Austin Gravely was elected in 2017 to the nonpartisan Frostproof City Council in Florida. The day before the election, he switched his party registration from Republican to Libertarian and still won with nearly 62 percent of the vote. He joins Martin Sullivan, also with the Libertarian Party, who was elected to the Frostproof City Council in 2015.
Jim Byrne was elected in 2011 as a Republican to the Kankakee County Board in Illinois. “I have joined the Libertarian Party of Illinois, not because POTUS-Elect Trump was just elected or what Gov. Rauner is doing in Springfield,” he wrote. “I joined the Libertarian Party because, as I said to the Daily Journal on my first day on the board back in 2011, I am a Ron Paul Republican, a Libertarian who believes in small government that is accountable and transparent to the people.”
Other sitting Republican and Democratic officeholders who endorsed the Libertarian Party’s presidential ticket in 2016 include:
- Tom Burditt, Republican state representative in Vermont
- Dawson Hodgson, Republican state senator in Rhode Island
- Patti Komline, Vermont state representative in Vermont
- Joe Pickett, Democratic state representative in Texas
- Heidi Scheuermann, Republican state representative in Vermont
- Nicholas Schwaderer, Republican state representative in Montaha
- Lisa Torraco, Republican state senator in New Mexico
- Daniel Zolnikov, Republican state representative in Montana
“We look forward to the time when all the honest statesmen, elected as Democrats or Republicans but who have the traditional American beliefs embodied in libertarianism, have the courage and conviction to make the switch to the Libertarian Party,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “In the meantime, the Libertarian Party will continue to run hundreds of candidates in partisan and nonpartisan elections at the local, state, and federal levels. Hundreds of Libertarian candidates are running this year. Those who win will demonstrate that it is possible to govern without compromising liberty, and from among those winners Americans will have a much better pool of candidates for higher office to choose from than the pool currently offered by the old parties.”