Libertarians win local races, achieve ballot access, prevail on initiatives

2018 Libertarian Election Results

The Nov. 6 election brought several significant victories for the Libertarian Party, including winning local races for public office in Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Tennessee. Even in some states without a winning candidate, Libertarian vote totals were high enough to secure the party’s ballot access for future elections in Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia, which will allow future candidates to focus on their campaigns rather than the costly and painstaking process of petition qualification. Libertarian-leaning ballot initiatives also passed in multiple states, including medical marijuana in Missouri and Utah and recreational marijuana in Michigan.

Cole Ebel, chair of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee, won his race for Carthage City Council on a platform of transparency, fiscal responsibility, and rigorous questioning of standard political assumptions. “I will always stand on principle above all,” Ebel said. “This is not a position I am running for to elevate myself, but a position I am seeking to represent the citizen. I cannot do this alone nor would I seek to. We must do this together.” He joins his wife, Smith County Commissioner Erica Ebel, in holding elected office in Tennessee.

Three Libertarians in Minnesota won their city council races, including Vince Workman in Burnsville, Olga Parsons in Crystal, and Nick Roehl in Plymouth. Four Libertarians in Indiana were also elected to public office, with Cheryl Heacox winning for Greensfork township advisor and Dean Hartley for Franklin township board both winning top-three positions, as well as two other candidates running unopposed, Terry Coffman for Liberty township board and Jamie Owens for Liberty township trustee. Libertarian Shannon Denniston won her race for Montgomery County magistrate in Kentucky. In Florida, Libertarian Shawn Elliott was elected to the Indian River Soil and Water Conservation District 1 with 68 percent of the vote. In South Carolina, Libertarian Artie Buxton won his race for school board in District 1, with 67 percent of the vote.

In a heartbreaking near-miss, Libertarian Bethany Baldes barely lost by only 53 votes in her race to upset Republican incumbent David Miller in Wyoming’s state House District 55. Before the absentee ballots were counted, she had been leading by 194 votes. There may be a recount, however, so it’s possible that this outcome could change. Her near-win was aided by a campaign strategy devised by Libertarian Party Campaigns Advisor Apollo Pazell, who brought Baldes from door to door on crutches in her district, despite her recent leg injury. They campaigned together with a team of six volunteers, knocking on every door in the district a total of three times each. That hardworking personal approach nearly succeeded.

Libertarian Jeff Hewitt’s race for the Board of Supervisors in Riverside County, Calif., is still up in the air. Preliminary reports show that Hewitt has 23,406 votes, more than 49 percent of the total, but is still short by 360 votes. Thousands of provisional and mail-in ballots have yet to be counted, however, so a victory in this race is still possible.

Libertarians in states without automatic ballot access have to spend an inordinate amount of time, money, and effort every year qualifying their candidates through petitioning. Fortunately, Libertarian Party vote totals in a few states have qualified them for future ballot access.

Oklahoma has some of the strictest ballot access laws in the country, which has historically made it a difficult state for Libertarians in past elections. Fortunately, Libertarian John Yeutter won nearly 25 percent of the vote in his race for Oklahoma auditor and inspector, which secures Libertarian Party ballot access until 2022. “Taxpayers in Oklahoma should have assurance that their state and local tax dollars are accounted for,” Yeutter said in his campaign.

In New York, Libertarian Larry Sharpe received an unprecedented 89,232 votes for governor, far in excess of the 50,000 needed to assure Libertarian Party ballot access in New York for the next four years. Sharpe ran an active campaign, with appearances throughout the news media and interviews on television and radio. In 2016, Sharpe was also only 32 votes short of being selected as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate.

Richard Brubaker, running for U.S. House from Wyoming, received enough votes to retain Libertarian Party ballot access for the state. Ballot access has also been assured until 2020 in Washington, D.C., thanks to the vote totals in Joseph Bishop-Henchman’s race for attorney general and his spouse Ethan Bishop-Henchman’s race for council chair. Mark Rutherford assured Indiana ballot access until 2022 with his race for secretary of state. In Massachusetts, Daniel Fishman has assured ballot access for two more years in his race for auditor.

For nearly a half century since its founding in 1971, the Libertarian Party has championed the legalization of drugs. Democratic and Republican politicians have long ignored the devastating and counterproductive effects of drug prohibition laws. Thankfully, voters in recent years have used ballot initiatives to override the politicians. Missouri and socially conservative Utah are the two latest states to legalize medical marijuana, allowing countless patients access to treatment that works for them. Michigan has gone a step further and joined the few states with legal recreational cannabis, allowing residents to make their own consumption choices.

In Florida, voters passed an initiative restoring voting rights to more than 1 million convicted felons who have completed their probation and made restitution for their crimes. Libertarians are pleased that most people who had been convicted of consensual “crimes” now have a path toward regaining their voting rights. Those who had been convicted of some violent crimes, however, like murder or sexual offenses, are excluded from this new law.

Libertarians have long maintained that price controls have negative unforeseen consequences that outweigh any benefits they might provide. Rent control may sound like a way to help lower-income residents find affordable housing, but controlling rental prices actually has the opposite effect — reducing the housing supply, lowering housing quality and maintenance, and shifting some of the high costs to opaque gatekeepers, additional fees, and even bribes. California voters fortunately defeated Proposition 10, a rent control initiative, by 23 percentage points. Also in California, a referendum for price controls on dialysis clinics has been defeated by a similar margin.

Several other Libertarian candidates attained significant shares of the vote on Nov. 6.

Gov. Gary Johnson received more than 15 percent of the votes in his bid for U.S. Senate from New Mexico. Nebraska state Sen. Laura Ebke received 42 percent of the vote in her re-election bid. Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark received 11 percent of the vote for mayor of Phoenix. Libertarian National Committee Development Director Lauren Daugherty received 22 percent of the vote in her run for justice of the peace in McLennan County, Texas. Brian Luke received 27 percent of the votes in his run for U.S. House District 2 from Washington. Running for Washington state House in District 22, Allen Acosta scored a 30 percent vote total. Mark Fish received nearly 11 percent in his race for the Alaska state House in a three-way race that included both a Republican and a Democratic candidate.

A few Libertarian Party candidates California Assembly races achieved significant vote totals, including Justin Quigley with nearly 31 percent in District 21; LP California Chair Mimi Robson with more than 28 percent in District 70; Autumn Browne, daughter of two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne, with nearly 28 percent in District 69; Brandon Nelson with more than 26 percent in District 4; and Christopher Stare with nearly 14 percent in District 51.

All of our hundreds of candidates did tremendous work campaigning throughout this election season, and will celebrate all of their achievements by publishing a full list of election results for Libertarian Party candidates as soon as final figures are available.

“More than 800 candidates gained invaluable experience running for office this year,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “After a brief respite, they’ll be ready to hit the ground running for 2020.”