Florida campaign shows continued growth of Libertarian votes

For Immediate Release Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lucas Overby for Congress in Florida Libertarian Lucas Overby won 4.8 percent of the vote in a very tight three-way race for Florida’s 13th congressional district held on March 11, demonstrating continued strong and rising vote totals for Libertarians.

This is an especially high vote total for a Libertarian in a special election, where voter turnout is lower. The boost is attributable in part to an outstanding get-out-the-vote effort on the part of Florida Libertarians.

Libertarians in federal races have typically garnered votes in the low single digits in three-way races against both a Democrat and Republican. Since 2012, however, a number of Libertarian candidates have scored far better, including:

  • Dan Cox for U.S. Senate in Montana won 6.6 percent
  • Robert Sarvis for Governor in Virginia won 6.5 percent
  • Powell Gammill for U.S. House in Arizona won 6.4 percent
  • Ron Williams for U.S. House in Mississippi won 6.4 percent
  • Thomas Jefferson for U.S. House in Kansas won 6.2 percent
  • Jonathan Dine for U.S. Senate in Missouri won 6.1 percent
  • Thomas Jefferson for U.S. House in Kansas won 5.9 percent
  • Andrew Horning for U.S. Senate in Indiana won 5.8 percent
  • Rex Bell for U.S. House in Indiana won 5.8 percent
  • Kevin Craig for U.S. House in Missouri won 5.2 percent
  • James Stanczak for U.S. House in Texas won 5.2 percent
  • Chris Kella for U.S. House in Ohio won 5.2 percent
  • David Kaiser for U.S. House in Montana won 5.2 percent

Gov. Gary Johnson broke the million-vote barrier for a Libertarian for president in 2012, winning a record 1,275,951 votes.

State Libertarian races also fared well in 2012, including:

  • Jeremy Walters for state House in South Carolina won 47 percent
  • Tim Menger for state House in Colorado won 41 percent
  • Mike Fellows for clerk of the Supreme Court won 43 percent

Republican David Jolly edged out Democrat Alex Sink for the congressional open seat in Florida, winning by under 2 percent and raising speculation as to whether Overby’s presence in the race determined the winner.

Republicans had assumed that the Libertarian would take more votes from their candidate, prompting a Karl Rove PAC to fund robocalls to 20,000 voters urging a vote for Jolly.

However, polling of past Libertarian campaigns coupled with the fact that Overby ran his campaign on a mix of issues that are often associated with both the “left” and the “right” renders any conclusion about his impact uncertain. His campaign promises included tax cuts, spending cuts, a non-interventionist foreign policy, drug legalization, and marriage equality.

Sink, Jolly, and their supporters spent more than $12 million during the campaign, one of the most expensive races for House ever. They saturated the airwaves with attack ads on each other and barraged voters with direct mail and phone calls, which may have boosted the Libertarian vote.

William McConnell, a lifelong Republican, told the Miami Herald that he voted for Overby in response to television ad blitzes that were “packed with lies on both sides.”

An independent voter, Frank Akers, told the Tribune that the onslaught of mail and phone calls — sometimes six or seven in one night — drove him to vote for Overby.

Whether or not Overby’s campaign determined the winner, it is likely that he pulled substantial votes from people who don’t normally vote .

“The Overby campaign is another sign that non-voters, who lean more Libertarian than the general voting population, are giving up their resignation and re-engaging in politics,” said Carla Howell, political director for the Libertarian National Committee. “This bodes well for 2014 Libertarian candidates and the future of the Libertarian Party.”