North Carolina’s Libertarian candidates are optimistic that regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, their campaigns have made a difference. They are optimistic because of the reaction they’ve received from voters unhappy with the two major parties.
“Voters are quite polarized this year, so my results are going to depend on turnout of unaffiliated and disenchanted Republican voters, plus a low Democrat turnout,” said Lon Cecil, candidate for U.S. House District 12. “Third party candidates are often considered a spoiler for one of the two old party candidates, but the odds seem better this year to spoil both old parties.”
During early voting Cecil said three men “who were clearly World War II generation” told him they were going to vote Libertarian because they couldn’t trust “either of the old parties.” Cecil recently was endorsed by the Rhinoceros Times, a Greensboro newspaper.
John Sams has also won the endorsement of a local paper, the Elizabeth City Daily Advance, in his race for Chowan County Commission District 3. The paper praised Sams for being “among the first county residents to question the county’s finances” and has “demonstrated his commitment to being fully informed on the county’s fiscal situation by attending budget deliberations.”
In the contentious race for U.S. House District 2, Tom Rose said he was most proud that he managed to get into one televised debate. Both Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge and Republican Renee Elmers have spent enormous sums running attack ads. Rose said he’s swayed many Democrats and Republicans to vote for him by convincing them he can win and spend less the $5,000 in campaign funds.
“I feel like I have a good chance to win this race because I’m picking up many of the moderate Democrats votes,” Rose said. “I’ve had Republicans, including one General Assembly candidate, tell me that they have voted for me, and have had Democrats and Republicans fed up with their parties making phone calls for me.”
Rose’s candidacy may have on impact on what appears to now be a close race. A recent Civitas poll had Elmers leading Etheridge 46 percent to 41 percent, with Rose at 6 percent and 7 percent undecided.
Barry Coe hasn’t spent any money other than the filing fee in the race for state Senate District 24. He said he focused on attending forums and responding to surveys. “Many voters congratulated me for my ability to say, in clear terms, how they feel,” Coe said. He expects the race to be close.
A frequent comment he gets from people who say they agree with him is that they fear voting for him will be a wasted vote and elect the Democrat. Coe’s response is to explain that voting is about expressing a choice. “Don’t blame me if your candidate cannot motivate popular support,” he tells these voters.
Stephanie Watson thinks there will actually be a low voter turnout in her race for state Senate District 16, but that she’ll benefit from the candidacy Dr. Mike Beitler in the U.S. Senate race at the top of the ballot.
“I think Dr. Beitler could draw 5 to 10 percent in our district, and I’m predicting that my own race will reflect the same results,” she said. “He’s done an excellent job with limited resources of demonstrating the principles that voters can apply to most down-ticket Libertarian candidates across the state. I hope that translates into wins in many state and local races and impressive showings for our Congressional candidates, too.”
Voter dissatisfaction with the two-party duopoly was also evident in other ways, especially to some veteran Libertarian candidates. “This time people listened and agreed. This time no one walked away or disagreed.” said Richard Evey, a candidate in state Senate District 44. “I got some great feed back from some unlikely sources.”
Support from unlikely sources is also reflected in the fact that Beitler scored well with unaffiliated and liberal voters in several polls of the U.S. Senate race.
State party chair Barbara Howe said that Beitler has built on the success of the 2008 gubernatorial campaign, and she expects he will do as well as previous Libertarian candidates for U.S. Senate.
“Because of the campaign we ran in 2008 and because of the kind of candidate we’re running in 2010, where we have put forth articulate, smart candidates who really could serve if elected, we’re helping build the credibility of the party”she said.