Bloody but unbowed

Libertarian candidates consider election defeats a learning experience, prepare for the next election.

Although the results of the 2010 election were a disappointment for North Carolina’s Libertarian candidates because they were not elected, several consider it a very good learning experience and preparation for future campaigns.

Dr. Mike Beitler, Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, said that the goal of his campaign was to let voters know there is an alternative to the “bloated, outdated two-party system.”

“The establishment parties will continue to drive our country off the cliff until the American people wake up to the reality that both establishment parties will continue to serve their lobbyist corporate masters to the detriment of the American people,” he said.

T.J. Rohr was the first-ever Libertarian candidate for district attorney. He ran in district 25 which covers Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties.

“Although I am disappointed that I was not elected, I am honored and humbled by the support I did receive,” he said. “I am also proud that so many people were open to the issues I raised in this election: focusing on serious crimes involving theft, violence, and fraud, and de-emphasizing non-violent drug offenses, while repudiating illegal and unconstitutional traffic checkpoints and the death penalty.”

Stephen Burr said that he hoped the victorious Republicans in the Union County commissioner’s race would work with the current board members to find solutions to the problems the county faces.

“Union County taxpayers are on the hook for $900 million in bond payments and interest over the next quarter century, with a looming budget crisis that will be brought on by not adequately planning for the coming plunge in property tax revenues, “ he said. Burr intends to remain active in the county and won’t rule out another run for the commission or other office in 2012.

Stephanie Watson, candidate for N.C. Senate District 16, noted that 2010 was the year the state Libertarian Party “turned our principles into action.”

“Our party’s candidates stepped forward, many running very active campaigns across the state with the hope of being elected.” she said. “It has been an honor to share this adventure with them. I’ve learned a lot as a first-time candidate that I hope to take with me into 2012, both for my own run and for our party’s race for governor.”

“Third party candidates are often thought to divide the vote of a major party, but this was clearly not an issue,” said Lon Cecil, who ran for U.S. House District 12. “As discussed in several forums with Congressman Watt, we have many economic and job problems that Congress will have to quickly address in the 112th session. It is only 24 months until the next elections”

In the still-to-be-decided 2nd Congressional District race, Tom Rose got more votes than the margin between incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge and Republican Renee Elmers. The unofficial returns have the margin at 1,646 and Rose received 3,463 votes. Rose doesn’t speculate about whether his candidacy helped or hurt either, because he said he received support from both Democrats and Republicans.

“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.”

“I do know that I convinced many Democrats to vote for me because they were upset with Etheridge but would not vote for the Republicans,” Rose said. “As amazing as it may seem, most of those who said this were over 60.”

Nationwide, the Libertarian Party extended its record of fielding more candidates than any other third party, more than 800 candidates. More than one million Americans voted for a Libertarian candidate for U.S. House and 15 of those candidates got more than five percent of the vote in a three-way race, a significant increase over past elections. That represents more than one percent of the vote total, more than any third party has earned since Henry Wallace’s Progressives in 1948.

Two U.S. Senate candidates received better than four percent of the vote in a three-way race, including party co-founder David Nolan who ran in Arizona against 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Beitler asked the hard questions

Mike Beitler may not have received as many votes as the polls indicated he would, but he said he’s pleased with the election results because of the campaign staff and organization he’s built.

“I am ready to turn this all over to Mike Munger,” Beitler said, referring to the party’s last gubernatorial candidate. Many state Libertarians expect Munger, a Duke University professor, will run again in 2012. Munger got nearly three percent of the vote for governor in 2008, which allowed the state Libertarian Party to remain ballot qualified.

Beitler said it’s time for the Libertarians to get past the idea of just staying on the ballot and start building an organization that runs and wins elections. He said he entered the race in order to “ask the hard questions” of the two establishment candidates.

“The establishment parties will continue to drive our country off the cliff until the American people wake up to the reality that both establishment parties will continue to serve their lobbyist corporate masters to the detriment of the American people,” Beitler said in a thank you message on his campaign blog.

“My goal was to let the voters know that there is an alternative in North Carolina to this bloated, outdated two-party system, and if what you desire is real change, then you need to do something different.”

Beitler’s vote total of 55,201, representing 2.1 percent of the vote, is the second highest for a Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate. Chris Cole garnered the Libertarian highest vote totals, 133,430 votes (3.1 percent) in the historical 2008 presidential election year. But voter turnout that year was a record-shattering 70 percent. In most elections, especially off-year elections, voter turnout in this state hovers around 43 percent.

The North Carolina Libertarian Party has fielded a candidate in every U.S. Senate race since 1996.

Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate votes

  • 2010: Mike Beitler, 55,201votes (2.1%)
  • 2008: Chris Cole, 133,430 votes (3.1%)
  • 2004: Tom Bailey, 47,743 votes (1.4%)
  • 2002: Sean Haugh, 33,807 votes (1.5%)
  • 1998: Barbara Howe, 36,963 votes (1.9%)
  • 1996: Ray Ubinger, 23,296 votes (1%)

Libertarian vote results

Go to the page 2010 Libertarian vote for a compilation of the unofficial (not certified) Libertarian vote from the state Board of Elections website.

Win or lose, Libertarians make a difference

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.

Watson runs typical libertarian campaign

Stef Watson has been running a typical Libertarian campaign for N.C. Senate 16. She’s taken clear, unequivocal and specific stands on critical issues and hasn’t spent much money.

On the issues, Watson says in her blog, “I’m the only candidate ready to take an active stance sponsoring or co-sponsoring legislation for meaningful annexation reform, helping to restore property owners’ rights across the state.”

She also makes an interesting observation about the spending sprees put on by other candidates.

The incumbent Democrat Josh Stein has spent more than $248,000 and the Republican Mike Beezley about $25,000, all to get a job that lasts two years and pays only $20,659 per year.

Watson said she’s spend about $1,400, mostly her own money. “I’ll be interested to see the dollar-spent-per-vote-received ratios for each of us in this race,” she said. While she doesn’t think many people will go to the pools to support either Stein or Beezley, or her for that matter, she does expect to benefit from the Libertarian candidate at the top of the ballot, Dr. Mike Beitler, who’s running for U.S. Senate.

If you are one of the Wakes voters who’ll have the honor of having the opportunity to vote for more than one Libertarian candidate, read “Here’s why you should vote for Watson?

Anti-war liberals should vote Libertarian

Anyone who opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has a clear choice in this election. They should vote Libertarian said R. Lee Wrights, a potential candidate for the 2012 Libertarian presidential nomination.

“Anti-war liberals who supported President Obama in 2008 should know by now that he’s not going to end America’s foreign wars,” Wrights said. “Instead, he’s sent more troops into harm’s way, with no clear end in sight, and he’s spending an even larger percentage of the GDP on these military adventures than the Bush Administration.”

Wrights said that President Obama has not only failed to reverse the curtailment of our civil liberties begun under Bush, he’s actually shred the Bill of Rights even more. “Not only has he claimed the immoral authority to murder American citizens overseas without indictment or trial, he’s also used the screen of ‘state secrets’ to prevent his targets or their families from challenging him in court.”

“There is nothing liberal about this; Obama is operating out of the neoconservative playbook,” Wrights said. “Even liberals who are proud of being tolerant, patient and understanding should realize by now that they have been betrayed by this president,” Wrights said.

Many Democrats actually voted for the authorizations for these wars and for the PATRIOT Act, yet now are claiming to be opposed to them. “It’s curious that during the Bush Administration, Democrats were openly opposed to the wars, even though they had supported them,” Wrights said. “Now that a Democratic president is doing the war-making, they are strangely silent.”

On the other hand, the Libertarian Party has gone on record opposing the wars, Wrights said. The national committee has passed resolutions opposing both Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.

The anti-war movement in the Libertarian Party itself inspired Wrights to consider seeking the presidential nomination. “I believe the Libertarian message now and in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war,” he said.

Wrights said that anti-war liberals can vote for Libertarians with a clear conscience because in addition to opposing wars, Libertarians share their core values. “We’re uncompromising supporters of free speech and all civil liberties, we oppose corporate welfare, abhor big corporations manipulating the government to get subsidies and protection from competition, and we believe the war on drugs is insane.”

Nearly 82 percent of voters will be able to vote for a Libertarian candidate on November 2, according to Ballot Access News. The party has 21 candidates for U.S. Senate and 169 candidates for U.S. House. As the third largest political party in the U.S., the Libertarians have more candidates on the ballot than any other third party.

Wrights, who was born in Winston-Salem, is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All.

Don’t believe rail supporters’ propaganda

The Libertarian candidate for NC Senate District 16 warned that people shouldn’t believe the propaganda of high speed and light rail supporters because it is not based on facts.

“North Carolina’s rail supporters, for both high-speed and light rail, want you to believe that rail is going to solve a lot of problems and that it’s long overdue,” said Stephanie Watson in her blog “The fact is that rail is expensive, unmovable, and discriminatory against those who pay taxes to subsidize it but don’t live near it.”

Stephanie Watson

Despite overwhelming evidence that people come to North Carolina to escape high-density growth, Watson said politicians and government planners use social engineering to create such undesirable living areas.

“Instead of looking for ways to improve transportation based on the natural growth patterns of a city, our cities are looking at ways of socially engineering future growth to be compressed in high-density areas along certain corridors,” she said. “City planners are so focused on the shiny new structures they want to build that they’re spending all their efforts trying to justify and fund those instead of supporting their existing citizens and natural city growth,” Watson said.

Watson cited a spotlight report by the John Locke Foundation which found that driving is more energy efficient and produces less carbon emissions than almost any transit system in North Carolina. The report also noted that while driving in the state costs no more than 22 cents per passenger mile, public transit cost on average $1.15 per passenger mile, with nearly $1 of that subsidized by non-transit users.

The report makes five recommendations on how to improve public transportation systems include the use of smaller vehicles, contracting out or privatizing services, jitneys, privately owned vehicles operating on fixed or semi-fixed routes similar to airport shuttles, and vouchers for those who cannot afford cars.

Read the full report here.

Watson linked the push for high-speed rail corridors to forced annexation. As the federal government increases its push for high-speed rail corridors through the state, she warned this could encourage more municipalities to use forced annexation.

“The supporting infrastructure is likely to result in state and municipal annexation as new rail lines are needed or for larger buffer zones along existing rail lines,” she said. “As the only candidate who has taken up the fight for meaningful annexation reform, I want to make sure the cities don’t violate the rights of those being annexed during this construction.”

Candidate profiles

Read profiles of the 2010 NC Libertarian candidates on my Raleigh Libertarian Examiner page.

Get a copy of your sample ballot from the State Board of Elections website here.

Broadcasters exlude Libertarian candidate

After participating in the first two U.S. Senate candidate debates, Libertarian Mike Beitler is being snubbed by the N.C. Association of Broadcasters for the debates they are sponsoring October 11 and 23.

The Beitler campaign first learned about the debates in late August from media reports. A campaign spokesman said that the association did not respond to repeated telephone calls and e-mail messages regarding the debate.

“We can only assume that the rumors are correct and that the NCAB is cash strapped and simply does not have the equipment necessary to host another candidate,” said Michael Shanklin, campaign manager. “Mike Beitler is willing to bring his own mic to this event. If necessary we will build our own podium as well.”

Association president Tim Morrisey told the Associated Press that Beitler hadn’t been invited because surveys fail to show him with at least 10 percent support. According to sources, the debate criteria is based on only one poll, conducted by Elon University, which does not restrict itself to registered voters. The sources said that Beitler might be included if he polls over 10 percent in a poll due out next week.

Libertarian state chair Barbara Howe called the debate rules arbitrary and unfair, especially since most polls do not include the Libertarian candidate as one of their choices.

“Often polling doesn’t even include the Libertarian candidate, so it’s impossible for a Libertarian candidate to poll any numbers at all,” she said. “It’s a disservice to the voters of North Carolina not to include all the ballot-qualified candidates.”

It is unclear exactly which Elon poll the NCAB is using as a criteria for debate inclusion. Morrisey did not respond to a request for information. The most recent poll of U.S. Senate candidates on the university’s website was published March 22. Beitler was included, but his name was incorrect. The question asked respondents to rate all the candidates in the Democratic and Republican primary on a scale of one to ten.

“The broadcasters association is not interested in informing the public,” Howe said. “It’s about protecting the interests of broadcasters.”

Beitler will participate in a televised debate October 13 sponsored by the N.C. League of Women Voters.

“We believe we’re being treated unfairly, but we are not surprised. Burr and Marshall are both worried about how many votes we are taking from them,” Beitler said. He said that if the association’s educational foundation, which is sponsoring the event, has tax-exempt status, they should lose it. “They are not educational, they are clearly political,” he said.

In 2004, Howe filed a complaint with the FCC against WRAL-TV for failing to include her in a gubernatorial debate. The FCC has never issued a ruling. The 2008 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dr. Mike Munger was included in only one of the three televised debates in that campaign, which was also sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Both the Burr and Marshall campaigns have said they believe it’s unfair not to include Beitler in all the debates, but neither campaign is taking any action to support including the Libertarian candidate.

Third parties don’t confuse British voters

One of the benefits of a parliamentary democracy like the United Kingdom is the general openness to multiple parties. British voters don’t seem to get confused by more than two parties on the ballot. On the contrary, a third party helps expose corruption and malfeasance, as Dr. Mike Munger notes in this op ed published in the Herald Sun.

Sunshine, British elections and an example for U.S.

In politics, sunlight is the best disinfectant. But our political system is specifically designed to protect the two state-sponsored parties from media scrutiny and voter examination. Incumbent politicians find debates inconvenient; they hate to answer questions about why their corrupt practices in government can’t be changed.

They realize that best defense is to ensure such questions never get asked in the first place.

And so our legislature ignores sunshine rules. Committee meetings and bill markup are conducted in secrecy suitable for international strategic arms negotiations.

The best our media can do is to investigate after the fact, so outgoing administrations send a parade of officials to state and federal prison. But no one can learn much about current official malfeasance because of the darkness and secrecy.

Recent events in Great Britain suggest a solution: Include third parties in debates. It’s simple and costs very little.

But the government was overturned, and the bright light of public attention was focused on the ruling Labour party, simply by including the Liberal Democrats in the electoral debates. The positions presented by LD standard-bearer Nick Clegg reminded Labour supporters of how badly their party had abandoned them and, after the April 15 debate in particular, the LD was clearly outpolling Labour.

Ultimately, voters made their choices, and the Liberal Democrats were consigned to third party status again. But the LDs played a key role in the formation of the new government and they have injected a new energy and lots of sunlight into a process that had been infected with the dark, arrogant corruption of power.

How did Labour and the Conservatives, the two major parties, make up ground between the first and second debates? By adopting a number of the ideas put forward by the LDs, so that by losing the LDs won.

That’s how third parties can act as a disinfectant: by raising questions that the major parties have to answer. Otherwise, there is no way to get the attention of the ruling elite.

One could object to my claim, of course. Won’t voters be confused, presented with dozens of choices?

Won’t allowing myriad small parties to participate make the whole electoral system incoherent?

Maybe. But we are far from having to worry about that. North Carolina is one of the three most restricted ballot states in America.

To qualify, a prospective party would have to collect well over 100,000 signatures, at a cost of nearly a quarter million dollars. There can’t be a flood of new parties, because our laws keep them out.

And that’s a red herring anyway.

Have you seen the cereal aisle at Kroger’s? Yet people still figure out which cereal to buy.

Claiming that voters would be confused by having real choices is an insult to voters. When you hear that the state-sponsored parties want to protect you from being confused, you know that all they really want is to protect the kind of corrupt government that depends on darkness and deception.

Furthermore, the very nature of the process ensures that any party clearing the ballot access hurdle has established significant, broad support among voters.

That doesn’t mean that the new party will win. But it does mean that, like the Liberal Democrats in England, voters want to hear what the new guy has to say, and they may demand action.

Right now, the Libertarian Party has qualified for the ballot in 2010 and 2012.

Another party, North Carolina First, is struggling up the Mount Everest size mountain of ballot access requirements, and might well qualify, if not for 2010 then for 2012.

But will the candidates for those parties be allowed to participate in debates? That is, in spite of doing everything the state requires to be able to be heard by the voters, will the state-sponsored parties once again be able to coerce the media into accepting a restricted menu of candidates?

Sadly, the answer may be “yes.”

When running for governor in 2008, I was prevented from participating in the early debates, the ones that mattered the most, the ones that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats used to change things.

Our CBS affiliates and ABC affiliates both scheduled televised debates between the Democrat and Republican candidates only.

I was given no chance to have an impact on the questions raised, or the ideas that would be raised for public consideration.

Neither of the two media giants, both of which supposedly serve the public, gave any explanation for why they were opposed to sunlight.

We should look to the example of the Liberal Democrats in England. Because the third party was allowed to participate in the debates, there was a peaceful revolution, the kind we call an “election.”

I doubt the new government will bring in a new golden age, but at least England used a little of the power of the sun to clean up a tired and corrupt system.

Dr. Michael Munger is chairman of  the Duke University political science department and was the 2008 Libertarian candidate for North Carolina governor.