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Libertarian Party makes historic strides in Oklahoma, U.S. elections

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Libertarian supporter Jenny Lorrah puts a pro-Gary Johnson message out during Groovefest in Norman in early October 2016.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- While Republican Donald Trump won the presidency for the United States of America, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson earned more votes than any other Libertarian candidate in the history of Oklahoma politics.

To the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, that fact alone was considered a success.

On a national level, the party didn’t fare as well, garnering only 4 percent of the popular vote total and no electoral college votes. However, Libertarian supporters said Oklahoma gave Johnson almost 6 percent of the popular vote in the state, more than doubling what was needed for the party to maintain its ballot access status for the 2018 elections.

“This election has been a tremendous success for the party,” said Party Chair Tina Kelly in a statement. “We have an energetic group of activists and candidates who are eager to continue this momentum into the future. I’ve been so impressed and inspired by the hard work put forth by the local movers and shakers in the Gary Johnson campaign. We’ve seen the party grow like never before because of the excitement this election has generated.”

The presidential race wasn’t the only Libertarian presence on Oklahoma’s ballot. Libertarian candidates performed well in several local races despite obstacles like funding, Kelly added.

Steve Long, a former Chair of the OKLP and a candidate for State House as a Libertarian, said he felt the Libertarian Party represented a more palatable choice for voters this year.

“The options given this election cycle were vile and gruesome, and many more people felt that they could not bring themselves to vote for either one of the candidates that the Republican and Democratic parties had to offer,” said Long, of Edmond. “Or, people in general are just becoming weary of the two-party duology that has had control of our country for far too long and they were voicing their disgust in that system.”

Now, the party will start to focus on the 2018 elections by selecting candidates for federal, state and local offices and for the governor’s seat. According to Oklahoma state law, the party’s gubernatorial candidate must also achieve at least 2.5 percent of the popular vote in 2018 for the party to retain ballot access for the 2020 presidential campaign.

“Membership and registration in the OKLP can only grow from here,” Long said.

Libertarian House candidate Steve Long of Edmond, Oklahoma. (Photo provided)

The party didn’t just succeed in Oklahoma, but throughout the nation as well. According to the Libertarian Party – - , the party achieved a number of critically-important ballot access victories, making the LP a recognized party in 39 states, the highest ever after an election in the party’s history.

The Texas LP retained ballot access with Railroad Commission candidate Mark Miller receiving more than 5 percent. The party would have had to collect over 80,000 signatures to get back on the ballot if no statewide candidate received 5 percent. This will save the party approximately $220,000 in petitioning costs.

The LP retained ballot access in North Carolina for four years with Gary Johnson and the gubernatorial candidate, Lon Cecil, each getting above 2 percent. The party would have had to collect over 100,000 signatures to get back on the ballot if neither the presidential nor gubernatorial candidate got 2 percent, saving the party approximately $250,000 in petitioning cost.

Iowa and Kentucky have recognized parties for the first time, with Gary Johnson getting over 2 percent in both states, and New Hampshire’s LP is a recognized party for the first time in two decades due to governor candidate Max Abramson getting more than 4 percent.

The DC party is recognized for the second time ever, with candidate for Delegate to the US House of Representatives Martin Moulton getting over 17,000 votes, and the LP retained ballot access in North Dakota, Connecticut, Massachusetts and West Virginia.

“Looking forward, we don’t really see that 2.5 percent mark as a barrier to future success,” said Kelly. “Outreach remains our top priority, and we will make every effort to engage and connect with registered Libertarians and all those who supported our candidates this cycle. We hope to inspire and support new faces as they carry the torch of Liberty and considering running for office themselves.

Long said he felt the party would gain traction in the future.

“I would have to say that eventually not only the Libertarian Party, but other third parties, will begin to gain traction with the people of this country and the system will be forced to give them consideration,” he said. “As far as how long it will take I can’t make that prediction.”

Oklahomans are encouraged to contact the party via its Facebook page or website in order to get involved and be informed of upcoming events.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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