Campaign Wishes and Libertarian Dreams

by | Aug 26, 2006 | Stress Blog | 10 comments

Will the LP be the Texans or the Mexicans in this year’s electoral Alamo?

by Brian Doherty Reason

Tom DeLay’s political career really is over. The Texas courts won’t let the Republican party simply replace DeLay on the ballot, even after the former majority leader went to the trouble of hammering several pipsqueak primary opponents for the right to cut and run.

DeLay’s crisis has robbed the GOP of a candidate in Texas’s 22nd congressional district and presented an unusual opportunity to the Libertarian Party. The LP is now facing what some party insiders see as an almost-realistic chance at achieving something the 34-year-old old political party (America’s third largest!) has never known: a seat in Congress. (1988 LP presidential candidate Ron Paul does currently sit in Congress, as a Republican, from Texas’s 14th district abutting the 22nd.)

So now Bob Smither, a 60-year-old self-described “semi-retired” electrical engineering consultant, a former Goldwater Republican who felt his party left him and glommed on to the Libertarian Party in its first year of operation, 1972, has the weight of decades of party expectations on his shoulders. He is up against Democrat Nick Lampson, himself a former congressman, in a district that gave John Kerry a paltry 36 percent of the vote.

Smither is bearing up well, and isn’t nearly as triumphalist as you might expect: “Well, it certainly is a change in circumstance,” he tells me. “I got into this for basically the same reason many libertarians decide to run [for office], to get libertarian ideas out there. And now the opportunity to talk is much greater and that’s a good thing. But the concept of actually winning? I don’t know how seriously to take that. There are certainly some good signs that I will do better than Libertarians in this district, this area have done before.” If the record of other LP candidates running against only one other major party candidate is used as a benchmark, Smither could never venture beyond his front porch and still collect 15 percent or so of the vote.

But what’s on the minds of many LP activists and leaders, from the national office to the state party to its National Committee, is making sure the party faithful unite and ensure Smither outperforms expectations

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