Libertarians from around the country gathered in Orlando last weekend for their national convention. After some contention, the Libertarians nominated former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for president, also their 2012 nominee. Libertarian rules say the convention picks the vice president candidate and the convention eventually settled on another former Republican governor, William Weld from Massachusetts. Weld in fact was re-elected by the largest margin in Massachusetts’ history, defeating Democrat Mark Roosevelt (yes, of those Roosevelts) by a margin of 70% to 28%.

With Donald Trump and the likely Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton coming into the election with historically high unfavorable numbers, Libertarians are hoping to capitalize in a rare year. Largely fiscally conservative (Johnson has noted his support of the Fair Tax), both Johnson and Weld are more liberal on abortion, gay rights, immigration and, in what is an often mocked issue for Libertarians, marijuana. Johnson received .99% of the vote in 2012 and 1.16% in Georgia. The hope for Libertarians is that Johnson can make real inroads both in the polls and at the ballot box.

According to Brett Larson, Chair of the Georgia Libertarian Party, there are a few key numbers that they would like to see Johnson hit, both for the success of his campaign and for the future of the Libertarians in Georgia. If Johnson is able to get to 15% in the polls, he will earn a spot on the debate stages with Clinton and Trump. Polls published in late May by Morning Consult and Fox News showed Johnson running at 10%. And that was before he had actually even earned the nomination and begun broader campaigning.

Libertarian Super PACs are beginning to get on board and may be more energized than ever as Libertarian groups begin to see the potential in this moment. Purple PAC, founded by a former Cato Institute president to support Libertarians in Virginia, morphed into a pro-Rand Paul PAC last year and quickly banked $1.2 million. The group ceased involvement as Paul’s presidential campaign stalled. Now Purple PAC sees a new candidate to advocate for. Concerned American Voters PAC, led by former FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe, may get involved. The Libertarians are also reportedly wooing two brothers from Kansas who made a name for themselves with their political involvement, the Kochs. Needless to say, a PAC here and a PAC there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money, especially if the Kochs are involved.

Georgia Libertarians have a special interest in seeing the Johnson/Weld ticket do well. If they are able to get to 20% in November, that triggers the threshold of the notoriously stingy Georgia ballot access laws and the Libertarians become a “major party”, meaning guaranteed ballot access. For decades, Georgia Libertarians have spent most of their time and money in collecting signatures and ginning up support just to appear on the ballot. If they get 20% in November, that all changes. They’re guaranteed a spot on the ballot and can actually focus on developing real campaigns for general elections.

If that happens, Georgia politics could see big changes.


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