Nominees from the nation’s largest third party set records in 10 states last cycle for the largest support ever recorded in a U.S. Senate election
With the 2014 cycle in the rear view mirror, political parties and candidates are already gearing up for 2016, with California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ announcement she would run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat the big news of the week.
While the top-two primary system has effectively shut out the Libertarians in the Golden State, the country’s third largest political party has much reason for optimism heading into 2016 in races across the country.
Although many Libertarian U.S. Senate nominees fell short of their pre-election polling numbers (as conventional wisdom holds), the party nonetheless enjoyed its best cycle ever in races for the nation’s upper legislative chamber.
A Smart Politics analysis finds the Libertarian Party set records for the best showing in a U.S. Senate race in 10 of the 20 states in which it fielded a candidate in 2014.
Overall, voters had the option of voting for a Libertarian candidate in 20 of the 36 general and special elections held last November.
These 20 candidates averaged 2.5 percent of the vote with a high water mark of 4.3 percent by Randall Batson in Kansas in the high profile race between Republican incumbent Pat Roberts and independent Greg Orman.
While Batson’s mark was not a record in the Sunflower State (it was second best), 10 other U.S. Senate Libertarian nominees did set party records in their respective states.
Libertarians made history in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas:
● In Alaska, Mark Fish won 3.7 percent, best of the seven Libertarian U.S. Senate nominees in state history. Previous best: Scott Kohlhaas, 1998, 2.3 percent.
● In Arkansas, Nathan LaFrance won 2.0 percent and was the first Libertarian nominee for the office in state history.
● In Colorado, Gaylon Kent won 2.6 percent, best of the six such nominees in state history. Previous best: Rick Stanley, 2002, 1.5 percent.
● In Illinois, Sharon Hansen won 3.8 percent, best of the 12 nominees for the office in state history. Previous best: Mike Labno, 2010 special, 2.7 percent.
● In Kentucky, David Patterson won 3.1 percent, best of the three nominees in state history. Previous best: James Ridenour, 1992, 1.3 percent.
● In Minnesota, Heather Johnson won 1.5 percent, best of the 10 nominees in state history. Previous best: Charles Aldrich, 2008, 0.5 percent.
● In New Jersey, Joseph Baratelli won 0.9 percent, best of the 13 nominees in state history. Previous best: Louis Stefanelli, 1990, 0.7 percent.
● In North Carolina, Sean Haugh won 3.7 percent, best of the 10 nominees in state history. Previous best: Robert Emory, 1992, 3.3 percent.
● In South Carolina, Victor Kocher won 2.7 percent, best of the nine nominees in state history. Previous best: Mark Johnson, 1992, 2.0 percent.
● In Texas, Rebecca Paddock won 2.9 percent, best of the 11 nominees in state history. Previous best: Yvonne Schick, 2008, 2.3 percent.
Of the 10 Libertarians listed above, the performances were particularly impressive in North Carolina, Colorado, and Alaska.
Although these states hosted three of the four most competitive U.S. Senate races in the country (decided by 1.6, 1.9, and 2.1 percentage points respectively), Libertarian nominees were still able to draw support from the electorate in record numbers.
(In the nation’s most closely decided race for the office, Virginia (0.8 points), nominee Robert Sarvis won a respectable 2.4 percent).
There were a few disappointments for the party in 2014, however – notably in Georgia and Montana.
In Georgia, nominee Amanda Swafford polled at five or more percent in more than 10 surveys, but ended up with just 1.9 percent of the vote in the three-candidate field.
That was good for only the fifth best mark across the seven cycles in which the party has fielded a nominee in the Peach State.
In Montana, Libertarians were coming off their best ever performance in 2012 when Dan Cox won 6.6 percent in the close race that saw Jon Tester win reelection.
In this cycle, however, nominee Roger Roots won just 2.2 percent – the worst showing of any Libertarian across the seven cycles in which they have gained ballot access in a Montana U.S. Senate race.
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