TOPEKA, Kan. — While Kansas Libertarians acknowledge their candidates have little chance of winning any state or federal races this year, they say the November elections are hugely important as they claw for greater political prominence in the future.
Dispirited voters turned off by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are seeking alternatives such as Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who is polling around 9 percent nationally, the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/2bUUs88 ) reported.
“It’s going to be a dynamite year for us, and that is mainly because of the Gary Johnson situation,” said Rob Hodgkinson, chairman of the Kansas Libertarian Party.
In Kansas, if a Libertarian candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial can garner 5 percent of the vote, the party would earn “major party” status. That would mean fewer restrictions on ballot access and the ability to take part in August primaries.
The party has candidates in each of the state’s five federal races, in addition to two state Senate races, five state House races and a judicial election.
“I really do believe this is a stepping stone, a building block to major party status in 2018,” Hodgkinson said.
As for the chances of his party’s candidates actually being competitive this year, he noted that none of them are spending much money on their campaigns and most people don’t know who they are.
Libertarian Senate candidate Robert Garrard said he hopes to land 10 percent of the vote in November, which would be a huge improvement from the 4.3 percent its candidates received in 2014 and 2.1 percent four years earlier.
Kerry Burt, running for the U.S. House in the 1st District, is facing Republican nominee Roger Marshall, who ousted tea party favorite Tim Huelskamp in last month’s GOP primary, and Alan LaPolice, an independent who waged a surprisingly close Republican primary bid for Huelskamp’s seat in 2014.
Kansas residents are incrementally shedding their allegiance to major political parties, Hodgkinson said, and he expects many millennials will stay independent or join the Libertarian Party.
“Right now in Kansas, you’re either for or against (Gov. Sam) Brownback, there’s no middle ground,” he said. “It’s just like at the national level, you’re either for or against Trump. Well, we’re the middle ground. Libertarians are the middle ground.”