Libertarians’ vote total wins party access to D.C. ballot

November 10, 2012

For a candidate who just lost his race by 83 percentage points and 193,000 votes, Bruce Majors is a pretty happy guy.

Some of his friends were so happy about his loss, in fact, that he autographed his signs for them on election night. To other friends dejected about Tuesday’s election results, Majors said, “I told them I was the teeny fleck of silver in their otherwise dark cloud.”

Why? “I achieved my objective,” the real estate agent and Libertarian Party candidate for D.C. congressional delegate said Friday. That objective: To make the Libertarians an official party in the home town of its sworn enemy, big government.

The 13,462 votes that Majors earned were well over the 7,500 necessary to make the Libertarians a major party in the District for at least the next four years. That means the party’s candidates can appear on general-election ballots without having to meet onerous petition-gathering requirements.

Though local candidates have run under the Libertarian banner previously, this is the first time the party — known for its outspoken views against taxes, regulation and public spending — has earned that distinction here.

Bob Johnston, a national Libertarian Party employee who monitors ballot access issues, said D.C. now joins 30 states in granting the party regular ballot access. It’s a big deal, he said, because the District’s election process is especially hard on independent or minor-party candidates.

“It is one of the toughest places to get on the ballot,” he said.

Majors, 54, succeeded mainly because he chose his race carefully: He took on 11-term incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), perhaps the most popular elected official in the city. But he did so in a presidential year, where there are more voters, and in a year when Republicans opted not to offer a candidate of their own.

Thus, voters interested in an alternative to the right of Norton flocked to Majors. (A Statehood Green candidate, Natale “Lino” Stracuzzi, finished about 2,400 votes behind him.) Majors earned nearly 12,000 more votes than the Libertarian presidential candidate, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Carla Howell, the national Libertarian Party’ s executive director, said the party’s blend of fiscal conservatism and social progressivism — including support for same-sex marriage, reproductive rights and marijuana legalization — is an easy sell in urban areas, particularly to those voters put off by the GOP’s social positions.

Nick Jeffress, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, said he gladly voted for Majors. “This year, it was a strategic decision not to put someone on that line next to Eleanor, because we had other races to focus on,” he said.

The D.C. Republicans have generally tried to pitch themselves as being more socially progressive than the national Republican Party, positioning themselves as the fiscally responsible alternative to the city’s Democratic establishment.

Jeffress said he is not particularly concerned that the Libertarians might draw voters away from Republican candidates and did not expect any “overlap” between the two parties’ candidates: “We share a pretty common goal: That’s to give voters an alternative to incumbents in a completely one-sided town.”

With Majors’s victory of sorts, D.C. Libertarians are already talking about their next moves. With the District “awash in 20- and 30-year-olds just out of college and graduate school” who are Libertarian, Majors said he’s already worked out his candidate recruiting pitch.

“It will be easier for you than it was for me,” he tells them. “There will be virtually no time and money spent getting you on the ballot. It will just be the fun part.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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