Democratic Party Promoted Libertarian Candidates

Michael Giberson

Democratic candidates and party organizations sent out many mailers before the last election promoting Libertarian candidates for office.  Scott Gustafson, blogging at Arizona Economics, posts the flyer promoting Libertarian candidate Michael Shoen in a race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, paid for by the Arizona Democratic Party. (Another example, from Indiana, and one from Illinois.)

Is the “liberaltarian dream” of Brink Lindsay and Will Wilkinson coming to fruition, are liberals finding common ground with small-government types?

No, these are really thinly disguised anti-GOP efforts seeking to peel of voters from the Republican candidate.  As Gustafson points out with a little election math, the tactic reveals that Democrats don’t think their own candidates are very appealing. Democrats must think it is more than twice as hard to convince a prospective Republican voter to switch to the Democrat as it is to get the voter to switch to Libertarian (at least among the households targeted for this type of political advertising).


  • In Indiana case mentioned above, the Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly won re-election to the House of Representatives over the his Republican challenger by about 1,500 votes.  Libertarian candidate Mark Vogel received 9,445 votes in the election, so the tactic may have been successful.
  • In the Illinois senate race, Republican Mark Kirk won by about 70,000 votes, the Libertarian candidate picked up over 86,000 votes and the Green candidate received over 116,000 votes. (Not obvious if the tactic mattered for the results. No word on whether the GOP was mailing in favor of the Green party candidate in Illinois.)
  • In the Arizona race for the U.S. House, Republican Ben Quayle beat his Democratic rival by nearly 21,000 votes (in an admittedly heavily Republican district), significantly more than the 9,191 votes picked up by the “Democratic-backed” libertarian candidate.

Indiana Libertarian Vogel is exploring the possibility of a campaign finance complaint against the Democrats.

2 thoughts on “Democratic Party Promoted Libertarian Candidates

  1. I’m not an expert on campaign finance law, nor on campaign ethics. Admittedly the flyers are intended to mislead recipients (they look like the encourage support for the Libertarian, but they are intended to discourage voters from supporting the Republican; they advocate positions that presumably the author of the flyers does not support), so I can see the unethical issue.

    But the flyers are labeled as to who paid to send them, so why not trust voters to sort it out?

    (Well, I can imagine all sorts of reasons NOT to let voters sort things out, but none of the ways to NOT let voters sort things out lead to better outcomes.)

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