Why The Secretary of State Race Matters

It may come as a surprise to newer Libertarians that in Indiana, the Secretary of State (SOS) race is the most important in the four year cycle.

Not President? Not US Senate or US House, or Governor even? Not by a longshot. The rules of the election status game are tied, for whatever reason, to the outcome of the SOS race every four years. The law says that in order to maintain automatic ballot access, a political party must earn at least 2% in the statewide SOS race. If your party gets 2%, it is declared a ‘minor party’ in Indiana, and has automatic ballot access.

For a political party, ballot access is everything. If a party isn’t on the ballot, it’s a supper club. It is dismissed out of hand by the media and the voters. Because the LPIN is on the ballot, we can win elections, so we are covered by the media and generally included in debates. This not only gives us a chance to win elections. It allows us to broadcast the message of libertarian policy solutions.

Although the LPIN’s SOS candidates have topped the minimum threshhold each year since 1994 and have maintained continuous ballot access, 2010 is not a ‘gimme’. This year, it will be a real struggle to get the 2%.

Why is this so, especially given our track record of success? It’s different because the nature of the races is different this year.

When Evan Bayh withdrew himself from consideration for re-election to the US Senate, he turned a top-of-ticket seat that was assumed safely his into one wide open for challenge by Republicans and Democrats alike. This means huge campaign advertising dollars are going to be pumped into Hoosier media from across the country, on TV, radio, and online. My estimate is that $40 million will easily be spent on this Senate seat.

Add to this the contested nature of the SOS race, without an assumed incumbent to re-elect, plus races in all 9 Indiana Congressional Districts in a period of political agitation, and we are left with a situation where it will be hard to get our message heard. Past LPIN SOS campaigns raised and spent in the neighborhood of $40,000. Compared to $40 million or likely more? This is not going to be easy.

Libertarians are going to need to turn out for this election. Mark your calendar now. Election Day is Tuesday, November 2. Plan now to vote. Plan to be a poll worker at your home precinct, encouraging your neighbors to vote for the Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State.

If we fail to push our candidate over the 2% minimum, the LPIN goes from being arguably the most successful LP state affiliate in the country to a supper club. We need to act as though this is a desperate crusade.

If you have never run for office, the time is now.

When I analyzed the returns from my 2006 candidacy, it was obvious that our candidates for Indiana House & State Senate, and local office, boosted my totals enormously. Wayne County was one of our strongest performers in 2006, and in the precincts where LP candidates were winning outright, I was getting more than 30% of the vote. In other counties with strong organizations and candidates, such as LaPorte, I rode the coattails of local candidates to double digit returns

Our ballot dynamic is not like the other parties. We provide coattails from the bottom of the ticket, up, and not the other way around. It would be different if we had Senate candidates spending $20 million or so. That isn’t going to happen, so we need to do what works.

We need to fulfill Sam Goldstein’s goal of running a candidate for all 100 Indiana House and 25 Indiana Seats. We need to run as many candidates for county-level office as possible. This will create coattails to the candidate who wins our nomination at the State Convention on April 24 in Indianapolis.

We don’t need to be scared, but we do need to work desperately. Looking again to my 2006 totals, I slipped from 3.3% from the 4.1% earned in 2002 by Rebecca Sink-Burris, despite nearly 200 public appearances. My analysis? I didn’t convey a sense of desperation to the LIbertarian base, so the turnout wasn’t what it could have, or should have, been.

I’m not letting that happen again. I encourage every Libertarian to do what they can, including running for office, to come together to overcome all obstacles and ensure continued ballot access through 2014.

Ballot access, or supper club? It’s up to all of us.

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