With former New Mexico governor and current presidential candidate Gary Johnson garnering between five and 20 percent of voter support in the latest polls, the Libertarian Party is on the verge of achieving major party status for the next election cycle in at least two states.
In both New Mexico and Minnesota, Johnson is polling above the five percent popular vote threshold required for the Libertarian Party to be declared a major party starting in 2018, when the political organization would be eligible for primary elections funded by each individual state.
The former construction company owner is backed by approximately 20 percent of likely voters in the Land of Enchantment. In order to gain equal status with the Democratic and Republican parties, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico also must add another 800 registered members by January 2018, when Gov. Susana Martinez will make the official major party declarations.
Johnson has significantly less support in Minnesota, but is still polling above just above the five percent mark. Libertarians have never been designated as a major party in the North Star State.
The advantages of a third party earning the same legal status as the Democrats and Republicans are numerous.
“Running as a minor party candidate, people overlook you,” said Joe Nichols, New Mexico Libertarian Party committee member running for a state House seat as an independent.
First, major party status will encourage local, state and federal office candidates with libertarian ideological leanings to run on the party’s ticket, instead of with the Republican Party as Gary Johnson did when he ran for governor in 1994 and Ron Paul as congressman from Texas starting in the 1970s.
Second, in both Minnesota and New Mexico, Libertarians will no longer be required to petition for a place on the ballot by collecting voters’ signatures — a process which takes up valuable time and money.
Third, and perhaps most important, major party status will help grow Libertarian county and municipal-level organizations. Competent grass roots support will take the pressure off individual candidates who otherwise have to create their own get-out-the-vote operations without much help.
On the national level, Johnson has seen his polling numbers decline in recent weeks. However, amiable ex-governor’s support is still above the five percent mark needed across the country to secure federal public funding for the Libertarian Party’s 2020 presidential campaign, which would total at least an estimated $10 million.
[NM Political Report] [Pioneer Press] [RealClear Politics]