Libertarians hope to regain major party status | News
BOSTON — The state’s Libertarians lost their major party status in the 2020 elections, but they’re counting on a crop of statewide candidates in November to help expand the party’s base and regain its official designation.
Libertarians have fielded candidates in the wide open race for governor and lieutenant governor, state treasurer, auditor and a North Shore congressional seat in the Nov. 8 elections.
Topping the Libertarian ticket is gubernatorial candidate Kevin Reed and his running-mate for lieutenant governor, Peter Everett. They will face Democrat Maura Healey and her running-mate, Kim Driscoll, and Republican Geoff Diehl and his pick for lieutenant governor, Leah Allen, in November.
Cristina Crawford, a treasurer and former chairwoman of the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts, is in a two-way race against incumbent Treasurer Deb Goldberg, a Democrat who is seeking a third term. There is no Republican candidate in the race.
Crawford doesn’t kid herself about the odds of unseating Goldberg, but said regardless of the outcome she expects to regain the party’s official designation heading into the 2024 presidential election cycle.
“I don’t think I’ll win, but I’ll certainly make a good showing,” she said. “If I can crack 25% of the vote, I’ll be very proud of myself.”
State election law requires third parties get 3% of the vote in a statewide race to be recognized and have their candidates listed on the next ballot.
In other statewide races, Libertarian candidate Daniel Riek, a computer software program manager, has qualified to join a five-way, wide-open race for state auditor in November includes Democrat Diana Dizoglio, Republican Anthony Amore and two other independent party candidates.
Meanwhile, in the 6th Congressional District, Libertarian candidate Mark Tashjian is challenging Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, who is seeking another term. Republican Bob May is also in the race.
“For too long, the Republicans and Democrats have each hardened into their camps, making every issue all or nothing, right or left,” Tashjian said in a statement on his campaign website. “But the far-left and the far-right aren’t where the American people are.”
Crawford said the field of candidates gives not only Libertarians a chance to support candidates who share their views, but also independents and other voters who are dissatisfied with what the two major parties are offering Massachusetts voters.
Driven by voter dissatisfaction with the two major parties, the state’s Libertarians have seen a surge in numbers in recent years, even as other parties shrink.
The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts had 19,097 members as of October 2020 — a more than 130% increase from 2017 when it had a major party status, according to Secretary of State’s Bill Galvin’s office.
Nationally, the Libertarian Party has seen a 92% rise in membership in the last decade, fielding candidates in dozens of states. Four years ago, the party saw more than 600 candidates in federal, state and local races in nearly 40 states.
Independent parties come and go in Massachusetts, with challengers that seldom gain traction despite the fact that more than half of the state’s 4.8 million voters are political independents not registered as Democrats, Republicans or anything else.
The Libertarian party regained its party status after the 2016 election when the party’s presidential ticket — which included former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Bill Weld and a vice presidential nominee — won 4.2% of the vote in the state against Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
But the party lost its official designation after the 2020 elections when Libertarian candidates finished with just under 1.2% of the vote.
Another example of the seesaw existence is the Green-Rainbow Party, which regained party recognition after its candidates got more than 3% of the vote in 2014. Two years later, the party lost its official designation when presidential candidate Jill Stein failed to get 3% of the vote.
The Green-Rainbow party regained it official status in the 2018 elections, only to lose it in 2020.
In November, the party has fielded candidates for auditor and secretary of state, as it also attempts to regain its major party designation.
Political observers say many voters are reluctant to support a third-party candidate over fears that the vote will be squandered on a candidate who doesn’t stand a chance, or becomes a “spoiler” by siphoning votes away from the Republican or Democratic candidate on the ballot.
Crawford said third party candidates face other challenges, such as fighting to get on the ballot, being kept off the debate stage and a lack of press attention.
But she said fielding candidates in major races helps to grow the party’s ranks and spread its message of civil rights, economic liberty and limited government.
“We have a good platform to offer — less government,” Crawford said. “And I think that resonates with a lot of people, especially in the current political climate.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.