In a presidential election where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump voters are not necessarily Clinton and Trump supporters, the Libertarian Party sees an opening for its presidential candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Leaders of the Minnesota Libertarian Party, like their counterparts in other states, are canvassing voters to gather signatures to ensure Johnson’s name will appear on the ballot in Minnesota — and to plant the seed that he is a viable alternative.
“We have to do more community work because there’s not as much immediate, instant support for the Libertarian party,” said Valerie Lockhart, executive of director of the Minnesota Libertarian Party.
Sunday morning at Lake Calhoun, signers of a petition to put Johnson’s name on the Minnesota ballot appeared to be caught in the fog of voter ambivalence.
One of those signers was Luke Zak of Minneapolis.
“I think democracy is important. I think I would like to see more parties on the ballot,” Zak said. “I don’t support Gary Johnson and I won’t vote for him, but people who want to vote for him should be able to. I support Bernie. The only way any of his stuff is going to get done is if Hillary is in the White House and he’s in the Senate. I wouldn’t use the word support [for Clinton]. I’ll probably vote for her but that’s kind of up in the air also.”
A self-identified Republican who signed the Johnson petition said he is a Johnson supporter, by default.
“Can’t support Trump,” said Tim Grant of Minneapolis. “He doesn’t have the temperament. I was a Walker supporter. Then I drifted to Ted Cruz. I liked Marco Rubio, but he was too young. And Johnson was a governor. We need candidates that have executive experience like governors.”
Lockhart is hopeful that the presidential debates will highlight Johnson’s qualifications if he meets the inclusion threshold of 15 percent support in national polling. The debates are pivotal “to getting the message out that people are not stuck in this one-or-the-other system,” she said.
But even a relative unknown like Gary Johnson has an active opposition. “What I do see is a lot of negative backlash. There’s always a lot of this argument that the third party splits votes,” Lockhart said. “There’s an anti-third party campaign … which is, ‘If you do this, Trump’s gonna win,’ and there’s all this fear.”
On Sunday, the Minnesota Libertarian Party collected 125 signatures to add to the 2,000 already collected — just more than enough to qualify Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, for the Minnesota ballot.
Lockhart said the party is aiming for 1,000 more names as insurance — again a move being made in all 50 states to give the option of “one of the above” to voters who are saying “none of the above.”