Libertarians back on Alabama ballot after 20-year absence

MONTGOMERY, Ala (AP) — Libertarians are back at the polls in Alabama for the first time in 20 years after a long struggle to regain access to the ballot, and party leaders are hoping to make a statement on the future of the gone to the Deep South State.

The Alabama Libertarian Party is fielding 64 candidates in Tuesday’s election, including contests for the U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and the Alabama Legislative Assembly. The Libertarians were last in the 2002 general election and are back this year after collecting tens of thousands of needed signatures

Gavin Goodman, chairman of the Alabama Libertarian Party and candidate in Congressional District 7, said Libertarian candidates give voters an alternative choice to Republican and Democratic candidates, and inject debate and competition into contests. “We’re trying to show people that there is another way and that elected officials can be a force for good,” Goodman said.

Alabama’s restrictive ballot access law required libertarians to collect more than 51,000 signatures, or 3% of the total number of voters in the 2018 gubernatorial election, to return to the ballot. After a two-year effort, the party submitted more than 80,000 names, Goodman said.

Goodman said they were trying to send a message this year. There are dozens of Libertarian hopefuls racing in races that would otherwise be individual competitions, he said.

“People are tired of the duopoly,” said Libertarian Senate candidate John Sophocleus, an economics professor, referring to the two main parties. He said he thinks their message will appeal to many Alabamians if they are open to hearing it. “Libertarians are pretty well known for saying more freedom, less government, and I think people are getting tired of a lot of the authoritarian results they’ve seen over the last few decades,” he said.

However, for Libertarians to retain access to the ballot in 2024, one of their statewide candidates must garner at least 20% of the vote. This is a daunting task given that in 2002 the party’s gubernatorial candidate received around 24,000 votes out of the 1.3 million votes cast.

Libertarians vying for statewide office include Dr. James Blake, physician and former Birmingham City Councilman, in the gubernatorial race, Sophocleus in the US Senate race and Ruth Page- Nelson in the running for lieutenant governor. Page-Nelson is the only candidate to run against Republican Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth because there are no Democrats in the race.

“If we don’t get our 20%, this party will go nowhere. We will continue,” Goodman said.

However, he is hopeful about their chances on Tuesday. “Win, lose or tie, the Libertarian Party is here to continue to discuss issues and help improve Alabama,” he said.

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