Is Badnarik Unelectable?

Over in the comments section on this post at Hammer of Truth I made the statement that I didn’t feel Michael Badnarik was electable to Congress.

Trevor Southerland countered with the following:

I’m tired of hearing people say “well, he isn’t electable” about any Libertarian candidate willing to do what Michael has done. Unless you’re the Libertarian Congressman/Governor/Senator who got elected last year that we missed, shaddup! (Austin, this isn’t so much aimed at you, I know it comes across that way, but it isn’t… I love you and your web site.)

I certainly take no offense and I hope he doesn’t take any at my reply. I will absolutely agree that Badnarik has worked hard for the LP over the past few years. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions on this.

In this post I’ll try to address the whole issue of what I feel makes an electable Libertarian candidate, and back-up my claim about Badnarik. I’ll also say right up front that I am a libertarian-leaning Republican, and I’ve said that repeatedly before. So anyone can feel free to ignore my “outsider” opinions if they so wish.

Really, there aren’t many Libertarians willing to run who are electable to a seat in the U.S. Congress right now. The best candidate I can possibly imagine is Ed Thompson. He did extremely well (for a Libertarian) in his run for governor of Wisconsin. He has the famous name and family connections needed to raise a lot of money.

Thompson is also obviously very popular in his district and has held several local elected offices, including one that he was essentially drafted into. He owns an established local business, giving him even more ties to the community. Plus, he polls well.

Badnarik can raise a lot of money, as we’ve seen, and that’s certainly a good first step. Other than that, I don’t see much demonstrated local strength. His two runs for State Representative netted him very average results for an unknown LP candidate.

Unfortunately, campaigns are about more than ideas. Even if Badnarik has the better platform and his ideas do motivate voters… he doesn’t have the experience to back it up. Not that you need it to be an effective Congressman, but you do need it to be trusted by voters.

Badnarik has lived in Texas for less than 10 years and has spent quite a bit of the last few years traveling around the country campaigning for President or raising money for this campaign. Not a bad thing, but it doesn’t suggest he has had the time to spend on building up local roots for himself.

His bio on the campaign website makes great mention of his experience in the boy scouts while growing up in Indiana. That’s wonderful, but where is the recent and local community involvement? Since he’s not an elected official or celebrity, he needs some way of connecting with the people he wants to represent. Congressmen tend to be heavily involved in their communities. They serve on boards of local charitable organizations. Frequently they are professionals like lawyers, doctors, etc. Often they have political experience, if not in elected local offices, then on appointed community boards.

Badnarik’s profession, as best I can tell, is independent computer consultant who is also a certified sky-diving instructor and a frequent Libertarian candidate for political office.

Just because you feel that he’s right on the issues and and he can raise a decent amount of money doesn’t mean he can win.

Look at the guy that he’s running against. Not his policies or positions or anything like that, just the man himself.

Republican Congressman Michael McCaul is a third generation Texan who lives in Austin with his wife and five children. He is an attorney and former federal prosecutor. His wife is the heir to the Clear Channel Communications fortune, giving him access to nearly unlimited campaign funds.

His endorsements include a former President, both current Texas Senators and one former Senator, a Congressman, the Governor, probably a dozen organizations, a half dozen state-level officials, numerous local officials, a State Senator, and five State Representatives. Even State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, who Badnarik seems to have personally met and promised a signed book.

To me, that looks quite a bit like an unwinnable race.

However, I do think Badnarik is electable to a lower level or more obscure office. A local city council or the Texas Railroad Commission, perhaps. Maybe once this race is over, I hope he will consider something like that… making use of his increased local name recognition. Eventually he might be able to assemble the ingredients needed to win a seat in the U.S. House. After all, the Railroad Commission was Carole Strayhorn’s first elected step toward being elected State Comptroller and now running for Governor.

Feel free to disagree in the comments section, that’s what it’s there for. :)

33 Responses to “Is Badnarik Unelectable?”

  1. Chris Bennett Says:

    Damn Austin,

    As a libertarian myself I hate but to agree with you. Michael should have run for a state house seat or a lower office. 150,000 dollars for one of those seats would have been outstanding. All politics is local but most libertarians don’t understand that. This is the reason why the LP is doomed! Win local…think national!

  2. Allen Hacker Says:

    Hi Austin,

    If I answered all these points, you’d reverse your opinion. But you’re a Republican, and other Republicans are watching, and I’m better off looking inept and harmless than I am giving away the campaign, even if it means putting up with the usual disloyalty in my own party.

    I mean, look at your line of reasoning, above. It’s flawlessly typical. I couldn’t ask for better.

    I knew what I was getting into when I took the job. It’s probably best that nobody else does.

    My only complaint is my own people undermining our efforts. But then, that is absolutelywithoutadoubtbeyonequestion nothing new.

    On the lighter side, though, it’s no worse than fighting through a primary. Maybe this is just our version of pre-election bloodletting.

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  3. Mike N. Says:

    Let’s see. We have a nutcase running the campaign of another nutcase. Yep, sounds pretty unelectable to me.

  4. Allen Hacker Says:

    Hi Austin,

    If I answered all these points, you’d reverse your opinion. But you’re a Republican, and other Republicans are watching, and I’m better off looking inept and harmless than I am giving away the campaign, even if it means putting up with the usual disloyalty in my own party.

    I mean, look at your line of reasoning, above. It’s flawlessly typical. I couldn’t ask for better.

    I knew what I was getting into when I took the job. It’s probably best that nobody else does.

    My only complaint is my own people undermining our efforts. But then, that is absolutelywithoutadoubtbeyonequestion nothing new.

    On the lighter side, though, it’s no worse than fighting through a primary. Maybe this is just our version of pre-election bloodletting.

    PS: We did consider Railroad Commissioner And the Texas Statehouse, at all levels. And City Council. And Dogcatcher, at the suggestion of so many who think we should start at the bottom and “pay our dues”. But the Republicans have so betrayed their promise, and the Democrats theirs, that the country is virually gone at this point. There isn’t enough time left to prevent disaster from the bottom, and we saw possibilities here.

    Besides, we decided it would be less uncomfortable being laughed at for being “unrealistic” than being ridiculed for being the Presidential Candidate who implicitly telegraphs that he shouldn’t have, by coming back and running for a hugely depositioning position from which next to nothing can ever be accomplished beyond learning how to get along with thieves.

    The world is burning, and we aim to do something about it.

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  5. undercover_ararchist Says:

    I don’t like this “electable” business. Like Dennis Kucinich said, “Sure, I’m electable—if you vote for me!”

  6. Allen Hacker Says:

    Mike N.?

    Is that Mike Nelson?

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  7. Kyle B Says:

    I agree with Austin’s point. His argument makes perfect sense to me.

    Then again I am a Georgia Democrat so maybe Libertarians shouldn’t pay much attention to me

  8. Chris Moore Says:

    I seriously doubt the campaign would have been able to raise the amount they have so far if Badnarik was to run for the State House or Railroad Commission. I know I would care a lot less about Mr. Badnarik winning one of those races. I actually think the congressional race is the best race for him to be in. Though it would have been better had the Democrats sat out like last time.

    I also think it is a good thing that McCaul and other Republicans underestimate Badnarik’s potential.

    Can he win? It’s possible. Will he win? I hope so, but I’m doubtfull. We’ll know more come September. If he’s but a blip in the polls by then, then I’d bet on another horse.

  9. George Whitfield Says:

    Hi Austin,

    Since you are a Libertarian Republican, who you do you think will have the more libertarian positions in the Texas 10th Congressional District race, Michael Badnarik or Michael McCaul. Also, who will Libertarian Republicans in that district vote for and why?

    Best regards.

  10. Austin Cassidy Says:

    George,

    Who has the more libertarian postions? Michael Badnarik, most likely.

    Who will libertarian-leaning Republicans vote for? Hard to say.

    For every one voter that votes on ideas and principles, there are probably three or four more that vote on experience and personality.

    Austin

  11. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Great reporting by Austin Cassidy! The less-than-dynamic Badnarik has chosen the wrong race in the wrong year. Voters disgusted with the war in Iraq will have the opportunity to vote for one of two credible Democratic candidates—- both of whom are veterans—- in the state’s 10th congressional district. The truth is that the lackluster Badnarik will be lucky to poll 2% of the vote in November against his major-party opponents, about the same percentage he garnered in his second bid for the state legislature in 2002. Incidentally, of the $136,353.57 raised by the Badnarik campaign through March 5, it’s nice to see that the former LP presidential candidate has been willing to put so much of his personal fortune into his longshot bid for Congress—- $25!

    The Libertarians wasted a golden opportunity to play a major role in the 2004 presidential campaign—- possibly playing the role of “spoiler”—-when they nominated this little-known transplanted Texan, a man whose political resume has more holes in it than a slice of swiss cheese. They shouldn’t get burned by him again. There are a number of impressive Libertarians running for office around the country this year. Party activists should put their money in a more competitive and viable race.

  12. Chris Moore Says:

    Darcy, what “impressive Libertarians running for office” do you suppose we support with our dollars? As far as I’ve seen ALL Libertarian’s running for office are “little-known” with political resumes containing “more holes than swiss cheese.”

    And do you honestly think Nolan or Russo would have garnered any more support in 2004 than Badnarik? If you do, then you haven’t been watching Libertarian presidential campaigns for the last 20 years. Libertarians ran a former congressman who received less votes than Badnarik.

  13. Austin Cassidy Says:

    Not taking sides on this particular arguement, but Badnarik polled 397,265 votes (0.32%) and Ron Paul received 431,750 votes (0.47%).

  14. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Chris, actually I do believe that radio talk-show host Gary Nolan or self-styled promoter Aaron Russo would have waged much stronger presidential campaigns than Badnarik. The media-savvy Nolan intended to use his countless contacts on the national talk-show circuit to get the Libertarian message out throughout the 2004 autumn campaign. I know this was his strategy because I personally interviewed him while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Florida, shortly before the LP’s national convention in Atlanta that year, which I also attended. Remarkably, Nolan had also recently recruited one of George W. Bush’s leading fundraising “Pioneers”—- a tremendous coup, to put it mildly. Likewise, the colorful Aaron Russo, no stranger to the media himself, had already produced and was running television ads in targeted media markets when the little-known and financially-strapped Badnarik unexpectedly limped out of Atlanta with the party’s presidential nomination. Unlike Badnarik, Nolan had thousands of loyal followers as a result of his popular nationally-syndicated radio show and Russo was a proven vote-getter, having garnered more than 26% of the vote in an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for governor of Nevada in 1998. That’s certainly more impressive than the pathetically insignificant two percent Badnarik received while running for a state legislative seat in Texas four years later.

    As far as some of the impressive Libertarians running this year, I would argue that Wilbur Wood in Virginia’s 10th congressional district is far more impressive than the mediocre Badnarik. But there are many others whose credentials are equally impressive, including attorney Allen Buckley, the party’s candidate for Lieutenant-Governor of Georgia. Buckley was the party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate two years ago and anyone who watched his performance against his Democratic and Republican opponents in that year’s nationally-televised debate on C-SPAN had to be quite impressed. (That race, incidentally, will probably be one of the most widely-watched contests in the country this fall, featuring Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition and former Sen. Max Cleland.)

    I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t contribute to Badnarik, but it just might be the most expensive two percent showing in U.S. history.

  15. Austin Cassidy Says:

    Darcy, you’re from Jacksonville as well?

  16. Otto Kerner Says:

    What evidence of any kind is there that Mike Badnarik is an electable candidate who has any chance of winning? There’s none. So, I’m afraid I don’t really understand what Trevor Southerland and Allen Hacker are talking about. Austin has not been elected to the U.S. Congress and so, therefore, Mike Badnarik is an electable candidate? Huh? And as for Mr. Hacker, the man with the secret plan, you know what else is absolutelywithoutadoubtbeyondquestion nothing new? Libertarian campaign managers who dupe gullible contributors into believing that they are really going to win this time and then wind up producing absolutely nothing in terms of meaningful results on election day.

    Of course, I’ll be proven wrong if Mike Badnarik gets elected in November. And I’ll be proven partly wrong if he even gets anywhere in the ballpark of being close to winning. That would be a pleasant surprise.

  17. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Hi Austin,

    Yes, I’ve lived here for thirteen years now. I’m originally from the Philadelphia area. Maybe we could get together for lunch someday.

    As you can see, I’ve been fascinated by your coverage of Badnarik’s FEC campaign expense reports. It seems like you hit a raw nerve, at least with some of his staff, but having already spent $136,000—- with little to show for it in the way of serious media coverage and/or media buys—- should give anyone pause. That’s not peanuts, especially when you’re talking about a traditionally underfunded third-party candidacy. (I know of at least two Democratic congressional candidates here in the Duval County area who would salivate if they enjoyed that kind of warchest!) Moreover, that’s almost half of what Jesse Ventura spent in winning the Minnesota governorship in ‘98!

    In any case, I’m currently writing a four-volume history on independent and third-party politics in the United States. The first volume, “OTHERS: THIRD-PARTY POLITICS FROM THE NATION’S FOUNDING TO THE RISE & FALL OF THE GREENBACK-LABOR PARTY” was published in 2004. The second volume, covering the period from the Populists to the Progressive Movement of 1924, will be released in a couple of months.

  18. George Whitfield Says:

    Austin,

    Will you be investigating other third party candidate’s expenditures as well? It appears to be a topic that elicits much interest.

    Darcy,

    You make some good points and are knowledgeable about candidates. There are really quite a few good Libertarian candidates running for a variety of offices. But I am willing to contribute to a candidate with the desire to run in an uphill race. And although as a delegate to the Atlanta convention, I voted for someone other than Badnarik for the Presidential nomination, I rallied to help him and was impressed by his dedication and determination. Sometimes the candidate who has desire does better than the one with the credentials. I support a number of Libertarian candidates not just Michael. Lets see how he does. I wish we had more people willing to run for Congress.

  19. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Thank you for your kind words, George. I congratulate you for having the political acumen to have supported someone other than Badnarik for the party’s presidential nomination in 2004. I also applaud your willingness to support other Libertarians this year, not just Badnarik. That’s the whole point of my argument—- the Libertarian Party shouldn’t look to the Badnarik congressional campaign as some sort of panacea. If they do, I’m afraid they’ll be deeply disappointed.

    Having said that, I have to confess that I don’t quite understand Texas politics, a state that executes people with low IQ’s, yet in 1994 and 1998 elected a man with a similar IQ as governor. I guess I also wonder a little bit about the Libertarian Party leadership in the Lone Star State. Why on earth, for instance, are they running a candidate against Ron Paul, the closest thing to a true “libertarian” in all of Congress?

  20. undercover_ararchist Says:

    Darcy: My mother in law got me your book for Christmas. Now I no longer hate her.

  21. Allen Hacker Says:

    Whoa, Darcy,

    The Texas LP isn’t running anyone against Ron Paul.

    The fellow filed against all wishes and advice and has refused to be reasoned into withdrawing. But he is not yet an official candidate.

    The Texas congressional district nominating conventions are this coming Saturday, the 25th. This person could get the nod if he can convince enough delegates that (a) any candiate is better than none, and (b) Ron Paul isn’t really a libertarian despite his voting record, positions and speeches every year promoting the philosophy and the name.

    Even though the filer is the only person in the primary, that guarantees nothing. He still has to beat NOTA (None Of The Above), always a contender in LP elections, and one who has defeated a few would-be candidates in the past.

    If NOTA prevails, the LPTexas Executive Committee may have the option to appoint a candidate. They can only do that under special circumstances where someone has filed but died, withdrawn unexpectedly for cause, etc.

    I predict that if they have the option, they will opt not.

    0

  22. Kyle B Says:

    Austin,

    Former Sen. Max Cleland isn’t running for Lt. Gov in Georgia unless he changes his mind. This was a rumor that went around a couple of months ago that he would run against Ralph Reed but it seems that it was just a rumor. I have had the chance to talk with Sen. Cleland and from this talk I would be surprised if he ever runs for another elected office. The Georgia Democrat Party is still trying to recruit a well know figure in the state to run for Lt. Gov. At the moment it seems that Ralph Reeds biggest compitition for the office is from State Sen Cagle in the Republican primary.
    Allen Buckley was pretty impressive in the debate but he only got 2% of the vote and that was with a very weak Democratic candidate in the field.

    Kyle

  23. Chris Moore Says:

    I thought Russo got 26% in the Republican primary for Nevada governor. Either way, Nolan may have gotten 500,000 votes as opposed to 400,000. What’s a few tenths of a percentage points among friends? And Russo may have gotten less with his rather brash style and tendency to say whatever was on his mind no matter how offensive.

    And Jesse Venture spent over $600,000 on his congressional campaign which is over 4 times what the Badnarik campaign has spent.

    And every candidate mentioned has just as little political experience as Badnarik.

    I’m not saying not to support them, but do you really think Wilbur Wood has a shot at winning? I live in Virginia. It know it won’t happen.

  24. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Chris, good point about Ventura. I should have said “raised” rather than “spent” when referring to Ventura’s successful gubernatorial bid in 1998. He raised about $300,000 during the campaign, but retroactively qualified for matching funds in the amount of approximately $327,000. Of course, his campaign didn’t receive those funds until after the election. In any case, at this point in the campaign Badnarik is at a pace to far surpass Ventura’s fundraising efforts in ‘98. At this point in Ventura’s fledgling campaign, his campaign manager Doug Friedline was operating on a shoe-string budget. In fact, they didn’t hit the $75,000 mark until early October, about four weeks before the election.

  25. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Allen, thanks for clearing that up. I’m happy to learn that the Texas party tried to discourage the recalcitrant candidate from filing. Let’s hope NOTA prevails at the district nominating convention.

  26. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Kyle,

    Thanks for the information about Max Cleland. I had just read an article in yesterday’s Walton Tribune listing him as one of five Democrats running for lieutenant governor. Maybe the reporter got it wrong. Personally, I think Cleland is chomping at the bit to mount some sort of political comeback after the nasty 2002 campaign. In any case, assuming that Ralph Reed gets the GOP nod and Cleland ultimately decides to get in the race and wins the Democratic nomination, I think it would be one of the most widely-watches races in the nation. This would be a high profile race where the Libertarians could get some serious attention. Despite the much higher name recognition of his major-party opponents, Allen Buckley would be the most impressive candidate in the field and would be ideally positioned to play a major role as a potential spoiler in what would most likely be a very tight race.

  27. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Undercover_anarchist,

    I’m glad your mother-in-law gave you a copy of my book for Christmas. Walt Brown, the former Socialist candidate for president, told me he keeps a copy of it on his nightstand. He says it’s better than Unisom.

  28. Kyle B Says:

    Darcy,

    The only Dems that are Declared for the Lt. Gov race at the moment are Greg Hecht, Jim Martin, and Griffin Lotson. Hecht is a ex state sen and Martin is a ex state rep and a ex state human resources commissioner. None of there three are really that strong of candidates. The rumor that is going around now is that State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond is considering entering the race.

    Kyle

  29. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    Thanks, Kyle. It sounds like you’re following that race pretty closely. It should be an interesting one, especially if Abramoff-tainted Ralph Reed emerges as the Republican candidate.

  30. Kyle B Says:

    Darcy,

    Well I just live in Georgia and am active with the Democratic Party so I keep track of all our candidates and who they are running against.

    Kyle

  31. Kromm Says:

    Electable, not electable, who cares. Stop wasting your votes on Republicans and Democrats and vote for what you believe. Who cares if you win, you got to cast your vote for what you believe in. If more people would vote for what they believe and stop worrying about who has a shot and who they don’t want to win then things would start changing. It’s people who argue about who could win and who they are going to vote against that screw up politics.

  32. Third Party Watch » Blog Archive » The Badnarik Campaign… Says:

    [...] My own opinion from the very start was that Mr. Badnarik was unelectable due to a lack of experience and community ties. Not really anything Mr. Hacker could have done about that. [...]

  33. Third Party Watch » Blog Archive » Is Arin Sime the Anti-Badnarik? Says:

    [...] With that said, let me back up the sensational headline with some explanation. In March of 2006 I suggested that Michael Badnarik was an unelectable candidate for a variety of reasons. Mainly that he lacked the experience and community ties to win over voters. He was an unmarried man in his 50’s, a transplant into the District, and had virtually no experience or community ties at the local level. His support was mostly coming from outside the District, through Libertarians he met while running for President. They raised $400,000 by collecting checks from California to Maine, they dressed up in crazy “V for Vendetta” Halloween costumes, and ultimately they got 4% of the vote. Even if that money had been spent effectively, it still wouldn’t have saved him because he was just not electable. [...]

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