Libertarian Party earns official status
The West Virginia Libertarian Party scored a key victory Tuesday, crossing the threshold to join the Democrat, Republican and Mountain parties as the state's fourth official party.
The party's nominee for governor, Preston County farmer and retired engineer David Moran, may have earned only 1.3 percent of the vote, but that was enough to get the party recognized as an official party in this state.
To attain that status, the party's candidate must receive more than 1 percent of total votes cast in the race for governor. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office confirmed the Libertarian Party's new status on Thursday.
State Libertarian Party Chairman Michael Wilson hopes to use the recognition to build the party's base ahead of the 2014 and 2016 elections.
"I absolutely believe that the Libertarian Party of West Virginia will keep up the momentum throughout and beyond 2016," Wilson said. "We are already planning our 2013 activities and organizing our 2014 candidates."
Wilson said frustration with the state of national politics is driving voters to new perspectives.
"The bottom line is that the current system is broken and has shifted into a political tug-of-war that offers no true path to economic and social recovery for the people of our state," Wilson said.
"The introduction of new philosophies and political ideals challenges the current system and encourages debate which will promote real solutions to the problems facing our citizens," he said. "These introductions will come from third parties."
The recognition means that the party has guaranteed ballot access in state elections, excluding municipal elections.
Prior to the recognition, party candidates had to collect signatures from voters to get on the ballot.
State code requires that the number of validated signatures be at least 1 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the last election for that office. The Libertarian Party collected over 7,600 signatures to get Moran on the ballot this year.
"Now that ballot access restrictions have been lifted though our success in this general election, we can truly begin representing the people of West Virginia," Wilson said.
The traditional political spectrum has Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right. Libertarians argue for less government involvement in both economic and social matters.
The party's platform maintains a strong constitutional emphasis on freedom, civil liberties and personal responsibility. It says government should protect people's property rights while respecting their privacy and views government debts as a form of taxation without consent.
There are 1,448 registered Libertarians in the state, according to the Secretary of State's office. According to unofficial election results, 8,719 people voted for Moran in the general election. That is six times the number of people registered with the party.
Moran collected just over half the number of votes Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson received in the election.
"We ran a campaign to challenge the existing political structure that has never brought success to West Virginians - the success we all hope to attain in the future," Moran said. "I personally committed myself to a new era of prosperity in our state based upon specific programs for tax reduction and industrial expansion."
To maintain the official party status, the Libertarian Party will need to get more than 1 percent of the vote in the 2016 gubernatorial race.
The party also earned official recognition in 1996 but failed to maintain the 1 percent threshold in the 2000 election.
Nationally, the Libertarian Party gained new interest following the quixotic presidential campaign of Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul. While Paul is a registered Republican, his political views are based on a Libertarian philosophy.
Paul campaigned in the state during the 2008 Republican primary. Wilson said that campaign helped generate some momentum for Libertarian ideals.
"Dr. Paul helped advance the notion that West Virginians - as well as the rest of the nation - are ready for a real change in our political system," Wilson said.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.