Atlanta Journal-Constitution: How will Libertarians affect Georgia runoff?

Original article here.

By JIM THARPE

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Libertarians have never won statewide office in Georgia, but suddenly their votes have become valuable currency in the extended U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin.

No sooner had the sun peeked over the horizon on Nov. 5 than Martin and Chambliss — both sleep-deprived and headed for a runoff — were reaching out to the “other party.” Libertarian Senate candidate Allen Buckley won nearly 130,000 of the 3.7 million votes cast Nov. 4, enough in this squeaker of a Senate race to have put either Chambliss or Martin over the 50 percent mark needed for victory.

Now in a nationally watched Dec. 2 Senate runoff, Chambliss and Martin are reaching out to anyone who voted Libertarian Nov. 4.

“I called Saxby’s office the morning after the election and said I was backing him for the runoff,” said Joe McCutchen of Ellijay, who backed Buckley in the general election. “There’s a lot of people who voted for Buckley that I’m trying to get to go back to the polls and vote for Saxby.”

McCutchen plans to help out with an Ellijay barbecue for Chambliss on Saturday and will broadcast live from the event for a local-access cable station that has 100,000 viewers in Cherokee, Pickens, Fannin, Gilmer and Polk counties — areas where Buckley ran disproportionately well Nov. 4.

Tom West, 63, a retired accountant who lives on the east side of metro Atlanta, won’t attend the barbecue and won’t vote for Chambliss.

“I’m voting for Martin,” he said. “But I’m simply voting against Chambliss. I don’t know what the Republican Party is anymore.”

Libertarians generally pull in less than 3 percent of the vote in statewide races — Libertarian presidential candidate Bobb Barr got less than 1 percent of the state vote this year. They tend to share more in common with the GOP — they are pro-gun rights and support smaller government.

But it is far from clear which candidate most Libertarians will back Dec. 2, or even if they’ll vote as anything approaching a bloc.

Some, like Jason Pye, 27, of Covington, plan to sit out the runoff.

“I think both of them [Chambliss and Martin] will do a lot of harm,” said Pye, who backed Buckley in the general election.

Buckley is not backing either candidate until they agree to sign a multipage financial “commitment” pledge in which they vow to slash federal spending and balance the federal budget, which would mean big cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Reducing the soaring federal debt was the centerpiece of Buckley’s underfunded campaign.

Martin telephoned Buckley the morning after the election but backed away from Buckley’s demand to sign the commitment form. Buckley has said he will not endorse either candidate unless they sign.

“I haven’t signed anything like that with anybody,” Martin said in a recent interview “I’m not going to be a senator beholden to anyone when I go to Washington.”

Chambliss has also declined to sign Buckley’s pledge. Both Chambliss and Martin said they expect Libertarian voters to return to the polls Dec. 2. Both said they expect to get most of those ballots.

“Libertarians have more in common with us than they do with Jim Martin,” Chambliss said, “so we fully expect we will pick up a significant portion of that vote.”

One thing Chambliss has in his favor is self-professed Libertarian radio talk-show host Neal Boortz of WSB radio. Boortz has recently repeatedly blasted Martin, on one program calling Martin’s potential election “dangerous” to the country.

Boortz is scheduled to attend a Sunday afternoon “Fair Tax Rally” at the Gwinnett Center with Chambliss and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the state’s GOP presidential primary.

Some Libertarians are angry with Martin for a national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad that attacked Chambliss’ support of the fair tax, a national sales tax that would replace the income tax and most other federal taxes. Martin, under campaign finance laws, had no control over the ads. Martin does not support the fair tax, but he tried to distance himself from the ads after they began running.

The fair-tax proposal, which opponents say is unworkable, is immensely popular with many Libertarians.

“Picking on the fair tax in this state was a big mistake,” said Daniel Adams, 43, of Madison, who chairs the state Libertarian Party.

Libertarian Christopher Barber, 48, of Decatur sits on the state party’s executive committee. Barber said he has been talking with both campaigns.

“The door is wide open,” said Barber when asked who would get his vote.

Barber said he thinks Republicans have strayed from their core principles of smaller government and lower taxes. But the GOP is stronger on gun law protections than Democrats, he said. And Barber fears Democrats will do away with secret union votes and dump the broadcasting fairness doctrine.

Libertarian chairman Adams said the party’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing in the runoff, but he said individual officers might.

Adams said a lot of Libertarians are angry at Chambliss for backing the $700 billion financial rescue package, and they are not happy about the war in Iraq, which Chambliss has unflinchingly supported.

Adams said he thinks Libertarians will return to the polls in large numbers on Dec. 2.

“Libertarians are a lot like herding cats,” said Adams, who would not say who will get his vote. “But if someone makes a reasonable argument, we will follow them.”

6 thoughts on “Atlanta Journal-Constitution: How will Libertarians affect Georgia runoff?

  1. HumbleTravis

    So you have one candidate who thinks promising to cut spending is offensive and another candidate who voted for the worst Bush policies. Good luck Georgia!

  2. JimDavidson

    at 2, I find the video to be irrelevant to this thread. So, they hung an innocent man in Georgia. Yes, and the state shouldn’t be doing that sort of murder for hire work. How does this relate?

  3. johncjackson

    Georgia sure has some interesting versions of libertarianism. I guess all politics is local.

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