Naureen Khan in the Austin Statesman:
The Libertarian Party of Texas is hoping to kick-start its most successful election cycle to date, beginning with the party’s convention this weekend in Austin.
The state Libertarians will select their candidate for governor and other statewide offices Saturday and make revisions Sunday to the party platform, which is focused on smaller government, lower taxes and more personal liberties.
“We don’t expect overnight success,” state party Chairman Patrick Dixon said. “We are realistic about the situation we’re in — we’re often excluded from debates ,and the incumbents attempt to exclude us from the ballot — but we have demonstrated growth, unlike the other political parties.”
The party has a 2010-11 operating budget of $370,000 — an all-time high, Dixon said. The party counts 800 dues-paying members in Texas, but Dixon said the Libertarians have about 10,000 people in their state party database.
The convention’s guest speakers will include Austin talk radio host Sean Rima; Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate for president in 2004; and Kinky Friedman, the country musician-turned-politician who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2006 as an independent. Most recently, Friedman lost the Democratic nomination for Texas agriculture commissioner.
“I don’t know that Kinky agrees with our platform on every issue,” Dixon said. “I think he probably shares a lot of our principles. And just for entertainment value, he’s hard to beat.”
In all, the Texas Libertarians are running about 160 candidates in the November elections, including a candidate for every statewide office, congressional district and about half the seats in the Legislature. Because a Libertarian candidate secured more than 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race in November 2008, they will automatically be included on the November ballot this year.
Nevertheless, the Libertarians face a different political landscape than they did two years ago, the last time the convention was held. In particular, the emergence of the tea party, a fiscally conservative populist movement that came into popularity in 2009 and remains something of a wild card in the upcoming elections.
The tea party is not a political party, but in many races nationwide, it has supported candidates running on a platform of limited government and fiscal responsibility.
“Clearly, the origins of that movement are Libertarian principles. And if those people in November adhere to those principles, they’ll be voting our way,” Dixon said. “It’s hard to know anything until the votes are cast.”
Greg Holloway, a coordinator for the Texas Tea Party, said most of the tea party-affiliated organizations in the state will not be endorsing candidates but will be focusing their efforts on educating voters about which candidates favor “limited government, free markets and fiscal responsibility.”
“We’re nonpartisan. We don’t care in the long run if it’s Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians who win these offices,” he said. “We do care that elected officials espouse the kind of principles that we think are important.”