The Libertarian Party of Iowa gained major-party status under Iowa law two years ago by winning more than 2 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential race.
Being a major party has its privileges, including the ability to hold special conventions and primary elections. That means Iowa voters, when they vote early or head to the polls on June 5, can choose to vote in the Libertarian Party primary.
There are also significant disadvantages, especially a struggle for exposure. That’s one reason why the Des Moines Register editorial board decided to make an endorsement in the Libertarian primary race.
We conducted a joint interview with the two candidates:
- Marco Battaglia is a Des Moines native who studied communications at the University of Northern Iowa. He’s a musician who has worked as a journalist as well as in insurance, banking and home mortgage businesses.
- Jake Porter is a business consultant from Council Bluffs and a former retail manager. He has an associate degree in business from AIB College of Business. He said he’s been a member of the Libertarian Party since he was 16 years old and helped establish the party in Iowa.
We were pleased to hear the two candidates adopt many priorities that we support. Porter called for eliminating unnecessary business tax credits that create budget problems for the state.
Porter supports automatic restoration of voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences instead of today’s unfairly arduous application process. He also said he would work to streamline state government by consolidating boards and commissions and eliminating unnecessary professional licenses for jobs like hair braiding.
Battaglia emphasized the need to get money out of politics, although he lacked concrete proposals for how to accomplish that. He was passionate about improving access to mental health. He as well as Porter say they would not divert money from public schools for private-school options or vouchers.
However, both candidates also take positions that we consider untenable. Battaglia says he wants to phase out the income tax. He would replace lost revenue by legalizing hemp and cannabis production, eliminating professional licensing requirements and also eliminating certificates of need for proposed or expanding health care facilities.
Porter disagrees — it’s one of the major differences between the two candidates. “They can’t even balance the budget they have now, but they want to cut revenues,” he said, incredulously, citing tax cuts passed by the 2018 Legislature. “What kind of a world are we living in?”
Porter, however, says he eventually would like to see the state sales tax phased out, because it is regressive and puts the greatest burden on the poorest Iowans. He said exemptions for “necessities” don’t go far enough because cars and cellphones are needed for people traveling to work and applying for jobs.
We don’t agree with that approach either; we think a mix of tax revenues gives lawmakers the best opportunity to seek a fair and sustainable balance. We can’t envision endorsing any candidate in the general election who wants to severely narrow the options for funding priorities like schools and health care.
But we do think one of these candidates is a better spokesman for the Libertarian Party of Iowa and stands a better chance of helping maintain major-party status than the other.
For that reason, the Register endorses Jake Porter.
Porter has campaign experience, having run for secretary of state in 2010 and 2014. He says that during the 2014 campaign, he identified a voter registration glitch. Voter preferences for the Libertarian or Green parties were not being properly recorded if Iowans registered through the driver’s licensing process. Porter said he worked with Republicans and Democrats to resolve the error.
Battaglia should be commended for his interest in public service and the civility he’s shown on the campaign trail. But his rambling speaking style and occasional inability to articulate details of his priority proposals would put him at a severe disadvantage compared with major-party candidates.
Porter’s experience and clearer articulation of his positions make him better able to make a case for his party in the fall. He is the better choice for Iowa Libertarians who hope to maintain their major-party status.