Call for Candidates 2024. Let me preface with a call for candidates for 2024. Guys, we need 12 (or more – read on) congressional candidates in 2024 to cover the state. And one for the US Senate. If you’ve never run for office, raise your hand and give it a try. Being a paper candidate doesn’t take much beyond the paperwork and collecting signatures. It would be much better to have candidates stepping up from among ourselves, that through external recruitment. If there is even 10% chance that you may think about doing it, please reach out directly, or come to the General Meeting, and let’s talk.
And if you already have campaign experience as a candidates, why not give it a try and run for US Senate. Let’s have competitive internal primaries, with runners-up going after Congress. You may have heard that Menendez received some gifts (any fans of gold bullion around here!?). By doing so, he also gave a gift – to us, and to NJ voters. This is the best environment to run for US Senate in NJ as a Libertarian in a generation.
Baseline. Just like the United States, New Jersey has red, blue, and purple localities and electoral districts. Swing districts may have very close elections, with 1-3% margins between the legacy parties. Recall NJ Gov election between Murphy and Ciatarelli in 2021, or CD-7 between Kean and Malinowski. Running as Libertarians in the purple areas at what we call Impact level campaigning purports to exceed the margin between the majors. So, here are a couple nuances that came up lately.
Last year we’ve run almost a full slate of Congressional candidates without a statewide race. This established a baseline: most likely outcome for Libertarian candidates in NJ is about 0.7-0.8%. About half of these votes can estimated to come from registered Libertarians, and another from disaffected Republicans and independents. So if you’re running a trademark or low-activity campaign in a deep blue or a deep red area, you can expect this result.
Some accused our candidates of being “spoilers”, and voting for the Libs – a wasted vote. In a single party district, a simple comeback is that outcome of such an election is pre-fixed due to duopoly machinery, and an individual vote for either of the major – simply doesn’t count. As an example, it doesn’t matter who you voted for President in New Jersey in 2020, if you picked Rep or Dem. Jersey is a deep blue state lately on a National level. It will vote for Dem regardless; and the only situation when Jersey is in play would be if the Reps would have a landslide nationwide, so that vote still wouldn’t matter. Thus in such situation, if a voter has a slightest affinity for Libertarian positions, it’s better to vote for us – to express their preferences. Such voting has signaling, expressive and performative value. Voters are free to do so, without strategic voting consideration.
Swinging. In swing districts, voter’s calculus is different. Their votes are no longer just wasted if used for the legacy parties. So strategic voting kicks in, whereas voters who may be inclined to vote for us would go to their second choice, lest that party loses. Nowadays more often our voters would second-choose Reps. Ranked choice voting is a remedy for this. (Join NJLP alt-voting committee to learn more or to advance these concepts.) But, the Republicans are blocking RCV from becoming the law of the land. So that they can benefit from keeping our voters while ignoring our priorities. Then, they turn around and blame Libertarian voters and candidates for daring not to be stuck with them. What a chutzpah!..
There is some signal evidence that this plays a role. Last season, a couple of our candidates who were running in a bit competitive districts with a margin less than 10%, dropped about 0.2 from the baseline. While the n is low, I read it as a third of our voters have taken a strategic choice and defected from our candidates. Gregg Mele, who was running for Gov in 2021 as a Lib in a very tight race, lost more than a half. I’m inclined to attribute some of that loss to this phenomenon of defecting Lib voters.
Impact campaign. So, if you’re running in a swing district, you’ll have to fight for every vote. If you hold on to your voters and approach the margin between the majors, that’s an Impact campaign. This is a very different environment. You’ll likely get mostly those voters to are truly fed up with the duopoly. In terms of votes received you’ll get fewer for your buck. But, as a tradeoff your campaign may suddenly matter the way you wouldn’t in a legacy party stronghold. You may get press coverage. And become an object for dirty campaigning by opponents of your opponents.
Your policy positions may be seriously discussed. Legacies may shift their posture to go after our voters. In 2020 around the Labor Day, being on the Jorgensen campaign, I’ve noticed that the influx of campaign supporters and volunteers suddenly slowed. We traced it to Trump describing himself as almost libertarian, and leaning a bit more on anti-war themes. Our campaign lost, but our voters have gained; Jorgensen was making an impact. Republicans may try to cast you a spoiler. But rather, you’re a kingmaker. That’s what Chase Oliver did in GA in 2022, getting on the debate stage and forcing a runoff in one of the most closely watched races in the nation. He was called the most consequential Libertarian of 2022.
In swing districts with Impact campaign, our voters who still may be just under 1% or just over, form a disproportionally large share of voters who are not committed to either legacy party. They are the true swing voters. You are helping them actually choose a winner. They matter, and so do you as a candidate.
NJLP bylaws define Impact campaigning, but fail, to clarify that kind of differences. That came to bite this year. To make that difference just a bit clearer, I’ve submitted a proposal to define a non-Impact Active campaign tier (read it nearby), to help the candidates choose. For some, these kind of consideration may affect which district to run in, given a choice.
Defections. Unfortunately, we have limited resources to run real impact-style campaigns in swing districts. Hope, it may changes. Lately there were a couple incidents with our candidates. Last year, Joe Biasco chose to suspend his campaign and endorse his Republican opponent. They’ve traded barbs all the summer, and as got a little bit of traction, he became concerned that he’s stealing too many of voters from Rep. So, there. He still got above average voting share, among our candidates, and the margin between Rep and Dem was 10 times larger.
This year a similar situation developed in LD2. NJLP candidate Shawn Peck got some traction, and a dark money outlet possibly linked with Dems dropped upwards of $20K to support him via mailers and TV ads. (See James’ statement on behalf of the Party nearby.) One way to interpret these situations, is that candidates who may be ok with running Active or hoping to win, may suddenly be getting cold feet while in the Impact zone. Another, is that that may be happening too soon, when your second choices are in no real danger. Steel yourself and enjoy the ride. While many of us were less than amused with some of the stances and developments in LD2, and that may be an understatement, Shawn will likely outperform the expectations it terms of voters and earned media. (As of this writing I don’t yet know the outcome; we will soon. It’s tantalizing.) I would view most of these situations as growth pains.
Another problem situation was last year, and is harder to handle. Clayton Pajunas, who was a newbie and signed up to run for CD7, failed to collect enough valid petition signatures, refusing help with petitioning and making alleged gross mistakes like no other newbie, and spectacularly failed the petition challenges by the Reps. Such legacy challenges to our petitions are much more likely in swing districts. Now, we don’t really know if Clayton threw the fight on purpose or by extreme negligence and arrogance, His counterpart on the left running as independent, withdrew too just before the deadline, likely at the behest of Dems. Let’s just assume that a Clayton-2 does indeed intend to get Lib nomination but purports upfront or just later decides to fail or throw the race to benefit Reps. There is no easy way for us to recover from such situations. There would no longer be a Lib candidate on the ballot, what can you do?! And despite some suggestions, floated around, no amount of vetting we can realistically do, can solve these problems of candidate’s future ill intent or changed mind.
Going multi-candidate. So, here is one such proposal for your consideration. In 2022 we’ve tried a full slate of congressional candidates. We even had a primary of sorts in one of the districts. To do one better, I hoped to have more of competitive primaries in some of the CDs in 2024. But, for the swing districts, let’s do one better. Let’s file multiple paper candidates under the same brand “Libertarian Party”. We will give our voters more choices. And in case one of them defects, our voters will still have a Lib on the ballot.
After all, let’s face it, our candidates are not likely to win individually in a competitive congressional race this year. There is no danger of splitting each other’s votes. We only care about the total votes our candidates get. For us, it would be a sort of primary, but at the General election in November. More candidates in a race would amplify our voice. And if there is an element of competition between them, even better. Remember, technically all of them are running as independents, as far as the state is concerned.
And while we are at it, how about if we put multiple Libertarian candidates for President in 2024 on the NJ ballot as well!?...