The Libertarian Party of Wisconsin and 2018 Results

John Keller | @keller4liberty

In 2016, with Gary Johnson as the Presidential nominee, the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin made key gains in several regions. Gary Johnson, with Bill Weld as his running mate, received nearly 4% of the vote (106,674). There were many crucial races in Wisconsin, such as Jordan Hansen winning 30% (7,682) of the vote in the 54th Assembly District and Andy Craig receiving 11% (32,183) of the vote in Congressional District Four. As a result, the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin made great gains in the state. High hopes were thus set for 2018, and the unexpectedly crucial race for governor.

2018, however, proved to be disappointing as the party was unable to build upon the momentum of 2016. Of 130 races for state assembly, state senate, U.S. Congress, Senate, Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and state level positions, Libertarians ran for office in nine races, a shocking 7%.

Wisconson State Elections

Statewide Phil Anderson, running for governor, received only 1% after polling at 7%. Jason Sellnow fared best of the assembly candidates, earning 31% of the vote in the 82nd Assembly District. By the end of November, it is clear that the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin was not a statewide presence. Rather, they had a local presence in some key areas. Such a result left liberty leaning analyst to ask, ‘How could liberty advance in a practical sense in Wisconsin?’

In 2020, the answer is to make a statewide presence beyond isolated regions in the state. One way to do this would be to run a candidate for every congressional district in the state. Even without a victory, seeing Libertarians on the ballot in all congressional district sends a clear message. Not only is the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin active, but a major player as they can field candidates in every election.

Another area of emphasis could be unopposed seats in the state legislature. In 2018, two state Senate and thirty state assembly seats went unopposed, and the data shows libertarian candidates do best in these races (such as Jordan Hansen in 2016 with 30%, and Jason Sellnow in 2018 with 31%). If Libertarian candidates could achieve nearly 30% in 30 assembly districts, that would build unprecedented momentum in the state, and could even draw nationwide attention.

Libertarian Party National Recognition Helps Local Races

Even with these base efforts, the movement would have a wider impact on the state, and as seen with Gary Johnson in 2016, an attractive national leader helps draw in people to support the local races. This is evident in Phil Anderson’s success in 2016, achieving an unprecedented 3% in his U.S. Senate race (Libertarians got 0.4% in 1992, 1% in 1994, 0.3% in 1998, 0.8% in 2000, 0.3% in 2004). Despite only gaining a maximum of 2%, such advances are necessary for building the movement forward.

In summary, it would be a best-case scenario in 2020 for the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin to have candidates on the ballot for every congressional district and to ensure there are no unchallenged districts in the state legislature. With a larger number of candidates across the state, the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin would have the best chance at advancing liberty in 2020 and becoming an established party with statewide influence.


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