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Posted on Thu, Sep. 09, 2010 10:29 PM
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Libertarians aiming to tally enough votes to gain ‘major party’ status in Kansas

Orlin Wagner
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Gubernatorial candidates Sam Brownback and Tom Holland will debate Saturday at the Kansas State Fair, but Libertarian candidate Andrew Gray will be stuck eyeing the corndogs like everybody else.

It’s a familiar role for third-party candidates in Kansas, who often find themselves passing out fliers while the big-party candidates enjoy the spotlight. But Gray has a plan to ensure this will be the last time Libertarians are left on the outside looking in.

Thanks to record disgust with the two major parties and the likelihood of a lopsided governor’s race, Gray said he thought he could win 5 percent of the Nov. 2 vote, enough to secure the Libertarians “major party” status in Kansas.

“People sometimes think if they vote for a candidate who doesn’t have a good chance of winning, they’re throwing away their vote,” Gray said. “But this year we could really make a difference.”

Republicans confident in Brownback’s chances could vote Libertarian with clear consciences, he said. Democrats convinced that Holland stood little chance might do the same, he suggested. Voters unhappy with both parties? Gray likes them even better.

Five percent might sound like low expectations for someone who wants to be governor, but it would be a big improvement for a third party in Kansas. In 2006 only 1 percent of voters cast a ballot for the Libertarian candidate for governor. In 2002, the number was less than 1 percent.

Major-party status, however, would enable the Libertarian Party to hold public August primaries, just as the Republican and Democratic parties now do in Kansas. Currently, the Libertarians nominate their candidates at sparsely attended conventions.

The elevated status also would allow Libertarian candidates to file for office directly with the Kansas secretary of state, instead of collecting petitions to win places on the general election ballot.

Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political science professor, said the Libertarians had a shot at getting 5 percent this year.

“There’s quite a bit of potential for Libertarians this year, but normally they lack the resources to get their message out,” Beatty said. “And that’s not just a Libertarian problem — it’s a third-party problem.”

To reach David Klepper, call 785-354-1388 or send e-mail to dklepper@kcstar.com.

Posted on Thu, Sep. 09, 2010 10:29 PM
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