National Libertarians Showcase Florida Candidates

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 23, 2014 3:55 AM
Lucas Overby, Adrian Wyllie, Ray Netherwood

Lucas Overby, Adrian Wyllie, Ray Netherwood

The Libertarian Party will hold its national convention later this week and hopes are high for three candidates running in the Sunshine State as half of the party’s “races to watch” are in Florida. 

Traditionally, Libertarians have had little to smile about in Florida. Former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico took 0.53 percent in Florida as the Libertarian’s presidential candidate in 2012, below the 1 percent he took in the national popular vote. Alex Snitker took 0.46 percent when he ran on the Libertarian line for the U.S. Senate in 2010. But, as frustrations with the two major parties continue to rise, the Libertarians are benefiting across the nation and there could be an impact in Florida.

Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, one of the most prominent experts on third-party activity in America, noted that there were 330,811 registered Libertarians across the nation in November 2012 compared to 368,561 this March.

"Libertarian Party voter registration in the United States has grown 11.4 percent since late 2012," said Carla Howell, the party’s political director. "Our members and candidates from across the country are excited to get together to network, to share success stories, and to continue building the only nationally organized political party that's growing.”

As the party readies for November, the Libertarians pointed to six “races to watch” around the nation and three of them are in Florida. Chief among them is Adrian Wyllie’s gubernatorial bid. The national Libertarians noted that Wyllie, who qualified to make the ballot last week, took as much as 4 percent in the polls against Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his political life in the GOP.

The Libertarians also took note of Tuesday’s special congressional election in Southwest Florida to replace Trey Radel, R-Fla. A recent Vote USA poll showed businessman Curt Clawson, the Republican candidate, out front with 26 percent followed by Libertarian Rey Netherwood with 13 percent, edging out Democrat April Freeman who had 12 percent while 41 percent were still undecided. In November, the three candidates will be their party’s nominees once again.

After taking 5 percent in a special congressional election in March, Libertarian hopeful Lucas Overby is poised to do better in November when he challenges U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., in a rematch. Despite Jolly’s narrow win over former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate, there are no Democratic candidates running in November after a series of self-inflicted mishaps as the party chased out potential candidates and eventually ended up backing a candidate who was running with no party affiliation. He left the race after questions were raised about his education credentials and lying on his resume. The national Libertarian Party highlighted a St. Pete Polls survey commissioned by Saint Petersblog which found Jolly taking 47 percent while Overby stood with 31 percent.

The Libertarians are also running Tallahassee lawyer Bill Wohlsifer for attorney general and less than a half-dozen legislative candidates.

Third-party candidates have generally done poorly at the state level in Florida though Crist took 30 percent in his 2010 Senate bid when he ran with no party affiliation. Sidney Catts, an outspoken racist who justified lynchings and denigrated Catholics, won the 1916 gubernatorial race as the Prohibition Party candidate after controversially losing the Democratic primary. Once elected, Catts went back to the Democrats though he would bolt again in 1928 when the party nominated Gov. Alfred E. Smith, D-N.Y., a Catholic and opponent of Prohibition, for the presidency. With Catts’ help, Herbert Hoover became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Florida since Reconstruction.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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