Libertarian Candidate Plans To Demonstrate Third-Party Muscle In Ohio Governor Race

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In an exclusive 10TV Capitol Square interview, Ohio Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl said he's prepared to be a major factor in the 2014 Election.

"I intend to be more than a spoiler," said Earl.  "I think we have a shot at winning.  Is it a good one?  No, but we have a shot because people are discouraged and disgruntled."

The Ohio Republican Party wasted no time on Friday pointing out Earl supports positions that social conservatives have long scorned.

"He is pro-abortion, pro-drug legalization and pro-gay marriage," said Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schimpf.  "He will likely wind up taking more votes from FitzGerald than anyone else."

But several Ohio tea party leaders have already announced they will not support Kasich’s reelection bid next year because of his support of Medicaid expansion.  And Earl says he expects the tea party to be part of his coalition.

Political analysts have been busy dissecting the election returns from Virginia last Tuesday where the Libertarian candidate for governor Robert Sarvis received 7 percent of the vote.

Sarvis received 145,560 votes while the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, lost by roughly 55,000 votes to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

“What I take from that is that there is a real opportunity at the ballot box for minor parties, particularly the Libertarian Party,” said Earl.  “A message of liberty and a smaller government we can get our arms around is important to people.”

While the Libertarian anti-government philosophy more closely aligns with Republicans - Earl himself is a former state GOP lawmaker - he believes his appeal will attract some voters on the left.

"Our appeal as a Party has been to the fiscal sanity of the right and the more liberal attitude on the personal issues on the left," said Earl.  "Certainly Kasich’s base is upset with him.  But at this point in time Mr. FitzGerald does not have the name recognition.  I'm sure his Party and base will stick with him, but how many of those people are going to be frustrated by what's happening nationally and stay home?"

Ohio Republican strategists privately agree that if Earl can find a way to tap into the success of former congressman Ron Paul's libertarian populism, he could become a major factor in the race and a distraction for Kasich.

"I would love Dr. Paul's support," said Earl.  "I have only one advantage on him, and it's that I'm younger."

Earl criticized Republican lawmakers and Kasich who rushed through a bill this week that creates restrictions on third party ballot access in Ohio.  A spokesman for the Libertarian Party referred to it as the “Kasich Reelection Protection Act.”

"I'm realistic enough to understand that it's more than coincidence that the bill was introduced on the day I announced my candidacy," said Earl.  "It was fast tracked.  It was amazing how quickly they did that."

Kasich signed the bill on Wednesday, a day after Sarvis received 7 percent of the vote in Virginia.

It sets qualifications for third parties and how they can gain ballot access. It also establishes what percentage of the vote they need to qualify for the next ballot.

Earl says it changes the rules in the middle of this election cycle and Libertarians will challenge it.  

"We're working as if things are normal, but the bottom line is that we're on hold right now" said Earl.  "We are waiting for the courts.  We have every reason to believe the courts will rule in our favor and we'll be back on the ballot just like we have been since 2006."

Democrats say Kasich has actually taken a risk for signing the law because it may prevent left-leaning third parties from gaining ballot access.

"Kasich may end up regretting this bill if no third party candidate on the left can get on the ballot," said Brian Rothenberg from the liberal think tank ProgressOhio. "The poll numbers have not changed for Ed FitzGerald but the numbers for the governor changed when Charlie Earl is added to polls.  Of course he's going to hurt the governor."

But Republicans point to 2010 when the Libertarian candidate for governor in Ohio only garnered 2 percent of the vote.

"Let's talk in February or March when we see who is really on ballot because there might be other minor parties candidates," said Republican strategist Terry Casey.  "I'd love to hear Mr. Earl talk about how he's pro-drug legalization.  I'm not sure that's going to be popular."

Earl says the public backlash on the new law will benefit his campaign in the long run.

"We'll be on the ballot in November and from at least mid-summer on we'll raise a lot of money," said Earl.  "People are frustrated and this bill is going to generate enthusiasm and support."

Earl, who was the Libertarian nominee for Secretary of State in 2010, made it clear he will not accept outside help from the Obama administration or Democrats.

"The president is already helping with that Obamacare fiasco," said Earl.  "He's made third parties more appealing to people.  I don't believe Barack Obama, or I would even argue George W Bush, have not done this country very well and I will not accept their support."

A new poll from Public Policy Polling released Friday showed Republican governor John Kasich and his Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald tied at 41 percent each and Earl with 6 percent.

"Clearly we've already started momentum if PPP says we're at six percent," said Earl.  "To be competitive we'll find the disaffected people who believe they want more of a say in what's going on.  And that's not that difficult to find in Ohio today."

Ohio Republicans scoffed at the poll, pointing out it was paid for by the state Democratic Party.

Capitol Square airs on 10TV Sunday at 11:30 am, following Face the Nation.