Re-posting an email from 11/6/2019:
Subject: 23 PA wins – Wes Benedict & Chuck Moulton comments
In addition to celebrating and taking some credit for the 23 wins in Pennsylvania, I wanted to provide some background to make sure Libertarians don’t learn the wrong lessons from the PA success.
That’s because I’m a big fan of winning “winnable” races, and I’m also for running for offices you’re unlikely to win so you can promote libertarian policies.
Pennsylvania has a unique situation where the deadline for Republicans and Democrats to file for the primary ballot is in March. Sometimes, mostly in small races, no R or D files. The primary happens in May. If no R or D files, and if no write-in candidate gets at least 10 votes in the primary, that leaves an opportunity for Libertarians. Once primary election results are posted in June, third party and independent candidates can see which races have no R, D, or successful write-in candidates, and have until August 1 to file. Often, if a Libertarian files for one of those races, the Libertarian is the only candidate on the ballot and usually wins the general election.
That’s how we got 23 Libertarians to win partisan races on November 5, 2019. Several additional Libertarians likely won via write-in campaigns as well.
I don’t know of any other state that has this situation like Pennsylvania where the deadline for Libertarians to file is after the deadline for D’s and R’s so that it’s easy to run unopposed.
Additionally, Pennsylvania has lots of government and many more elected offices (all partisan, I think) than most states. In Texas, for example, you can live outside of any city limits or municipal area, called the “unincorporated area” of a county. While you are subject to the county government, if you’re in an unincorporated area, there’s not an additional city or town government, and therefore, not a local council to position to run for. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has a municipal government for all of its land, often called boroughs and townships in the more rural areas. Offices in these rural, low-population areas are the ones Libertarians often get to run for unopposed.
I’m proud of the 23 Pennsylvania Libertarians who won uncontested races on November 5, 2019, and I hope we’re able to win even more in the future. We sent over 3,000 letters to registered Libertarian in PA to recruit those 23 winning candidates.
Chuck Moulton suggested the project to me. Please see his positive comments about my efforts further down below. (I asked him to write up something positive about me to help me get support for more projects in the future. I’m very thankful he wrote up something so nice.) A colleague of mine, Arthur DiBianca, helped with a lot of the database work. I also did a lot of database work, wrote the letter, and prepared the mail merges in PDF format, and followed up with leads with detailed filing instructions. PA Vice Chair Jenn Moore organized or personally did most of the printing and mailing of the letters, including paying for most of the postage. The Libertarian Booster PAC did not spend funds on this effort. I did spend my time on it.
Here’s the letter I wrote https://tinyurl.com/y3f6waa9
I’ll be recruiting candidates in Texas for the 2020 elections. I want Texans to realize that what works in Pennsylvania won’t work in Texas due to the different election laws. It’s not because Texas Libertarians are too radical, too lazy, or that Texas voters are different.
I’m pretty sure Libertarians in Pennsylvania have won more partisan elections than Libertarians in all other 49 states combined. Texas Libertarians have never won and served in a partisan office. Texas Libertarians won a couple obscure elections unopposed, for something called “weigher,” but the position was eliminated before the candidates actually served.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I could get 100 Libertarians elected to partisan offices in Pennsylvania more easily than I could get one Libertarian elected to a partisan office in Texas.
Texas Libertarians do win non-partisan races like city councils. Five Libertarians currently serve in non-partisan offices in Texas. All are in small cities or small districts in larger cities. Most Texans don’t live in small cities or places with small districts so most Texans don’t have small non-partisan races to run for. I once ran for an at-large position for Austin City Council and got 35%, but that was an anomaly. Most Libertarians, including myself, are unlikely to run in a big city like Austin and win, or even get 35% of the vote.
The vast majority of Libertarians in Texas live in medium or big cities. What are they to do?
They could help people in small towns run for winnable races, but even that has limitations. Most people that win local races in small towns win by personally meeting with voters and organizations. They spend less than $1,000. Lots of out of town money and volunteers is just as likely to raise red flags and turn off voters as it is to help someone win. Plus, many Texans aren’t willing to drive a long way, daily, to help someone in a small town.
Big City Texans could send all of their donations to the LP Pennsylvania or donate to me or my PAC for my efforts in other states. But, something tells me that’s not likely to be a big hit.
What I want to see Big City Texans do is run for partisan offices even knowing that they probably won’t win, and they should do it to promote Libertarian policies.
Taking it a step further, I wish Libertarians running for unwinnable partisan races would be honest with themselves about their chances of winning. I’ve seen so many Libertarians run for partisan offices, sometimes even getting higher percentages than the average Libertarian, but lose, and then report how surprised and disappointed they are. We can debate the merits of admitting to the public we know we’re going to lose, but I wish we could at least be honest with ourselves most of the time. Over the years, when I’ve admitted Libertarians would almost certainly lose an election, I often get a lot of irate feedback from a few Libertarians. Yet I often wonder whether Libertarians might actually get higher vote percentages and be even more effective if we proclaimed proudly and publicly “Yes, I’m going to lose, but here’s why you should vote for me anyway.”
I’ve personally recruited several hundred Libertarian candidates and have probably communicated with well over a thousand. I’m pretty sure I’ve had well over a hundred tell me something along the lines of “I’m not like other candidates. I’m serious and I’m going to win.” It’s rare for me to bluntly say “I don’t think you’re going to win.” More likely, I’ll hint at it. “Great. Libertarians have never won a race for U.S. Congress. You’ll certainly be a hero when you win.”
I encourage Libertarians to run for office, but I don’t want to con them into thinking they can win something that practically everybody knows they won’t win.
Candidates who are accurate and honest with themselves about their chances of winning tend to be the ones who stick around the Libertarian Party after election day. Candidates who know they’re running for unwinnable offices are often better about getting a good Libertarian message out. Losing a race but changing some hearts and minds does more than losing with a weak message.
More comments from Chuck below. –Wes Benedict
===Comments from Chuck Moulton===
I have been aware for over a decade that a quirk in the Pennsylvania election law (Libertarian filing deadline months after the Republican and Democrat filing deadline) could be exploited to elect a lot of partisan Libertarians to local office. Despite sharing my plan frequently with anyone who I thought could help, no one stepped forward... consigning it as a solo dream limited my my own time constraints. Several election cycles I shared a list of openings at county meetings resulting in a few elected officials (if someone at the meeting happened to live in a municipality I highlighted), but it remained largely a missed opportunity.
Then Wes Benedict answered my call. He was excited by my plan, bringing both enthusiasm and a suite of useful skills to the project. Wes wrote a captivating recruitment letter and mail merged the list of opportunities with the list of registered voters (over 3,000 letters sent). Whereas some of the other organizers had limited time to respond to the many voicemails left by prospects inquiring about the letter (my phone was ringing off the hook for weeks!!), Wes was available 9 am - 9 pm by phone and email to answer questions, vet candidates, and walk them through the process in more detail.
After that he got each candidate his or her paperwork as a printable PDF pre-filled in with all the information we had. He helped stack candidates from the same district on nomination papers and get them in touch with each other to coordinate petitioning. Then he followed up with people and lined up alternative candidates when anyone dropped out. Wes even contacted the board of elections in multiple counties to get appropriate forms, double check procedures, and get signature requirements for each office. On top of all of that, he personally looked up petition signers in the database to verify candidates' signature validity rates!
Without the help of Wes, Art, and the Booster PAC, the great success we achieved electing Libertarians in Pennsylvania 2019 would not have been possible. I hope he helps again in 2021 and we can start earlier to expand our reach to every county instead of less than 1/5 of the state. Wes is a huge asset to libertarianism. I hope through generous donations he is able to continue devoting his time to this great cause.