MONTGOMERY, Ala (AP) — Libertarians are back on the ballot in Alabama for the first time in 20 years after a lengthy fight to regain ballot access, and party leaders hope to make a declaration about the party’s future in the Deep South state.
The Alabama Libertarian Party is fielding 64 candidates in Tuesday’s election, including in the contests for U.S Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and the Alabama Legislature. Libertarians were last on the general election in 2002 and are back this year after gathering tens of thousands of needed signatures.
Gavin Goodman, chairman of the Alabama Libertarian Party and a candidate in Congressional District 7, said Libertarian candidates give voters an alternative choice to the Republican and Democratic nominees, and inject debate and competition into the contests. “We’re trying to show people that there is another path and that elected officials can be a force for good,” Goodman said.
Alabama’s restrictive ballot access law required Libertarians to gather more than 51,000 signatures, or 3% of the total number of voters during the 2018 governor’s election, to return to the ballot. After a two-year effort, the party submitted more than 80,000 names, Goodman said.
Goodman said they are trying to send a message this year. There are dozens of Libertarian hopefuls running in races that otherwise would be a one-person contests, he said.
“Folks are getting tired of the duopoly,” Libertarian Senate candidate John Sophocleus, an economics instructor, said in reference to the two major parties. He said he believes their message will appeal to many Alabamians if they are open to hearing it. “Libertarians are pretty noted for saying more freedom, less government and I think folks are getting tired of a lot of the authoritarian results they are observing these last few decades,” he said.
However, for Libertarians to maintain ballot access in 2024, one of their statewide candidates must capture at least 20% of the vote. That’s an arduous task considering in 2002 the party’s gubernatorial candidate got about 24,000 votes out of the 1.3 million votes cast.
The Libertarians running for statewide office include Dr James Blake, a physician and former member of the Birmingham City Council, in the race for governor, Sophocleus in the race for U.S. Senate and Ruth Page-Nelson in the race for lieutenant governor. Page-Nelson is the only candidate running against Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth because there is not a Democrat in the race.
“If we don’t get our 20%, this party is not going anywhere. We are going to keep going,” Goodman said.
However, he is hopeful about their chances on Tuesday. “Win, lose or draw the Libertarian Party is here to continue to discuss issues and help make Alabama better,” he said.