Libertarians gain major-party status

By STEVE POWELL

Herald Writer

EVERETT — "Give me Libertarians or give me death."

Well, no one is taking the Libertarians that seriously, but the party has obtained major party status in Washington state for the first time in its 30-year existence.

It accomplished that goal by having three candidates receive at least 5 percent of the vote for a statewide office in Tuesday’s election. It only needed one person to hit that level, but Ruth Bennett for lieutenant governor (7.57 percent), Chris Caputo for state auditor (5.25 percent) and Steve Layman for commissioner of public lands (5.20 percent) all passed the mark.

The main benefit of reaching that status is that for the next four years Libertarians will no longer be required to have time-consuming and costly nominating conventions in each legislative district. All they have to do is pay the filing fees.

"It was cumbersome getting on the ballot," said Carol Miller, executive director of the Libertarian Party in Washington state.

Power-to-the-people movements such as the increasing popularity of initiatives statewide have brought more voters to the Libertarian Party, she said.

"We are part of the same phenomenon," Miller said, referring to the passage of tax-cutting initiatives such as I-695 and I-722.

Libertarians have always stood for small government and low taxes, while the other two major parties are blending together, she said. Miller said the Democrats are "losing their socially liberal influences," and Republicans talk about less government but "they’re more talk than action."

"Keep your income," Libertarians believe, Miller said. "Private charity works better than public charity."

Erica Merkley, whom Miller called a "stay-at-home mom," had the best Libertarian showing in Snohomish and Island counties, with about 4 percent of the vote in the state House race for the 21st Legislative District Position 1 seat. Incumbent Democrat Mike Cooper won the spot.

Miller said Libertarians are still grass-roots enough that members who want to run for office often can. She said one candidate is already excited about running in 2002.

"He wants to win the next time," she said. "He got a taste of the hunt."

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