In the early months of 2022, Libertarian Policy Institute Senior Advisor, Wes Benedict, and Executive Director, Nicholas Sarwark, devised a plan to recruit, educate, and mobilize dozens of Libertarian candidates across the country in targeted states with low political competition and serious policy challenges. With $40,000 in donor support and a curated list of Alabama Libertarians, the two launched a large-scale direct mail campaign to recruit an army of candidates who would advance libertarian policy solutions at the ballot box.
Within days of letters hitting mailboxes, interested recipients were reaching out asking how they could get more involved in the project or kick start their campaign. Fast forward to mid-summer, Alabama had over 60 candidates who were actively declared and campaigning, with over two thirds running in two-way races against a Republican or Democratic candidate in a normally “safe” district.
“The Libertarian Policy Institute’s Golden Spike candidate recruitment effort in Alabama is nothing short of remarkable,” said Wes Benedict, whose proven strategy for contacting and recruiting candidates to run on libertarian policy priorities yielded a record number of candidates running outside the two-party system.
Prospective candidates received a letter informing them of the
opportunity to run for office and how to take the first steps
Alabama is just one state where LPI has successfully implemented its Golden Spike project, an effort to move public policy in a libertarian direction by running policy focused candidates addressing issues ignored by incumbent politicians. Arkansas was LPI’s first candidate recruitment drive and one that also achieved unparalleled success, but the effort in Alabama truly demonstrates the possibilities of this strategy.
Wes Benedict (right) with Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr., the flagship
candidate of the Arkansas Golden Spike Project
“What we’re finding is that not only are the candidates developing into formidable opponents, but their campaigns are building momentum unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Gavin Goodman, who was chairman of the Alabama Libertarian Party during the 2022 election. “People get excited when they hear about us and they are asking how they can get involved. They feel like the cavalry has finally arrived.”
Many of the recruited candidates in Alabama experienced an unexpected boost late in the election season. While over 50% of voters in Alabama identify as Republican, many of those voters have recently chosen to leave the party or disconnect completely from politics. On the flip side of that, Democrats have often felt powerless in a state held so strongly by the Republicans. As a result, they’ve often chosen to not run candidates in districts they deem as unwinnable. Both sides have growing numbers of disenfranchised voters who are desperately seeking candidates who better represent their hopes, dreams, and values. In October 2022, many prominent Democrats publicly came out in support of the Libertarian candidate, something that has only been seen before in a handful of instances and never to this magnitude.
Thanks to the efforts of the Libertarian Policy Institute in 2022, every Alabamian had at least one candidate on their ballot dedicated to repealing the state’s onerous tax on groceries. Alabama is one of only 13 states that tax groceries and repeal of the grocery tax has the support of nearly 4 out of every 5 voters in the state. No liberty-oriented organization in the country has delivered this kind of concrete results to inject political competition into Alabama politics since the Libertarian Party’s inception in 1971.
While Ruth Page-Nelson and other libertarian policy champions did not win their races in deep-red Dixie, their focus on this critical issue was directly responsible for breaking through multiple decades of Republican resistance to ending one of the highest grocery taxes in the country. After Page-Nelson and others did surprisingly well in the 2022 elections, the Republican Lieutenant Governor pushed a bill through both houses of the legislature to reduce Alabama’s grocery tax.
Thirteen states still tax groceries; the Libertarian Policy Institute's Golden Spike Project
was instrumental in the public discussion leading to a reduction in Alabama's tax on groceries
Libertarian Policy Institute State Director and 2022 candidate for Public Service Commission, Laura Lane is continuing to build on the momentum from the 2022 election to bring even more libertarian policies to the people of Alabama. “Alabama families deserve a voice in our state’s politics that speaks up for their priorities, not the politically connected insiders who have controlled Montgomery for too long. We look forward to bringing more tax relief and criminal justice reform to the state in the years to come.”
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