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.
5 Election Questions That Alabama Voters Will Answer Tuesday
Alabama voters go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new U.S. senator and to decide races for governor, the state’s seven seats in the U.S. House, all 140 seats in the Legislature, and other contests.
Voters will decide the fate of 10 statewide amendments to the Alabama Constitution, as well as a recompiled version of the constitution.
Few races are expected to be close. The Republican Party’s dominance and the political gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts removes serious doubts about the outcome of most. But there are interesting contests and other outcomes that bear watching.
Can Republicans Flip a Mobile Senate seat?
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat, has represented District 33 in Mobile since 1997, when she won a special election after the death of her husband, Michael Figures, who had represented the district since 1978.
Pete Riehm, a U.S. Navy veteran and conservative radio commentator, is the Republican nominee.
Alabama’s legislative district maps are generally drawn to favor incumbents regardless of party. But the new map for District 33, approved by the Republican-led Legislature last year, extends into Spanish Fort in Republican-leaning Baldwin County. That is expected to make the race more competitive.
The demographics still favor Figures in a district that is 61 percent Black. But observers say Riehm has a chance to flip the seat, especially if turnout is low.
Can Democrats Flip A Montgomery House Seat?
House District 74 in Montgomery is a longtime Republican stronghold but that could change. The redistricting plan passed by the Legislature last year changed District 74 from from 67 percent white to 55 percent Black.
That has created an opportunity for the Democratic Party to flip the seat.
Rep. Charlotte Meadows, a Republican, has represented the district since winning a special election in 2019 after the death of Rep. Dimitri Polizos, also a Republican. Meadows is a former president of the board of Montgomery Public Schools and co-founded a public charter school in Montgomery, Lead Academy.
Phillip Ensler, a lawyer and New York City native who taught for two years at Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee High School through the Teach for America program, is the Democratic nominee.
Both candidates say improving education is their top priority but differ sharply on one issue. Meadows supports establishment of a voucher program to allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to attend private schools. Ensler opposes that and said it will erode support for public schools.
Will voters ratify the Alabama Constitution of 2022?
Two years ago, voters authorized the Legislature to start the process of recompiling Alabama’s heavily amended Constitution of 1901 and remove racist and outdated provisions.
That work has been completed and this year, lawmakers voted to send the Alabama Constitution of 2022 to the ballot for voters. The recompilation removed duplicative and repealed sections, organized the more than 700 local amendments by county, consolidated amendments that apply to economic development, and deleted several outdated and racist provisions.
Supporters of the recompilation note that the work has been bipartisan, was discussed at public hearings, and has drawn no opposition in the Legislature. The Alabama Constitution of 2022 and other documents related to the project are available to the public on the Legislature’s website.
Still, Alabama voters have some history of distrust when it comes to constitutional reform efforts. In the last 18 years, voters have twice rejected amendments that would have stripped out the defunct language requiring separate schools for Black and white children. That happened with Amendment 2 in 2004, which barely failed, and Amendment 4 in 2012.
Can the Libertarian Party sustain ballot access?
Voters will see a slate of Libertarian Party candidates on their ballots for the first time since 2002.
The party gained statewide access with a petition drive that collected about 80,000 signatures from registered Alabama voters, easily clearing the requirement of 51,588, a number based on 3 percent of total votes cast in the 2018 governor’s race.
The Libertarian Party has candidates for U.S. Senate, governor, all seven U.S. House races, seven statewide races in addition to governor, 27 Alabama House races, and 11 Alabama Senate races.
Aside from victory in any of those races, there is another measure of success for how the party fares on Tuesday. If any Libertarian Party candidate gets at least 20 percent of the vote in a statewide race, that would sustain the party’s status for statewide ballot access in 2024.
The best opportunities to hit that 20 percent threshold are probably in six statewide races that pit only a Libertarian against a Republican, with no Democratic nominee. Those races are for lieutenant governor, commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, auditor, treasurer, and Public Service Commission (Places 1 and 2).
That’s how Libertarians got on the statewide ballot in 2002. Libertarian Sydney Albert Smith received 20.3 percent of the vote in a state Supreme Court Chief Justice race in 2000.
How Competitive Are Democrats In The Huntsville Area?
Two veteran Republican members of the Alabama House decided not to seek another term this year, creating open seats and an opportunity for Democrats who appear to be competitive based on fundraising numbers.
In House District 10, in the southwest portion of Madison County, Rep. Mike Ball, a Republican, is stepping away after representing the district for 20 years.
Republican David Cole faces Democrat Marilyn Lands in the race to succeed Ball. Cole is a physician and former U.S. Army surgeon. Lands is a licensed professional counselor. Both have spent more $180,000 during the campaign.
Elijah Boyd is the Libertarian candidate in District 10.
In House District 25, in west Madison and east Limestone counties, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, a Republican who has held the seat since 2006, did not seek another term.Republican Phillip Rigsby and Democrat Mallory Hagan have both spent more than $170,000. Rigsby is a Huntsville native and a pharmacist. Hagan is an Opelika native who won the Miss America crown as Miss New York in 2013. Hagan was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Alabama’s 3rd District in 2018 and lost to the incumbent, Rep. Mike Rogers.
Another race in the Huntsville area that has drawn attention as potentially competitive is in Senate District 2. Sen. Tom Butler is the Republican incumbent in the district, which is in west Madison County and extends into the east portion of Limestone County. Butler, a pharmacist, was elected in 2018 but his legislative experience also includes serving in the House from 1982 to 1994 and a previous period in the Senate from 1994 to 2010.
Kim Caudle Lewis is the Democratic nominee. Lewis is the former chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
Butler has raised and spent more than $800,000 during the campaign. Lewis has raised about $147,000 and spent about $135,000.