MCLENNAN COUNTY – The Libertarian Party hopes the 2016 election cycle might be the beginning of the end for the two-party system that has polarized American politics.
Recent polls suggest Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two most disliked presidential candidates ever to run for the White House. And, Libertarians are working overtime to present a viable alternative in their presidential candidate: Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.
On Wednesday, Johnson purchased a full page New York Times advertisement, asking the Committee on Presidential Debates to add a third podium at the first debate that would allow him to face off against Trump and Clinton at Hofstra University on Sept. 26. Under the committee's rules, Johnson needs to have more than 15 percent support when committee members average five mainstream media polls together.
The poll threshold puts Johnson at a disadvantage. First, the committee chooses what polls to use when calculating the 15 percent voter support figure. Secondly, some mainstream national polls exclude Johnson altogether.
"The rules right now are even more stacked against us than they ever were," McLennan County Libertarian Party Chair Lauren Daugherty said. "For example, the polling that determines whether we have the supposed 15 percent to get on that debate stage is not fair."
Sixty-two percent of voters believe Johnson should be allowed to debate, according to an Aug. 25 Quinnipiac poll. And, the former governor boasts double-digit poll numbers in 42 states -- surpassing the 15-percent threshold in 15 of them.
History is on Johnson's side. In 1992, Ross Perot initially polled well before abruptly dropping out of the race and re-entering it again. At the time Perot began campaigning again, he was polling below 10 percent. But, he was still allowed to debate.
Whether or not Johnson debates or stands a legitimate chance of winning the White House, the Libertarian Party wants to capitalize on the 2016 election as a whole. There are 589 Libertarian candidates on ballots in the U.S. this year.
There are several local Libertarian candidates seeking election in November.
- Clark Patterson is running for the U.S. Representative seat in district 17, which includes Falls, Limestone, Milam and McLennan Counties -- among others.
- Loren Marc Schneiderman is running for the District 25 U.S. Representative seat, which covers part of Bell County and all of Coryell and Lampasas Counties.
- Scott Ballard is competing for the District 31 U.S. Representative position, which represents Williamson County and part of Bell County.
- Clif Deuvall is running to be the state representative for district 56, which includes part of McLennan County.
- David Reichert is seeking the McLennan County Commissioner position for Precinct 3.
The Houston Chronicle appears to have made history when it endorsed Mark Miller for Texas Railroad Commissioner last week, which -- by most accounts -- seems to be the highest mainstream media endorsement for a Libertarian candidate in the party's history. In the same week, the party secured the final states necessary to have ballot access in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. -- the first time that has happened since 1996.
"The Libertarian party is here," Daugherty said. "We're a major party. We're growing. We care about things that most voters care about: individual liberty and your ability to run your own life without government interference."
(© 2016 KCEN)