Nov 29, 2022 - Politics

Iowa's libertarians gain traction after midterm election

Illustration of a hand placing a ballot in a yellow ripple.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Iowa's Libertarian Party made small but notable gains in this year's midterm elections.

State of play: Rick Stewart, the Libertarian candidate for governor, garnered 2.4% of the vote, helping the party regain official status in Iowa. That allows them to appear on voter registration forms and hold primary elections.

By the numbers: Stewart gained 28,997 votes — significantly less than Gov. Kim Reynolds' 709,160 votes and Deidre DeJear's 482,935 votes.

  • But it's the first time a Libertarian gubernatorial candidate reached the 2% benchmark.

Why it matters: Gaining official status gives the small, but growing party more legitimacy, said Jules Cutler, chair of the Iowa Libertarian Party.

  • The first time it reached official status in the state was during the 2016 presidential election, thanks to the popularity of Gary Johnson, a Libertarian running for president.
  • Yes, but: It was lost in the 2018 midterms when no Libertarian garnered 2% of the vote. Political parties must get at least 2% of the vote every election to maintain official status in Iowa.

Reality check: Cutler acknowledges that Stewart put in significant time and money into his own campaign.

  • But she believes the party is gaining traction in general as voters search for a party they align with outside of Democrats and Republicans.

What they're saying: When Iowa's Libertarian party started 20 years ago, "we got practically nothing," Stewart said.

  • Nationally, the party peaked when Johnson ran in 2016, but they've still struggled with the general public knowing who they are and where they stand, Stewart said.

What's next: For the Libertarian party to continue its momentum, Stewart said there needs to be strong national and local candidates.

  • Stewart, who said he doesn't want to run again, said there needs to be a pipeline in place locally to help identify candidates who can help the party.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more