Iowa's libertarians gain traction after midterm election
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.
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