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Indiana Libertarians fall short of election goals in secretary of state race

A screenshot from a video interview with Indiana Libertarian Party candidate for Secretary of State Jeff Maurer. Maurer is a White man with dark hair, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie. He is sitting in front of a large window.
Alan Mbathi
/
IPB News
Indiana Libertarian Party candidate for secretary of state, Jeff Maurer, discussed his election goals in an interview with Indiana Public Broadcasting on Sept. 14, 2022.

The Indiana Libertarian Party fell short of its ambitious goals for this year’s secretary of state race.

Indiana’s secretary of state race determines key ballot access credentials for political parties. Get at least 2 percent of the vote in that race, you’re automatically on the ballot – that’s why Libertarians appear on ballots across the state.

Get 10 percent and you get to hold public primaries, like Democrats and Republicans do. Donald Rainwater, the Libertarian candidate for governor, hit that mark in 2020, giving the party hope it could do the same this year.

Rainwater also cleared another key benchmark two years ago – he came in second in about a third of Indiana counties. The parties whose candidates come in first and second place in any county in Indiana in the secretary of state race get to each appoint a member to the county election board.

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But Libertarian secretary of state candidate Jeff Maurer garnered less than 6 percent of the statewide vote total this year and didn't come close to second place in any county.

Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics Director Emeritus Andrew Downs said the 2020 election was an outlier in many ways.

A lot of the discontent that fueled some of the vote they got in 2020 was lessened … and so the Republican Party became again an attractive home for some voters who maybe stepped over to the Libertarian side for a moment,” Downs said.

Downs said to further build the party, Libertarians must focus on devoting resources to candidates who can win – and maybe not at the biggest, statewide level.

“There’s a school of thought that says that focus should be at the local level and grow up from there,” Downs said.

Downs said Libertarians can take advantage of down ballot races that don’t require significant financial resources to make a difference.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.