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Better-Than-Expected Election Performance Means Oklahoma Libertarians Will Stick Around

Oklahoma and Cleveland counties both gave the LP ticket more than 7 percent of the vote, and 8.36 percent of Stillwater’s Payne County voted for the Libertarian nominee.
Dale Denwalt
The Journal Record
Oklahoma and Cleveland counties both gave the LP ticket more than 7 percent of the vote, and 8.36 percent of Stillwater’s Payne County voted for the Libertarian nominee.";

Every Libertarian candidate in Oklahoma lost on Election Day, but party chair Tina Kelly used words like "exciting," "success," and "momentum" to describe Tuesday. That's because the party cleared a major hurdle.

Their presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, pulled in nearly 6 percent of the state vote, more than twice the 2.5 percent the party needs to stay recognized for the next two years. Without worrying about how she’ll keep fellow “LPs” on the ballot, Kelly told The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt the party can now focus on organization, recruitment and fundraising.

In a one-on-one matchup against Republican newcomer David B. Hooten, Oklahoma County clerk candidate Chris Powell earned about 5,500 more votes than his party’s presidential nominee. Hooten still won with two-thirds of Oklahoma County voters’ support. State House candidate Christina Wright was on the ballot with both major parties and swung 6 percent of voters in House District 100 Tuesday night. “We didn’t win any local races, but we’re still really happy about the results,” said Wright, who serves as the Oklahoma Libertarian Party’s secretary.

Those results mean the Libertarian Party will remain an official political organization in Oklahoma. Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld garnered more than twice the required 2.5 percent, well below the previous threshold of 10 percent.

The Legislature passed a bill last session to reduce that number. As a result, Oklahoma voters will be able to register as Libertarians and candidates can run as Libertarians in elections for the next two years.

No county in the state drew less than the required 2.5 percent. “We believed we were just struggling to get that 2.5 percent, and the people of Oklahoma really surprised us,” Wright said. “They told us pretty much that they were ready for a new party.” Along with running her own race for state lawmaker, Wright and others actively campaigned for Johnson. “We had all decided that our main goal was to maintain our ballot access,” she said. “Everything that we did to get the votes that we got were toward that goal.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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