In 2020, Libertarian candidate Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. ran for Senate in Arkansas against one of the worst Republicans in the country and achieved a record 33.5% of the vote, a better result than any other Senate candidate in Libertarian Party history. That result from Arkansas, a state not known as a hotbed of libertarianism, pointed to an opportunity to provide political competition in states that are typically lacking and was the inspiration for the Golden Spike project, a targeted candidate recruitment effort in states where voters are thirsty for fresh voices offering real change.
With Harrington running for Governor in 2022 and joining the board as President of the Libertarian Policy Institute, Arkansas was perfect as a pilot project to see what could be done with the combination of an inspirational candidate for statewide office and a organized effort coordinated by Wes Benedict, who helped recruit hundreds of candidates in Pennsylvania in 2021 and was ready for a new challenge.
We sent a targeted mailing to almost 3,000 prospective candidates who had a history of supporting the Libertarian Party or Libertarian candidates asking them to stand for change and “Run with Ricky” by filing for state or local office and being part of a statewide effort to reduce taxes on working families, stop locking people away in the war on drugs, and remove government barriers to economic opportunity.
To make it as easy as possible for a prospective candidate to run, we worked with the state party to set up a landing page for prospective candidates that answered common questions about the process and showed them how easy it could be to run for office. Wes Benedict made himself available seven days a week by cell phone or email to answer questions and ease any concerns candidates had about running for office and helped them find the right office to file for. We kept a live spreadsheet showing candidate recruitment progress, with the various offices and districts, so we could target efforts to fill the holes in the map.
At the nominating convention in mid-February, potential candidates attended and were asked questions about their views on the issues before the convention voted to nominate them for office, with the convention empowering the state executive committee to nominate any stragglers who got in right before the filing deadline.
During the filing period at the Secretary of State’s office, which lasts for a week, we were seeing a steady stream of social media announcements that another Libertarian had filed. There were so many more candidates running in 2022 that the news media picked up on it, wondering why there was such a strong showing. At the end of the week, we had 56 Libertarians on the ballot, which is nearly double the previous record of 32 candidates running in 2018.
Because candidate filing fees are paid to the state Libertarian Party, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas starts out the campaign season with over $6,000 in filing fees that it can then use to support get out the vote efforts for the entire slate and has renewed energy for what promises to be the most successful campaign year ever in that state and will likely achieve full ballot access for future elections.
As the campaign season kicks off, we will have a vibrant and diverse team of candidates up and down the ballot working together across the state to share ideas and strategies, work on joint fundraising and events, and show the people of the Natural State that libertarians are ready to step up to be their voice against the incumbents who have held back change for so long.
We couldn’t have done it without the scores of individual donors and a very generous donor who provided a $10,000 match to help catalyze the fundraising efforts to make sure we could finish the project strong.
We can’t wait to plant another Golden Spike in another targeted state very soon. If you want to see that happen, please visit our dedicated one-time donation page or consider signing up as a monthly patron of the Libertarian Policy Institute.
Nicholas Sarwark is Executive Director of the Libertarian Policy Institute. He served as Chair of the Libertarian National Committee from 2014 to 2020, a period of unprecedented growth. Over the last two decades, he has worked as a systems developer for a major non-profit, tried over 30 cases to a jury as a deputy public defender in Colorado, and managed the oldest independent car dealership and loan company in Phoenix. He founded Wedge Squared Strategies in 2019, a strategy, communications, and campaign consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations maximize their impact on the world. Licensed to practice law in Colorado and New Hampshire, he lives in Manchester, New Hampshire with his wife Valerie and their four children where they volunteer to build a better local community.