Oklahoma Libertarian Party Chair shares reflections from November midterms
Campaigning in a state that’s dominated by one political party is difficult for those outside that group - and possibly even more so when you’re a third party candidate.
Oklahoma has had the Libertarian party on the ballot since 2016. The party has seen growth, doubling their total registered voters since the last midterm election in 2018 to nearly 20,000.
It saw success this cycle, the party had the highest percentage vote for a Libertarian candidate in this year’s Attorney General race - which pitted Libertarian Lynda Steele against Republican Gentner Drummond. Steele ended up receiving 26% of the vote.
Oklahoma Libertarian Party Chair, Will Daugherty, was one of the seven candidates that ran this year. Daugherty ran for Labor Commissioner against a Republican incumbent and a Democratic challenger.
“I went into this race, you know, trying to spread the message of Libertarianism and share our ideas and promote our party,” Daugherty said. “I never thought that I had a chance of beating Leslie Osborn.”
Daugherty said for many Libertarians like him, they aren’t just in it for the short term.
“Those of us who have been in the liberty movement for a long time understand that this is very likely a lifelong battle, very likely a generational battle for multiple generations for the future,” Daugherty said. “It's not going to be something that happens in ten years. It's not going to be something that happens in five elections even.”
But he said this year offered him another opportunity to learn more about the process of running for office. He had campaigned for a different Libertarian candidate in 2020, but Daugherty said the political atmosphere has changed even in the last two years.
He said the people he talked to on the campaign trail feel even more divided now than in 2020, and those feelings matter when it comes to spreading their party's message with potential voters.
“I think they're a little too afraid of that other party having more power in Washington or more power in, you know, in the governor's office, that they won't take that risk for it,” Daugherty said. “They're too afraid of what might happen if the other party wins. They don't want to waste their vote, quote unquote.”
While on the campaign trail, he said the Oklahoma Libertarian party focused on reaching out to Oklahoma’s more than 413,000 independent voters. Also, Oklahoma Libertarians focused on running for statewide offices this year, unlike in 2018 when several candidates also ran for state legislature seats.
“It was absolutely intentional,” Daugherty said. “So libertarians in Oklahoma, any third party has to get above 2.5% in a statewide race in order to maintain ballot access for the next four years. So our goal was to really focus on that and run candidates in as many statewide races as possible.”
And that focus paid off. Because Oklahoma Libertarians exceeded a 2.5% requirement to automatically appear on ballots, the party is set to be featured in elections to come.