The Libertarian Party of North Carolina has been in continual existence as a political party since 1976, when Arlan Andrews ran for governor.
“I gave newspaper and TV interviews across the state, debated the American Party candidate, Chub Seawell, on TV and generally had a great time,” recalled Andrews, one of the party's founders, in a February 2015 email message.
“I got some time with [Libertarian presidential candidate] Roger MacBride in his DC-3, confronted Democratic candidate Jim Hunt in a TV studio and embarrassed him in front of his laughing staff, and was threatened with death by the Worker's Party Larouchians.”
The entire 1976 N.C. Libertarian ticket: Arlan Andrews (far left), candidate for governor; Roger McBride (center), presidential candidate; Carl Wagle (third from right), 5th district Congressional candidate; and Andrew Eiva (second from right, aide-de-camp to Andrews. The others are unidentified. (Photo Courtesy Arlan Andrews)
(Lyndon LaRouche is an American political activist and founder of the LaRouche movement. He was a presidential candidate in each election from 1976 to 2004, running once for his own U.S. Labor Party and seven times for the Democratic Party nomination.)
Since 1976, the LPNC has petitioned successfully for ballot access eight times and has had a presidential and gubernatorial candidate on the ballot in North Carolina in all but the 1988 election.
The party has maintained a website (LPNC.org) since 1996 and has held annual conventions across the state since its inception. Executive committee members are elected biannually at these conventions to carry out the essential functions of a political party.
The party also currently maintains active local organizations in 22 of North Carolina’s100 counties, where 65 percent of the state’s population reside. The LPNC also may be the only party in U.S. history that has had an Indian Nation – the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – as an active local affiliate.
There are currently nearly 28,000 registered Libertarians in North Carolina. However, the party's influence goes well beyond its numbers.
Libertarians have been recognized by both the media and the general public as a major party in the state for 30 years. In every election the party has participated in over the last three decades, its voting numbers have increased.
And proportionally, the LPNC’s growth in voter registration is far outstripping that of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Since 2010 the combined total of registered Democrats and Republicans has declined one percent per year. At the same time, the total number of unaffiliated voters has increased four percent per year, with the number of registered Libertarians up 25 percent per annum.
The Libertarian Party of North Carolina is affiliated with the national Libertarian Party, the third largest party in the United States, active in all 50 states. The party has more than 250,000 registered voters. In 2013, there were 130 Libertarians holding elected office.
The LP qualified to have its presidential candidate on the ballot in 32 states in 1976. In 1996 and 2000, Libertarians became the first third party in U.S. history to earn ballot status in all 50 states for two presidential elections in a row.
In 2008, 50 Libertarians were elected or re-elected to public office. Two Libertarian candidates in Texas and Georgia each received more than one million votes. Libertarians running for the U.S. House received more than 1,078,000 votes, breaking the congressional million-vote threshold for the fourth time.
In November 2012, Gov. Gary Johnson was on the ballot in 49 states and got a record 1,275,951 votes for president. Six other Libertarian candidates also broke the million-vote threshold. During the year, 30 Libertarians were elected or re-elected to office, and by the end of the year, there were 139 Libertarians holding elected offices.
Throughout its history, one of the major obstacles the party has had to overcome was North Carolina's highly restrictive ballot access laws.
To be officially recognized by the state, a “new political party” must submit to the State Board of Elections a petition signed by registered voters equal in number to two percent of the voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election. Currently, that figure is 89,366 signatures.
Unless a party is recognized by the state, it cannot run candidates for any partisan office, including local offices. Then, to retain ballot access, a “new” party must then get two percent of the vote for its candidate for governor or for presidential electors.
Despite this extremely high barrier, the Libertarian Party of North Carolina maintained ballot status continuously from 1996 to 2004. In that period alone, the LPNC placed over 300 candidates on the ballot for every office – from president of the United States to county soil and water district supervisor.
In 1978, Libertarians contested three of the 11 U.S. House seats in North Carolina. In 1992, Libertarian candidate for governor Scott McLaughlin received 4.5 percent of the popular vote in a fully contested race, with 104,983 votes. This remains the highest percentage gained by a third- party candidate for that office by any party since that year. There was a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate and all 12 U.S. House seats in 1998.
In 2002, Libertarians fielded 145 candidates, including candidates for a majority of the seats in both houses of the General Assembly. Two years later, the party had candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate and 12 state Senate and 24 state House seats.
On August 22, 2005, the State Board of Elections decertified the party. At that time, there were more than 13,000 N.C. voters registered as affiliated with the Libertarian Party. The party again undertook a petition drive and earned ballot status for the 2008 gubernatorial election.
With Duke University political science professor Michael Munger as the candidate, the election made North Carolina history. For the first time, a “third party” retained ballot status through the ballot box. Munger got 2.87 percent of the vote.
Interestingly, the Libertarian candidates for lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner received an even higher percentage of the vote. We also had candidates for the U.S. Senate, eight state Senate seats and 13 state House seats.
The party repeated that feat in 2012, when Barbara Howe, running her third campaign for governor, received 2.13 percent of the vote.
North Carolina Libertarians achieved another milestone in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, one of the most hotly contested in the nation. Sean Haugh – a former LPNC executive director, state chair, and veteran Libertarian candidate – received the highest number of votes and vote percentage for any statewide Libertarian candidate since 2008.
In an analysis of NBC exit polling published Nov. 5, 2014, Reason.com blogger Brian Doherty also noted the possible demise of the spoiler myth:
It isn't common for Democrats to accuse Libertarians of "spoiling" elections for them, but a look at NBC News exit polls show that Haugh voters indeed came more from people who consider themselves "moderate" (5 percent of self-identified moderates went Haugh) and even "liberal" (4 percent of liberals voted for Haugh) than from conservatives (only 2 percent of whom voted for Haugh).