Libertarian Party gains traction in Knoxville

Written by Alaina Briones

Americans are witnessing a bizarre election cycle with two controversial major-party candidates. Libertarians are seizing this opportunity with hopes to have Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor, on the debate stage in September.

The East Tennessee Libertarian Party is ramping up efforts to bolster support for Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

The Party will have a booth at Knoxville’s annual Tennessee Valley Fair, Sept. 9-18. Jessica Raichl, volunteer coordinator for ETNLP, is working with other members to get more signatures to validate ballot access for 2018 and beyond. They want to ensure that ballot access will never be a problem for Libertarians in Tennessee.

“We will also be talking about the Libertarian Party and making sure people know who Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are,” Raichl said.  

Johnson will be listed on the Tennessee ballot as an Independent in November instead of a Libertarian. This is because the ETNLP has yet to receive 33,000 valid signatures. For a third-party candidate to be affiliated with their party on a Tennessee ballot, the law requires the party to submit “petitions bearing the number of signatures equal to 2.5 percent of the votes cast in the last election for governor,” according to the Libertarian Party of Tennessee website.

Another crucial goal for ETNLP is to help Johnson get into the presidential debates. He must average 15 percent in the polls for this to happen, according to the Commission of Presidential Debates. A third-party candidate has not been on the debate stage since 1992.

Knoxville native and ETNLP member, Cory King, created a GoFundMe account and is working to raise money to fund a Johnson and Weld billboard in the East Tenn. region.

“Ideally, this billboard would feature a reference to the ETNLP website in order to engage new members. Our funding goal is $4,000 for this project. However, at the present time, we’re looking for some insight into the legal hoops we need to jump through to ensure this money is handled legally,” King said.  

The party has also setup a means for individuals in the East Tennessee area to order Johnson merchandise while still contributing to the local party. All profits raised from the purchase of these materials will go directly to the ETNLP. The website features shirts, hats, stickers and signs.

Additionally, ETNLP has a newly forming chapter of Young Americans for Liberty at The University of Tennessee. While UT has organizations established for Republicans and Democrats, this will be the first for Libertarians. Joshua Eakle, ETNLP treasurer, is working out the details for the new campus organization. He hopes he can finalize everything within the next couple of weeks, and is looking to begin recruiting members.

“We need to get on campus for sure; it’s definitely an opportunity we need to take advantage of,” Eakle said. 

The next East Tennessee Libertarian Party meeting will be Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cedar Bluff Library. 

Featured Image by Alaina Briones

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo