Libertarians see support dissolve in actual voting

Amanda Swafford was 8 years old, her eyes glued to the television as Ronald Reagan outlined a plan to overhaul America’s education system in 1984. The bookish girl from Flowery Branch couldn’t agree more: She saw how her fellow classmates slugged through school, preferring recess to reading.

So Swafford waited for change. And waited. Yet she felt that no real change came, year after year, regardless of which party controlled the presidency or Congress.

Swafford was still waiting Tuesday night. Surrounded by her fellow Libertarians at a Ted’s Montana Grill in downtown Atlanta, she waited to see how much of the vote she seized in the crucial U.S. Senate race.

She finished with only a few percentage points while facing Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn, after polling as high as 6 percent in late summer.

But the former Flowery Branch city councilwoman felt like her campaign had made a difference in the race.

“We have started being able to do things that Libertarian candidates haven’t,” Swafford said. “It’s a real good victory in getting a stronger Libertarian Party building in the future.”

With little chance of winning in a statewide election, some wonder why third-party candidates slog through grueling weeks of campaigning. Why run when it could jeopardize the chances of Republican candidates, who typically hold similarly conservative views on fiscal issues?

“We don’t have candidates who represent us,” said Swafford, who has campaigned while still working full time as a paralegal. “People would tell me, ‘Every time I go to the polls, there’s just not anybody there that is like me.’ ”

Fellow Libertarian Andrew Hunt also fell short of earlier polling as high as 7 percent in his run for governor. The former CEO of nGimat, a nanotechnology company, said that while he wouldn’t advance, his education and business platforms had already been adopted by opponents.

“It’s OK if they take my ideas. I really like how Deal moved away from Common Core to look at school choice,” Hunt said. “Also, Carter was willing to move and look at how to support small businesses soon.”

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