Superior Court Candidates Embrace The Libertarian Party
By Elisha Dorfsmith
With many Libertarian Ron Paul supporters switching to the Republican party, the Libertarian Party here in Northern Arizona is slightly smaller and more ideologically knit than it has been in recent years.
It could be said that the party is now largely made up of loyalists, purists and those dedicated to Libertarian candidates who hold only the truest libertarian values. Candidates who run on the Libertarian ticket may be more scrutinized and held to an even higher Libertarian standard than usual this year.
This could make it tough for Libertarians to accept candidates who use the party as a platform for ballot access. It also makes the upcoming Coconino County Superior Court Division 5 race a very interesting race to follow.
Current Superior Court Division 5 Judge Joe Lodge was a registered Democrat who was appointed by Governor Brewer to Division 5 in 2010. His name was recently kicked off the primary ballot due to a technicality and he has switched to the Libertarian Party as a write in candidate.
Many local Libertarians have reacted to the news of the switch with skepticism and reservations. I was recently contacted by several concerned Libertarians asking if Judge Lodge could be trusted to be a true Libertarian candidate. At a time when libertarian concepts like Jury Nullification are gaining steam it’s tough for many libertarians to get behind the idea of supporting a former Federal Prosecutor.
Judge Lodge stresses that he is a strong supporter of personal freedom and believes in personal responsibility which are key principles of libertarianism. While he does not have roots in the Libertarian party he says that he truly believes in individual rights and much of the Libertarian platform.
But he also concedes that as a Judge he must uphold the law because that is his job. While judges certainly have the ability to use discretion in many of their rulings, they ultimately have to enforce the law as it is written.
At this point it’s hard to tell if Libertarians will support his campaign and write his name in on the primary ballot.
Making things even more interesting, a second candidate has entered the Division 5 race as a Libertarian. Steve Hauser, a Coconino County public defender recently threw his hat into the ring. Hauser also has no previous ties to the Libertarian party.
The Libertarian candidates will need at least 15 write in votes in the August 28th election to qualify for the November ballot. The candidate with the highest number of write in votes will be the primary winner and move on to the general election ballot.
Of course, that’s assuming things go as planned for the candidates. It is very likely Lodge’s Libertarian campaign will be challenged by his Democratic opponent based on Arizona’s “Sore Loser Law”. Most people familiar with the case agree that Lodge is facing an uphill battle.
Lodge still plans to be prepared. He admits that some of his supporters are switching to the Libertarian Party in order to be able to write his name in and make sure he at least receives the required 15 write in votes.
If he overcomes his legal challenge and faces Hauser, it will likely be the traditional Libertarians who ultimately decide the race and that’s who Lodge would like to appeal to.
Then again, the possibility exists that Libertarians will skip the race altogether. More and more Libertarians are expressing concern that the secret of easy ballot access is out and that candidates across the political spectrum will start abusing the system. This could have them leaving that section blank on election day.
As Coconino County speculates about the outcome, a dark cloud is quietly forming over the very idea of third parties in Arizona. The Top Two primary system will be up for voter approval on the November 6th ballot. Proponents of Top Two admit that if it passes, the chances of third party candidates advancing to a general election ballot ever again are pretty much nonexistent.