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Indiana’s a Little More Libertarian

You may find this hard to believe, but 2012 was actually not a bad a year for Libertarians in the Hoosier State.

Yes, I know they didn’t win the governor’s race or the U.S. Senate and they didn’t field anyone in the race for superintendent of public instruction. But here’s what they did do: They increased their vote totals and percentages over years past. And if you’re a third-party, that’s a lot better than heading in the other direction.

Take for example, the party’s candidate for president: Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

He made several trips to Indiana and I actually interviewed him a few times. He got just under 49,000 votes. That was a 68 percent increase over Bob Barr who got about 25,000 votes in 2008 and a 172 percent increase over Michael Badnarik in 2004.

In the U.S. Senate race, Andrew Horning picked up about 145,000 votes, about 5.8 percent of the total. That was a 53 percent increase over what Rebecca Sink-Burris picked up when she ran in 2010. And if you really want to do an apples-to-apples comparison, Al Barger ran for the job in 2004 and received slightly more than 27,000 votes.

And interestingly enough, Horning was just 24,000 votes short of what Steve Osborn received when he ran against U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar in 2006. Osborn was Lugar’s only challenger as Democrats decided not to run someone against him that year.

Another interesting point about Horning is how many places where he out-performed his statewide average of 5.8 percent.

Horning got at least 6 percent of the vote in 16 counties, 7 percent of the vote in 13 counties, 8 percent of the vote in seven counties, and 9 percent of the vote in six counties. In Rush County, Horning performed his best, 10.7 percent. Even in Marion County Horning came in at 5.9 percent.

In the race for governor Rupert Boneham cleared 100,000 votes, which was good enough for four percent.

That was a 75 percent increase over Andy Horning in 2008 and a 217 percent increase over Kenn Gividen in 2004. Horning got 2.1 percent of the vote in 2008 and Gividen got 1.4 percent in 2004.

Boneham did not perform as well as Horning. His statewide average vote total was 5.8 percent, but he only out-performed that number in 8 counties. He did best in Rush County, where he received 6.8 percent of the vote.

Now granted we all know what happened in the U.S. Senate race and it is generally accepted that some of Horning’s vote was a result of Richard Mourdock’s comments during the second debate. However, the map does show that Hoosiers are willing to vote for a Libertarian, even if it is out of protest.

If I were running the Libertarian Party, I would definitely put my efforts in those counties where Andy Horning’s victory was bigger than the margin between Mourdock and Joe Donnelly. At the very least it would give the party a possible path to reach voters who might be willing to give its candidates a second look.

And even if they candidates don’t win, Libertarians can play kingmaker by pushing for candidates who are with them on their issues of more limited government and more personal freedom.

And who knows. In a decade or so, Indiana might be swearing in its first statewide Libertarian elected official. Hey, a party has got to start somewhere, right?

Photo: The StatehouseFile.com