Libertarian & “Godfather of Third-Party Politics” Passes Away at Age 59

by Josh Guckert

On Monday night, Montana Libertarian Party Chair Mike Fellows passed away after a head-on car crash on his way home from a campaign event. He was 59. He had been running as the Libertarian candidate in the state’s at-large Congressional district. Fellows was also a board member of the Libertarian National Committee. As noted by Reason:

Billings Libertarian Andrew Forcier described him in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle as the “godfather of third-party politics” in Montana. According to The Missoulian, Fellows ran for office “every year since 1996, when he ran for Montana House. He ran for the U.S. House in 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010; for Secretary of State in 2000, and for the Montana Supreme Court in 2012. He was unsuccessful every time.”

“Mike has been working tirelessly for decades to advance the party as a candidate and as chairman, often on his own dime,” Andrew Forcier, Libertarian candidate for the Montana House of Representatives, told the Daily Chronicle. “He was a dedicated individual… he laid the groundwork for many of the third-party candidates that are running today.”

Fellows’ major-party competitors in the congressional election also expressed sadness at his death. “My sincerest condolences to the Fellows family, his friends, and followers,” Rep. Zinke said in a statement. “Mike was a true advocate for the Libertarian cause and a good man. He had incredible passion for his platform and he will be missed in Montana.” Democratic candidate Denis Juneau added, “I’m shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Mike Fellows. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Mike was a passionate advocate for his values, and I have always admired his courage and dedication to serving Montana. He will be missed.”

In 2012, Fellows became the first Libertarian to ever break 40 percent in a partisan statewide race. That year, he narrowly lost the election for clerk of the supreme court to incumbent Democrat Ed Smith. In 2014, when Republicans and Democrats attempted to essentially banish third-parties from November ballots, Fellows slyly noted that “You have to wonder if (the Republicans) actually believe in the free market, because they are trying to use the forces of government to their ends.”

The Libertarian Party has lost one of its most poignant and significant voices. Fellows no doubt worked his entire life advancing the cause of liberty in Montana and nationwide. His legacy in promoting freedom is both admirable and likely to last for years to come.

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