Libertarian Nomination Fight Turns Unexpectedly Competitive and Contentious

Gary Johnson has been the most visible Libertarian Party candidate during this election cycle. But as an article in The Washington Post highlights, he isn’t the nominee. He is fighting against TLR founder Austin Petersen and cybersecurity guru John McAfee for the party’s nomination. The Washington Post highlighted each of the candidates in one of the most in-depth looks at the LP race yet.

“It’s the most negative race of my career, by far,” Johnson said during the interview with the Post. “This is very personal, and I don’t get it. My defense is: None of it is being thrown back at them. You want to talk about the issues? Then fine, fine. But holy cow! It’s silly, just silly.”

McAfee and Petersen have been nipping at Johnson’s heels in the past month, with Petersen taking his first straw poll wins and tying with Johnson in Maine. Meanwhile, Johnson has been the only one included in major polling, getting 11% in a poll conducted in March and 4% in a poll conducted last week.

However, McAfee and Petersen claim that Johnson would not be able to continue the Libertarian Party’s momentum.

“I know he’s running around saying he is the Libertarian Party,” said McAfee. “If he believes I will walk away, he is deluding himself, and he has not Googled me. If you think America wants a politician in this race, then you have managed somehow to ignore Donald Trump.”

McAfee has also publicly announced that he wouldn’t support Johnson if Johnson is the nominee.  He accused Johnson of slights against his reputation and has been very forward with his past.

Petersen claimed that Johnson is funded by special interests and big money from the marijuana industry, while also pointing to how he has created a grassroots movement of “freedom ninjas.” Petersen has been making waves in conservative media and has been getting positive attention from the popular right-wing site RedState. 

“Many of the leaders of #NeverTrump have already come out and endorsed us,” said Petersen. “We also have more prominent members ready to endorse the campaign if we win. I can’t tell you who. I can tell you, it will be the sort of front-page news that is earth-shattering.”

Petersen also pointed out that he has the most history in the Libertarian Party, citing work with the party as far back as 2008. In addition to founding The Libertarian Republic, Petersen served as Andrew Napolitano’s Associate Producer on his Fox Business Network show, Freedom Watch.

“It’s not as if I’ve been a media personality, but I’ve worked for one of the most beloved icons in the liberty movement,” said Petersen. “I was the architect of his rise.”

Johnson is convinced that if he is not the nominee, then the Libertarian Party will fade into irrelevancy.

“That’s what I think, but I can’t lose sleep over it,” said Johnson. “I’d only lose sleep if we weren’t working as hard as we can to prevent that.”

The last Libertarian Party presidential debate prior to the convention will be hosted by Penn Jillette in Las Vegas today.




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