Saturday, December 25, 2021

Pennsylvania Libertarian Wins: Keep It In Perspective

The Libertarian electoral wins in Pennsylvania over the past few years are certainly worth celebrating.

However, they also must be kept in perspective.

There are no other states that have as many elective offices as Pennsylvania.

Most states have counties.  The difference with PA is that each county can have dozens of "township" and "borough" entities, as well as a few "home rule" towns, all of which have elected officials.  2,560 of these, to be precise (see the official list here ).

So in other words, there are thousands and thousands of elective offices in PA.  Many of those offices are vacant, with no candidates for them.

In contrast, Libertarians in Virginia cannot replicate Pennsylvania's record.

By law.

In Virginia, there are 95 counties, 38 independent cities (which are equivalent to counties anywhere else), and 190 incorporated towns (there are unincorporated towns but they do not have a government charter and are simply part of their county; the incorporated towns have a charter and a government but are also still part of their county -- in essence they are an "overlay" government over the county government).

While it's nice to believe that Pennsylvania Libertarians have perfected the "special sauce" that leads to electoral success, that brag is a bit insulting to the Libertarians in other states who work just as hard as anyone in PA but who do not have the special circumstances working in their favor as do PA Libertarians.

It is also worth noting that the current paradigm of electing Libertarians in PA is not a new development.  Lois Kaneshiki led the LPPA to do pretty much the same thing in the early 2000's -- over 20 years ago.

The biggest takeaway from that early 2000's experiment, however, is this: I don't recall anyone of those elected back then who later "graduated" to, say, Pennsylvania state legislature or congress as a Libertarian.

As an aside, Kaneshiki had a serious problem with being nasty to other Libertarians.  She eventually abandoned the LP and became active in the Republican Party, and was later elected an RP county chair.  I mention that because perhaps her attitude contributed to the collapse of the original "let's get everyone elected to these tiny offices that no one else wants" model.

I know what it's like to be elected to an office no one in the district wants.  I was elected to the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District in Shenandoah County VA in 2001, and served until I moved to a different area of the state.  No one collected the 25 signatures required to be placed on that fall's ballot, so I stood out in front of my polling place with some handouts with my name and asking to be written in, and got enough votes to be elected as a write-in.

So it's not magic sauce.  There is no special recipe that makes what PA Libertarians have done possible, just some common sense and taking advantage of opportunities as they come up.

The real test will be whether these 200+ elected officials will take advantage of their small platform and use it as a springboard to capture a bigger one.  It didn't happen twenty years ago.  So if Pennsylvania LP leaders really want bragging rights, they need to follow-through and make it happen this time.

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Written by Marc Montoni <>, December 2021.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.