Libertarians: Aid for Dems?
But even while Democrats complained about Barr's unsuccessful efforts to remove the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates from the Texas ballot, they for the most part welcomed Libertarian Party candidates in races further down the ballot.
In fact, Libertarians have made several Democrats running for the Texas House of Representatives happy, and a few sad. And the Libertarian presence, or lack thereof, has also made several Republican House members or candidates unhappy, and made a few happy.
The happy ones include Republican Tony Goolsby of Dallas, and Democrats Juan Garcia of Corpus Christi and Joe Heflin of Crosbyton.
The sad ones include Democrat Valinda Bolton of Austin and Republican former state Rep. Bill Keffer of Dallas.
The Republicans who are happy are those in tight races with Democrats who did not also draw a Libertarian opponent - like Goolsby. Libertarians, who think the government should be small, but also should stay out of people's lives, tend to take significantly more votes away from Republicans than from Democrats.
And that's why Democrats Garcia and Heflin are happy. Both have Libertarian candidates in their hotly contested races against Republican opponents. In fact, quite likely neither man would be a state representative today but for having a Libertarian in their races in 2006.
Bolton, of Austin, was prepared to be happy this year because her swing-district race had drawn a Libertarian opponent in addition to Republican Donna Keel. But the Libertarian dropped out, citing business reasons. That left Democrat Bolton facing Republican Keel, with no Libertarian cushion to help draw off some votes that otherwise probably would go to Keel.
Republican Keffer, of Dallas, lost his seat two years ago to Democrat Allen Vaught by a margin almost exceeded by the vote for Libertarian Chris Jones. This year, Keffer faces not just Vaught but also Libertarian Brandon Parsons.
Libertarian candidates in swing districts are considered helpful to Democratic incumbents and candidates, who are trying to add the five net votes in the 150-member House necessary to achieve a Democratic majority. A major goal of the Democrats' (and some Republicans) is to knock Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick out of the speaker's chair.
If you think Libertarians don't make that much difference, you might pose that question to Craddick. The speaker drew complaints from Democrats in early August after his minions and staff members tried to talk some Libertarians out of running in close races.
The Libertarians said they planned to continue in their respective races.
In 2006, among Democrats elected in districts where the vote for a Libertarian candidate was more than the difference between the Democrat and the Republican were:
• District 32 - Democrat Juan Garcia of Corpus Christi unseated Republican Gene Seaman with a margin of just over 2 percent, with the help of Libertarian Lenard ((cq)) Nelson, who got 5.58 percent.
• District 93 - Democrat Paula Hightower Pierson of Dallas beat Republican Rep. Toby Goodman by about 2.7 percent, while Libertarian Max W. Koch, III got 3.44 percent.
• District 118 - Democrat Joe Farias of San Antonio was elected to an open seat by getting just under 4 percent more votes than Republican George
• District 106 - Republican Kirk England of Grand Prairie beat Democrat Katy Hubener by just over a percentage point, while Libertarian Gene Freeman got 2.77 percent. England has since switched parties, and is seeking re-election as a Democrat, against Republican Karen Wiegman and Libertarian Freeman.
Other districts in which the Libertarians think their candidates might get enough votes in 2008 to affect the outcome include:
• District 32 - Rep. Juan Garcia, D Corpus Christi, is opposed by Republican Todd Hunter, also of Corpus Christi, who used to represent much of the district as a Democrat. Republican Lenard Nelson of Rockport is running again.
• District 52 (open seat, vacated by Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock) - Democrat Diana Maldonado of Round Rock faces Republican Bryan Daniel of Georgetown and Libertarian Lillian Simmons of Round Rock.
• District 96 - Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, is opposed by Democrat Chris Turner of Burleson and Libertarian Todd Litteken of Arlington.
With enough Libertarians in close races, the Democrats might finally regain the majority in the Texas House after a six-year drought.