On the Libertarian Party and running for political office today

Photo of Marco Battaglia provided by the author and published with permission.

Marco Battaglia was the Libertarian Party of Iowa’s candidate for lieutenant governor in 2022.

There is so much we could do better in terms of elections that it is difficult to know where to begin.

Currently the Iowa Secretary of State’s website will tell you that Iowa has three political parties. It does so because a ticket featuring myself and Rick Stewart received more than 2 percent of votes cast in the 2022 election for Iowa governor. In order to consistently be considered a recognized major political party in Iowa, a party must have its nominees exceed 2 percent in either the presidential or gubernatorial race (whichever is on the ballot in each cycle). 

Being recognized by the state as a political party does not mean candidates running as Libertarians will receive anything near fair representation in media coverage. Nor does it mean those candidates will be allowed to debate or attend forums with Iowa Democrats and Republicans, or that polling will include Libertarian Party candidates.

In the last election for governor, Rick Stewart and I were well aware of these constraints and positioned ourselves to be included from the starting line. How did the incumbent Governor Kim Reynolds respond to this? By agreeing to just one debate, for which the inclusion criteria would be unfair enough to keep us out. To have only one debate for was unprecedented in an Iowa gubernatorial race. 

Elections that feature candidates for president or governor consistently have the highest levels of voter participation. People often come out during these races just to vote for or against one candidate. Some leave other areas of their ballots blank. Many people who participate in presidential or midterm elections don’t turn out for local elections.

Candidates who rely mainly on small donations from individual donors consistently compete with better-funded campaigns, some receiving millions of dollars in donations. It was an amazing feat for the Libertarian Party of Iowa to reach the state’s threshold to be recognized as a major party following the 2016 presidential election and the 2022 race for governor.

In addition, just the last decade, the Libertarian Party of Iowa has elected candidates to city councils and a county attorney position. I was our party’s 2018 nominee for attorney general, a two-way race because the Republican Party did not field a candidate.

Running for office is not easy. One must be willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to a credible campaign. Not only that, but in some cases, running for office risks a loss of professional and social standing. I imagine this is not easy for anyone to go through, but it is especially difficult for a new parent.

The average age of an Iowa state legislator is currently 55. My opponents in my city council and attorney general elections were well beyond that age. Many Iowa candidates are empty nesters or people who have retired from any full time work they did outside of politics. 

When I ran for attorney general, I worked in the private sector in Financial Crimes. My employer gave me an ultimatum: drop out of the race or be fired. At that time, no one else was challenging the incumbent Tom Miller, the longest serving state attorney general in U.S. history. I chose not to drop out and was immediately fired.

That would be a challenge for anyone, but my situation was exacerbated by having one young son, with another on the way. My family got through this difficult time, and I stayed in the race until the finish line. Miller refused every debate opportunity that was offered to us. In our two-way race, I had to consistently make press and pollsters aware that Miller had an opponent. Having no debate and no polling in a race for Iowa attorney general was unprecedented.

I have long been politically active and knew all too well what I was getting into by running to serve my fellow citizens. I am not sharing my perspective or my experiences to complain or to seek sympathy. I am doing so to show, in part, why it is so hard to find people willing to run for office.

It is not because Iowa (or the country) lack libertarian-minded people. Rather, it is because our elections are in awful shape. They are not free and they are not fair. 

The main reason the Libertarian Party is able to hang in there, despite the deck being stacked against independent and third-party candidates, is because of the risks taken and hard work many individuals put in over the last half of a century.

All political parties are currently in shambles. The Iowa GOP relies on one controversial presidential candidate who is fairly new to being a Republican. The Iowa Democratic Party has struggled to maintain even one statewide elected official and failed to make the 2022 race for governor competitive.

Perhaps the Libertarian Party’s struggles give rise to popular and interesting news articles, but I have yet to see any that tell nearly the whole story. Like many Iowans and Americans, I best align with Libertarian Party out of the options available. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: At this writing, the Libertarian Party of Iowa is not fielding candidates for any federal offices in 2024 and has only four candidates on the ballot for legislative races (one Iowa Senate candidate, three candidates in Iowa House districts). The party could hold special nominating conventions this summer to field candidates in state or federal races, as long as those candidates submit nominating papers to the Secretary of State’s office between July 29 and August 24.

About the Author(s)

Marco Battaglia

  • change outr voting system

    As usual with third parties, they deny the real reason why they can’t succeed: Our voting system. First past the post will always result in only two major parties, with everyone else marginalized. Only if and when we change to something like ranked choice voting would we get more than two real choices.

  • good article

    Nice change of pace article. Good break from the endless(yawn) rants from the teachers union and their never-ending angst. I voted Libertarian for gov, couldn’t muster pulling the lever for DeJear.just because she had a “D” next to her name. With Senile Joe and the Bad Orange man facing off again, I will be voting for a non-Democrat for president.