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Analysis: Libertarians Play Spoilers
May have cost Republican two legislative seats

As Republicans try to climb their way out of super-minority status in the legislature, it's not just Democrats that are holding them back. The outcome of at least two races may have been impacted by Libertarian candidates, each of which polled more votes than the margin of victory.

Democrats have had their sights set on Senate District 10 which includes the eastern part of Polk County and South Salem, since Denyc Boles was appointed to the seat to replace the venerable Jackie Winters after her passing. Democrats hold a razor-thin voter registration advantage as of the eve of the election with 31,740 Democrats and 30,440 Republicans -- a gap of 1,300 votes. Boles beat the spread, losing to newcomer Deb Patterson by a mere 600 votes -- though that number could change slightly. A larger number is the count of votes polled by Taylor Rickey, the Libertarian candidate, who spent nothing, yet took 2,775 votes -- more than four times the margin of victory for Patterson.

No one will ever be able to tell how those Libertarians voted, but if one makes the assumption that voters tend to not split their party votes, in a Senate District that contains exactly two House Districts, Republicans tallied 39,671 votes to 37,826 in those two races, winning by a combined 1,845 -- less than the Libertarian take.

East of Portland in the Gorge, House District 52 is home to the liberal city of Hood River, but its population of about 8,000 isn't big enough to dominate the rural areas around the city as well as the far eastern X-urbs of Portland. Republican Jeff Helfrich, who lost the seat in 2018 to Democrat Anna Williams, set up a rematch.

This was the closest match in Oregon for 2020, split by a mere 90 votes in favor of the now incumbent Williams in the face of Libertarian Stephen Alder's 1,058 votes -- well above the margin needed to prevail. Again, no one knows how those thousand votes would have gone had the libertarian not run. There's only 386 Libertarians registered to vote in the district.

Asked if he thought he cost Jeff Helfrich the election, Stephen Alder, the Libertarian candidate from House District 52 said, "I cant speak for Mrs. Williams' nor Mr. Helfrich's voters' choice. What I can say is that by my running against the two of them did not cause either to lose votes, the people chose the candidate that they felt was best. It was in the realm of possibility that I could change [the outcome] however, my candidacy was for changing the legislature and keeping people accountable for what they do." He added, "Libertarians don't take votes. We present ourselves as a viable alternative to the same old 'lesser of two evils'. Voting should not be a 'Sofie's choice'. You vote as your civic duty and vote your conscience."

Alder summarized by saying, "We are the American people not a red people or blue people, but rather a prism of thought and ideas." These races could have made a difference in how the 2021 session goes. It's worth remembering and coming back to. This facebook post by Rickey indicates that he could well make a difference again in 2022. Stay tuned.

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2020-11-19 08:40:56Last Update: 2020-11-19 08:55:38

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