INDIANAPOLIS — Inside the Indiana Libertarian Party headquarters in downtown Indianapolis is a hardy band of volunteers who don’t see losing a political race quite the same way other people do.
They say the fact that there are 21 Libertarian candidates on the Indiana ballot – including candidates running for U.S. Congress, the Indiana General Assembly, governor and president – is in itself a victory.
The Libertarian Party is the only “minor” party that has guaranteed access to the Indiana ballot. It earned that access by meeting the state’s tough ballot-access laws, which requires a political party to earn at least 2 percent of the votes cast for secretary of state. Libertarians first gained automatic ballot access in 1994 and have hit their mark every four years since.
Still, it’s a struggle to compete as a third party in a system that favors the two big parties. As of the last fundraising tallies, which accounted for money raised through the end of June, the campaigns of Indiana’s Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates had raised a combined $14 million. The campaign of Libertarian candidate Rupert Boneham raised a tiny fraction of that, about $50,000.
That’s why Boneham’s campaign manager, Evan McMahon, works without a paycheck, surrounded by volunteers who believe in their cause as much – if not more – than their candidates.
“We’re trying to build a party. It’s hard, and it takes a lot of time,” said Chris Spangle, the executive director of the Indiana Libertarian Party – and its only paid staff member.
Spangle has spent time on the road with Boneham – the state party’s most visible candidate, thanks to his celebrity status as a three-time cast member on the “Survivor” reality-TV series. But it’s Boneham who’s often behind the wheel of the campaign’s loaned RV, driving himself and a couple of the campaign’s volunteer staff around the state. They forgo hotel rooms on overnight trips and sleep in the RV’s fold-out beds.