2016 presidential elections led to surge in Libertarian voters

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FARMINGTON — For the first time in nearly a decade, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has a San Juan County chapter.

The chapter was organized earlier this month and will meet weekly. Meeting information will be posted on its Facebook page.

"We're trying to create some growth," chapter chairwoman Ranota Banks said. "We experienced quite a bit during the Johnson-Weld campaign."

The Libertarian Party has traditionally been the largest of the third parties in the state. Elizabeth Hanes, the chairwoman of the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, said the western ethos of working hard and minding your own business contributes to the success of the Libertarian Party in New Mexico.

"That's very much what Libertarianism is about," she said.

Hanes said the Libertarian Party hopes to run about half a dozen candidates in state and federal races in 2018. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign in 2016 led to an increase in registered Libertarian voters.

Johnson received about 9 percent of the votes in New Mexico, or more than 74,000 votes. The number of registered voters and the percentage who voted for Johnson qualified the party to hold primary elections during 2018. There are approximately 6,000 Libertarians registered to vote statewide. Hanes said there are about 400 registered Libertarians in San Juan County.

"This past general election, we had a lot of people switch their affiliation to the Libertarian Party," Banks said.

Hanes said some Republicans identify with the Libertarian stance regarding smaller government. She said the party also aligns with Democratic views on social issues and civil rights, such as same-sex marriage.

Drew Degner, chairman of San Juan County's Republican Party, said there may be some voters who switch affiliation because of the similar stance on smaller government. He said he has seen frustration on both sides nationwide. 

Degner said he wishes the Libertarians luck in their endeavor.

"If it is able to gain traction, it might be a good thing for everybody," Degner said.

While the Libertarian Party supports social issues and civil rights, it does not believe in government-funded charities, such as Planned Parenthood.

"We believe that personal giving is preferable to government giving," Hanes said.

She said the Libertarian Party believes in slashing taxes, which would give people more money to donate to charitable organizations.

While San Juan County Democratic Party chairwoman MP Schildmeyer said she wishes the Libertarian Party well, she said she does not agree with the party's stance regarding cutting back Social Security.

"To me, the Libertarian Party is a dangerous party," she said.

Banks said while the party does not believe in forced charity, it does believe in "people taking care of people."

Banks said twice a month the San Juan County chapter will have picnics or trash cleanups.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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