The Libertarian Party of Kentucky is gathering in Bowling Green this weekend for its annual convention.
Last year, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson received less than one percent of the vote in Kentucky and the party has no officeholders at the state or federal level.
But the party has seen a 30 percent increase in registration over the past nine months, and recently opened up new chapters in Boone and Campbell county.
Ken Moellman is a former libertarian candidate for state treasurer and is chairing the convention. He says reaching local voters is becoming equally important to the party, and more candidates will be running for those offices in the coming years.
“When I ran for state treasurer in 2011, I was able to fundraise and spent $17,000. Now in a statewide race, that didn’t go very far. But if I was running for county magistrate or city council or even a state House race that would have went a lot farther and a much better use of the money,” he says.
Libertarians are also focusing more of their attention on western Kentucky, with efforts in the First and Second Congressional Districts.
The hurdles for third parties in Kentucky are relatively high, says Moellman. By state law, candidates are required to get 5,000 signatures to run for statewide office but just 100 for county offices. And until their presidential nominee gets at least 20 percent of the vote a third party is not a recognized political group.
Libertarian leaders says they encouraged by the success of the Tea Party. However, unlike most third party movements in years past Tea Party candidates have succeeded by running as Republicans in the GOP primary system.
Moellman says he doesn’t agree with mimicking that strategy, adding voters want an alternative to the two-party system at the ballot box.
“We’re in a time where there is a lot of political change. I think more and more people are realizing that what’s been happening is not working, and people are looking for answers,” says Moellman. “And while certainly the Tea Party has enjoyed a great rise in the past few years, we have not suffered either.”
The convention is scheduled for Saturday morning in Bowling Green at the Ramada Inn on Scottsville Road. Registration costs $50.