ATLANTA (AP) — Libertarian candidates running for U.S. Senate and governor qualified Tuesday for the November ballot with the hope that their message of small government and fiscal restraint will resonate with Georgia voters.
Amanda Swafford, a paralegal and former Flowery Branch councilwoman, will compete against Democrat Michelle Nunn and either Republican Rep. Jack Kingston or former Dollar General CEO David Perdue for Georgia's open Senate seat. Kingston and Perdue meet in a GOP runoff on July 22.
Andrew Hunt, the former CEO of an Atlanta nanotechnology firm, will challenge Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Democrat Jason Carter.
While the Libertarian Party in Georgia has only about 1,000 active members, their candidates running statewide have consistently drawn about 3 percent to 4 percent of the vote. If it turns out to be a close election year, those votes could play a major role in the outcome of the state's top races. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters would be forced into a costly runoff.
That said, both Swafford and Hunt said in interviews they are running to win and will be focusing on wooing voters who haven't cast ballots in recent years out of frustration and antipathy toward the two major parties.
"Our whole plan is to educate the people that there is a third choice," said Hunt, 53. "We need a smaller, more cost-effective government that ensures the liberty that is granted to us in our Constitution."
Hunt, who supports public charter schools, said he wants to improve education without increasing spending and opposes any federal involvement in education. He also wants to eliminate employment penalty taxes and get rid of no-knock warrants. On Medicaid expansion, Hunt said he would take the federal money but design a more effective program that would provide better services for less and implement measures aimed at bringing medical costs down.
Swafford, 37, said she was initially involved in Republican politics growing up in Hall County but moved to the Libertarian Party out of frustration with the GOP on the national and local level. She ran as a Libertarian and won a special election for a seat on the Flowery Branch City Council in 2010. She later lost a bid for re-election.
"It's time we get serious about electing a candidate for United States Senate that understands, finally, the power and responsibility of the individual instead of the power and responsibility of the federal government," Swafford said.
Her primary economic issues center on implementing the fair tax, reducing spending and eliminating the estate tax.
In the 2010 election, the Libertarian candidate for governor received 4 percent of the total vote and the Senate candidate garnered about 3 percent. In 2008, John Monds received over 1 million votes in the general election running as a Libertarian for the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state.
Both Swafford and Hunt were nominated at the party's convention in March.
Also qualifying Tuesday were Ted Metz, a 56-year-old independent insurance agent from Mableton, who is running for state insurance commissioner, and Aaron Gilmer, a 37-year-old auditor from Dawsonville, who is seeking to represent District 4 on the Public Service Commission.