May 25, 2024 - Six presidential candidates debate at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington, DC.  EXCLUSIVE: Transcript of the debate.  |  More photos.

Libertarians Select Their 2024 Presidential Ticket

(EMA posted May 26, 2024; updated June 18, 2024)  The Libertarian Party selected activist Chase Oliver, 38, as its 2024 presidential nominee on Sunday evening in the seventh round of votingOliver, who helped force a run-off in the 2022 Georgia special U.S. Senate election, was in second place through the first five rounds of voting, and he finally pulling ahead in the sixth round.  In the seventh round Oliver defeated None of the Above by 497 votes (60.61%) to 300 (36.59%).  If NOTA had won, the party would not have run a presidential candidate this year.  Through the first five rounds former NYU professor and author Michael Rectenwald, 65, had led.  Rectenwald, endorsed by the influential, right-leaning Mises Caucus on May 10 (>), was praised for his bold platform, but had some rough edges, including an uneven performance after former President Trump's speech on Saturday evening.  A key point in the presidential vote occurred when economist and former police officer Mike ter Maat, 62, was eliminated in the fifth round and subsequently announced he had accepted Oliver's invitation to be his running mate. 

Under the theme "Become Ungovernable," the 2024 Libertarian National Convention drew over a thousand libertarians from around the country to the Washington Hilton.  In addition to selecting the party's presidential ticket, the convention attracted an unusual amount of attention due to appearances by Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and former Presidential Donald J. Trump.  The Convention came at a time when party is experiencing considerable internal tension.  More bluntly, as writer Tim Murphy observed in a feature article in the May/June 2024 issue of Mother Jones, the party has endured "more than seven years of spectacularly messy infighting."  At the party's national convention in Reno in 2022, the more right-leaning Mises Caucus took over leadership of the Libertarian National Committee, and their top-down approach has rankled more traditional libertarians.  The Mises bloc votes consistently together ("Mises votes Mises").  One delegate observed that at the same time as the presidential contest was unfolding, "a chess game was being played out behind the scenes" between the Mises and more traditional forces.

Over the past months the presidential candidates built their campaigns primarily by addressing state party conventions around the country; there were as well about 15 primaries.  Looking to the general election, some candidates appeared more likely to broader audience, and some were more hard-core libertarians with dubious electoral prospects; indeed there has long been discussion within the party about candidates' ability to educate voters about libertarianism versus their electability.  Most of the candidates ran low budget campaigns, but Lars Mapstead, 54, a tech entrepreneur from California, invested $1 million in his campaign, and said he would spend a further $1 million on his general election effort. 

To be formally nominated, a candidate had to be a sustaining member of the party and to obtain signatures of 30 delegates.  Although there were other candidates, ten candidates met these criteria and qualified to be nominated; they and their supporters were allotted 16 minutes to address the delegates.  In addition to Oliver, Rectenwald and ter Maat, the candidates were newcomer Charles Ballay, 54, a doctor from Louisiana; Jacob Hornberger, 74, from Texas, founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation who has run twice previously; Mapstead; former Bellflower, California mayor and 2000 vice presidential nominee Art Olivier, 66; podcaster Joshua Smith, 41, from Iowa; and podcaster Toad (Joshua Anderson).   Delegates could also opt for None of the Above (NOTA).

Finally, there was Kennedy.  Kennedy was seen as an interloper and his nomination was the subject of debate; while delegates appreciated his positions on issues such as medical freedom and censorship, most said he was not a libertarian.  There was some drama during the nomination proceedings when LNC chairwoman Angela McArdle, on the stage, pulled out her cell phone and called Kennedy to verify if he were indeed interested in the nomination; Kennedy was not available, but some minutes later he returned the call and spoke with her.  Kennedy subsequently addressed delegates via a short video from California, but he was quickly eliminated in the first round of voting.  An attempt to nominate Trump failed to meet either of the main nominating criteria.

Much of the delegates' time was devoted to tending to more mundane convention business, including selection of officers.  Libertarians being libertarians, there were frequent procedural inquiries of the chair, and not infrequent references to the party's bylaws as well as occasional calls upon Robert's Rules of Order or the parliamentarian.  Delegates also attended ticketed lunches and other events, and kept busy networking and walking through the vendor area.  In the vendor area, groups including party caucuses promoted their organizations and ideas, authors promoted books, and the presidential campaigns had tables, as did several candidates for other offices. 

Kennedy's campaign and the pro-Kennedy American Values super PAC were both represented in the exhibit area, and their tables were well stocked with buttons, stickers, T-shirts, and literature, including copies of Kennedy's book The Real Anthony Fauci.  On Thursday and Friday, American Values handed out 300 squeakable plastic chickens with "Debate Bobby" sharpied on them.  Delegates were supposed to bring the chickens to the Trump event to send the message that Trump is afraid to debate Kennedy, but security did not allow them to be brought in. 
On Friday Kennedy spoke, focusing his remarks on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  He received a polite reception with a number of rounds of applause, but many delegates expressed considerable disdain describing him variously as a "statist," an "eco-socialist," and a "warmed over Democrat."  A delegate noted that Kennedy had not said anything about sound money, which is a central issue for many Libertarians.  On Friday night there was a vice presidential candidate debate; although six candidates submitted the required 30 signatures, participation was inexplicably limited to two, Clint Russell and Larry Sharpe.  Following the debate former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy debated Russell.  Ramaswamy has endorsed Trump, and he made a poorly received pitch that supporting Trump could give Libertarians a seat at the table.  There were a lot of boos.

On Saturday morning six of the presidential candidates debated [transcript].  The LP held a controversial donation-based straw poll to determine who would appear on the debate stage.  Ballay finished atop the field; 52 donors contributed $38,831 followed by Mapstead, 43 donors and $33,102, Oliver 190 and $31,485; Smith 213 and $30,000; and Rectenwald 207 and $25,517.  Hornberger did not participate in what he called a "debate fundraising scheme."  Delegates short-circuited the scheme to an extent.  The top five candidates in the straw poll were supposed to debate, but delegates on Friday voted to add the sixth place finisher, ter Matt.  Hornberger did not get in, however.  The debate produced interesting exchanges on topics including immigration and COVID.  The other major activity during the day on Saturday was the LNC chair vote; despite questions over an apparent decline in fundraising, delegates did re-elect McArdle to a second term.

In his much anticipated appearance on Saturday evening, Trump drew a large crowd of both LP delegates and members and Trump supporters.  After an introduction by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Trump spoke for a bit more than 34 minutes, receiving a boisterous response that included hearty boos from the audience.  Trump appealed for Libertarian support, even stating he would appoint a Libertarian to his Cabinet, but did not appear to win over many or any of the Libertarians in the audience.

Most of Sunday was filled with the presidential nominations and rounds of voting, interspersed with votes for LNC offices.  Additionally, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul delivered a keynote address.  Paul, 88, was the LP presidential nominee in 1988 (obtaining 0.5%), and also sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012. 

Mapstead  |  Olivier  |  ter Maat  |  Toad  |  Kennedy  |  Smith  |  Ballay  |  Oliver  ||  NOTA  |  Rectenwald  |  Hornberger

Major themes expressed throughout the convention included "Taxation is Theft," "End the Fed," strong opposition to the COVID policies of 2020, and "Free Ross."  This refers to Ross Ulbricht, who created the Silk Road e-commerce site, and has been in prison since 2013.
Since their first campaign in 1972, Libertarians have had little impact on presidential races.  In 2020 the Libertarian presidential ticket of Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen tallied 1.9 million votes (1.18%).  The best ever showing by a Libertarian presidential ticket was in 2016, when former Gov. Gary Johnson and former Gov. William Weld garnered 4.5 million votes (3.27%).  A good showing by the LP presidential candidate can help state Libertarian parties avoid having to pursue time-consuming and costly ballot access efforts in the following years. 

Oliver hopes to build on his 50-state primary campaign, targeting 18 to 29 year olds.  "We're going to break them out of the spell of of statism. We're going to wake them up, and we're going to bring millions and millions of people into the tent and say, 'Welcome home to liberty,'" he declared during the debate.  However, pundits expect that Kennedy's independent candidacy will draw the bulk of support from those looking for an alternative to Trump and Biden, and based on past history the Libertarian ticket will likely have a hard time getting above 1-percent of the vote.

See also:
LP LIVESTREAM / C-SPAN: Friday, May 24 
[C-SPAN]  |  Saturday, May 25  [C-SPAN]  Sunday, May 26  [C-SPAN]

LPedia: National Convention 2024

Campaign Literature

Tim Murphy.  "The Spectacular Implosion of the Libertarian Party."  Mother Jones, May/June 2024.

Jacob Hornberger.  "Wrecking the Libertarian Party."  Jacob for Liberty, June 11, 2024.

: Several state affiliates sought to reject Oliver as the presidential nominee.

Opening day.