Dan Feliciano says his chances are “very, very good” at winning next week's Republican gubernatorial primary in Vermont even though he's name isn't on the ballot and even though he's not even a Republican.
Vermont businessman Dan Feliciano announces his write-in campaign in the state's Republican primary Thursday Aug. 7, 2014 in Waterbury, Vt. Feliciano, a Libertarian, says he's running to "create real debate." (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
The Libertarian Party nominee for governor is running as a write-in candidate in the Republican primary on Aug. 26 and has gotten considerable media attention in the state and blow back from the state's Republican establishment.
Though the primary is being held in one of the nation's bluest states, it could be a barometer of libertarian influence in the Republican Party. While Libertarian Party candidates have been spoilers, tilting a campaign to a Democrat in a general election, it's highly unusual that a nominee of any minor party could win the nomination of a major party.
But a surprise is quite possible given the political conditions and a state Republican Party in disarray, said Robert V. Bartlett, chairman of the political science department at the University of Vermont.
“A write-in candidate could win the Republican primary, particularly since there is a strong libertarian wing in the Vermont Republican party,” Bartlett told TheBlaze. “People who vote in the primaries, which typically have low turnout and is happening when a lot of people are on vacation, could be just the highly motivated.”
Feliciano explained several Republicans launched a grassroots effort to get his name on the Republican primary ballots two days before the filing deadline. When they came up about just 120 names short of the necessary 500 to qualify for ballot status, they convinced Feliciano to run as a write-in candidate.
“Many conservatives reached out to me and asked if I would consider a write-in candidacy,” Feliciano told TheBlaze. “I resisted, but so many called me.”
Feleciano is buttressed by the fact that no major Republican stepped up to challenge Democratic Gov. Pete Shumlin. Meanwhile, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Scott Milne, has only called himself “agnostic” about Vermont's single-payer health care system that was adopted in 2011 and is supposed to be fully implemented by 2017.
"My chances are very, very good," Feliciano added about the upcoming primary. "Either way, I'm in it until the general election."
Vermont is an open primary state, which means a voter doesn't have to be registered with a party to vote in that party's primary. Moreover, libertarian Ron Paul finished second place behind Mitt Romney, with 25.5 percent of the vote in the state's 2012 Republican presidential primary, which could demonstrate a significant libertarian presence among Republican voters in the small New England state.
On the other hand, write-in campaigns face significant challenges, the obvious one being that the candidate's name is not in front of the voter. The most significant write-in winner is Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who managed to get reelected in 2010 despite losing a Republican primary.
Bartlett, the political science professor, added, there is near zero chance of any of the Republicans nominee, whoever it is, beating Shumlin in November. Shumlin led Milne by 25 points in a poll last month, which would undermine the typical electability argument for a moderate.
“People are more likely to vote for the libertarian in the primary if they know they can't win in November anyway,” Bartlett added. “We are next door to New Hampshire, so there is a decent amount of libertarian cross fertilization.”
Feliciano is a business consultant with a firm of Strategy & Change, which has consulted major insurance firms such as Cigna, Aetna, GE Healthcare, as well as the U.S. military. He said working with major companies has helped him understand why the single-payer system will not work.
“This campaign is tightly focused and unwavering about stopping the the single payer health care system,” Feliciano said. “If the single payer is system is fully implemented, it could have national implications. You can make anything look successful for two years if its propped up by federal health care credits.”
He wants to stop the single payer system before it's fully implemented, saying the projected costs could more than double the state's revenue.
“This could be a crippling event,” he said. [sharequote align="right"]“This could be a crippling event."[/sharequote]
“Libertarians are really fiscally conservative and the most socially inclusive party,” Feliciano said. “I have a lot of Democratic supporters who want to gag over the single-payer system because they know how costly it will be. I'm the best hope for stopping this.”
When Republicans were winning across the country in 2010 by running against Obamacare, Shumlin won the governor's seat in Vermont promising a single-payer universal health care system. With a two-thirds Democratic majority in the state legislature, the plan was enacted in 2011 with gradual implementation to be completed by 2017.
In an interview with the Vermont weekly newspaper “Seven Days,” Milne said he is “agnostic” about the single payer plan, and could implemented if it works. However, he criticized Shumlin for not being more transparent about the potential costs.
Other candidates in the Republican primary are Emily Peyton and Steve Berry. Feliciano will be competing with both Tuesday night in a debate. Milne has reportedly declined to debate.
Vermont Public Radio reported that Republicans launched attacks against him over the Libertarian Party's position on drugs. Feliciano has said he does not support outright legalization, but does support decriminalizing.
“Republicans are irked by the fact that I stepped into their primary,” he said. “They've said that Dan stands for extreme things which have backfired on them because those things can't be done legislatively.”
But he said fellow Libertarians also have concerns, which he understands. But he believes he believes stopping the single-payer system must take priority.
“Libertarians want to maintain a separate identity,” Felician said. “My party is very concerned about confusing the message. But I think we have to put the state above all that.”
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