In an exclusive interview with TheBlaze, former Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen says he's confident that his switch to the Republican Party will result in a new Missouri Senate seat going from blue to red, and another liberty Republican in the Senate. (Getty Images)
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Austin Petersen, the runner-up for Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 2016, has announced that he is leaving the Libertarian Party to run as a Republican for a seat in the Missouri Senate.
According to Reason, Petersen released a statement detailing why he decided to leave the Libertarian Party and run as a Republican, saying that over the past weeks he had consulted with supporters about the best way to run for the seat currently held by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
"Of the thousands of people I spoke to, all encouraged a run, hundreds donated, and the vast majority offered their opinion regarding which party I should align with," Petersen wrote. "Over 98 percent of them, including registered Libertarians, independents, Republicans, and even Democrats, said to run GOP."
Despite his switch to the Republican party, Petersen told TheBlaze that he will not be deviating from the platform he ran on during the 2016 elections.
"I will 100 percent remain true to the same principles I've always had no matter the party," Petersen told TheBlaze.
Moreover, Petersen believes that Missouri residents are ready for the seat to flip from blue to red, even though McCaskill has held the seat for over a decade.
"I'm very confident that Missouri would happily trade a liberty Republican for Claire McCaskill," Petersen told TheBlaze. "Not only are the polls not in her favor, but if you look at the Roy Blunt returns compared to the Trump votes on the same ballot, it's clear that Missouri voters want change."
During the 2016 elections, Republican candidate Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) beat out an unexpectedly strong showing by Democratic challenger Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander for Missouri's other Senate seat, winning by just under 100,000 votes.
Furthermore, Petersen said public support has never been greater, even after his announcement that he was switching parties.
"The news of my party switch has been overwhelmingly positive. People think that a liberty Republican is actually very good for the brand because, unlike the Democrats, Republicans appear to pride themselves on some level of intellectual diversity," Petersen told TheBlaze. "At least, that's been my experience thus far meeting with GOPers here in my home state."
Asked if there had been any fallout from his switch, Petersen said those disappointed wished him well regardless.
"The small minority of those dissatisfied have either meekly wish me well and expressed hope I might return, and the rest wouldn't have supported me even if I had run as a Libertarian so I couldn't give two figs for their opinions anyway," Peterson told TheBlaze.
Petersen said that should he win, he'll hopefully be learning from and supporting the agendas of other liberty Republicans, such as Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, in order to be the best representative he can be.
"The first year will be spent learning the rules of the Senate and proper decorum so I can conduct myself appropriately and professionally in order to be a good representative for the citizens of my state," Petersen told TheBlaze about his hopes for first year in office. "I would deeply appreciate being able to spend time helping to advance the agendas of Sens. Lee, Cruz, and Paul, so that I can learn from them and build positive relationships that will allow us to achieve common goals.
"I think it's important to show proper humility as a servant of the people, and my first year will be spent ensuring that I can best accomplish enacting my policy goals as I look toward the future years," he added.
Petersen told TheBlaze that should he win he doesn't foresee any major problems developing between himself and President Donald Trump. In the past, liberty Republicans have stood opposed to the GOP's agenda at key moments, including the recent GOP Obamacare replacement bill, which liberty-minded Republicans like Paul, Cruz, and Lee opposed, and ultimately delayed.
"I can imagine I might actually get along well with the president on a personal level despite some policy disagreements here and there," Petersen said to TheBlaze about his potential relationship with Trump. "We're both big media buffs, and have a flair for the dramatic. I like his sense of humor to be honest.
"He seems like the type of person who'd appreciate someone like myself who doesn't back down to bullies, and is willing to say what he believes even if it's not politically correct," he added. "I can't say for certain if that will be the case, but I have some hope. I have to, since I'll need to work with him when I take office in 2019."
Petersen's decision may come as welcome news to many Missouri residents, as the top GOP Senate recruit to run against McCaskill, Republican Rep. Ann Wagner, announced her decision not to run against the Democrat in 2018 on Monday.
With Petersen's inclusion, and high support from both Republicans and Libertarians, those on the right may once again have a candidate to pull the lever for.
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