SEABROOK — Hundreds of long-shot candidates have filed to run for president in the 2020 election. With reasons ranging from fame and notoriety to faith, they can make a political difference.
Seabrook’s Max Abramson believes he can win the Libertarian presidential nomination at the party’s convention in Austin, Texas, next May. The 43-year-old state representative was elected in 2018 as a Republican but switched parties because he disagreed with certain GOP values. He notes he is the only two-term Libertarian legislator among those running for the nomination. He also touts his 31,234 votes in the 2016 New Hampshire gubernatorial race, which guaranteed ballot access for Libertarians in the state’s 2018 elections.
“I think I have the best chance of any of the candidates for winning (the Libertarian nomination),” said Abramson, who said his main platform is to bring troops home and cut the country’s $23 trillion debt.
There are more than 700 people who filed with the Federal Elections Commission as presidential candidates for the 2020 election so far, candidates expected to do so when their contributions or expenditures rise above $5,000. The candidates lacking name recognition, sometimes called “fringe candidates,” come from a wide range of places and political backgrounds. One filed under the name “Chocolate Pancakes.”
University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala compared the long shots to people trying to win the lottery. Some do it just for fun, while others have high hopes.
“Sometimes because they believe, why can’t that happen to me?” said Scala. “It’s basically like they’re living the dream, like someone who buys the lottery ticket.”
The definition of success, he said, is in the eye of the beholder. Abramson, for example, said the goal is not necessarily to win the presidency but to get as many Libertarians as possible elected to seats as legislators across the country.
″‘Whats the measuring stick?’ is a good question,” said Scala.
Abramson’s opponents include one of the most well known fringe candidates – Vermin Supreme, who wears a boot on his head and pushes for tooth-brushing laws, ponies for everyone and zombie apocalypse awareness. He has been a perennial presidential candidate since 2004 and famously held a “pony parade” with live ponies outside a Hillary Clinton book signing in Concord in 2017.
“Do I still stand by my pony pledge? Yes sir, I do,” Supreme clarified. He still plans to wear the boot and maintain the more outrageous aspects of his character, but having previously filed as a Republican and a Democrat, he said his personal values line up with the Libertarian party.
“Put together, I believe that we would be an unstoppable force,” Supreme said of himself and the party.
Abramson and Supreme will not appear on the New Hampshire Primary ballot in 2020, though they would have if the New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate had gained at least 4 percent of the vote in 2018 as Abramson did in 2016. That is New Hampshire’s threshold for party access to the ballot, determined each governor’s race for the following election cycle, according to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
Gardner said there is an ongoing dispute over what people should call the long shot candidates, saying he prefers “the lesser-knowns.” He said a debate has been held every four years at the Saint Anselm College since 1972 over the proper name for the lesser known candidates, the most recently one broadcast on C-SPAN.
Gardner said New Hampshire is unique in its access to its primary ballot. Those whose parties are eligible to appear on it can pay $1,000 to enter the presidential race. He said people filing independently to run for president must acquire and turn in 3,000 nomination papers filled out and signed by supporters.
In other states, he said secretaries of state choose who will appear on the ballot, which he said has led to lawsuits in those states. He said New Hampshire’s primary was passed into law so candidates from all backgrounds could run against those with wealth and name recognition.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Gardner. “Its all about a place that someone can come to without being the most famous or the most wealthy and have a chance.”