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Kansas Citian among candidates for Libertarian presidential nod

Austin Petersen (photo courtesy austinpetersen2016.com)
Austin Petersen (photo courtesy austinpetersen2016.com)

Three major Libertarian presidential candidates will appear in a forum Friday night on the Fox Business Network, an exchange being billed as a rare opportunity for voters to hear from the highly-limited-government party.

Among the participants: Austin Petersen, who lives in midtown Kansas City.

Petersen is not the favorite in the Libertarian race. That would be Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. But Petersen did win the party’s Missouri primary on March 15, and he’s well known in libertarian circles.

At the same time, Petersen’s Missouri victory is emblematic of the Libertarian Party’s problem at the presidential level.

There were 1.56 million votes cast in the Missouri primaries — but only 2,898 for Libertarian candidates. Of those, Petersen got 851 votes. The state’s leading vote-getter was Donald Trump, who captured 382,093 ballots in the Republican primary.

In a telephone interview, Petersen discussed the lack of support for Libertarian candidates.

“The two major parties are going to do everything they can to crowd out competition,” he said. “But also, while I do think the Libertarian message itself is powerful, it isn’t being marketed powerfully.”

The candidate said some Libertarian candidates may lack the political skill necessary to reach a large number of voters.

“It requires a keen intellect to arrive at a position that is neither left or right,” he said. “The problem with people who have keen intellects is sometimes they’re socially unskilled. Politics is a social skill.”

Petersen owns a company involved in video and still photography production, according to his website, and has a media presence as a writer and pundit. He’s also involved with a website called The Libertarian Republic.

His campaign hasn’t raised a lot of money. At year’s end, FEC filing show, the campaign had collected $6,655, and spent $1,604.

While Petersen is a part of Friday’s Libertarian forum, there are important factions within the party — a fact the discussion is expected to illustrate. The party will pick its presidential nominee in late May.

Johnson is the favorite, although he didn’t compete in the Missouri primary. Although Petersen won, he got fewer votes than “uncommitted” — further evidence, perhaps, of splits within the party itself.

Petersen said he had “arcane” differences “with the anarchist wing of the party.”

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