By Joe Kaiser -
Chad Grimm needed 1,500 signatures to run for state legislature in 2012, so he turned in roughly 2,000. But running as a Libertarian in the 92nd assembly district, he was still thrown off the ballot on what he called a “technicality” and Democrat Jehan Gordon-Booth won reelection unopposed.
“That’s when I really started taking this seriously,” Grimm (photo above) told Illinois Review. “(Ballot access) is a problem. It’s extremely upsetting that Illinois voters are being used for people’s political gains and people’s political careers.”
This summer, Grimm, now running for governor, and other Libertarians faced another fierce ballot access hurdle from Republicans, but the circumstances have changed since Libertarians won that battle Aug. 23. Libertarians need 5 percent of the vote in their statewide races for easier ballot access in 2016, and Grimm is polling anywhere between 4-7 points in the tight race between Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Fellow Libertarian Julie Fox is registering as high as 8 percent in her third run for comptroller, and with Libertarians on the ballot for every statewide office, Republicans are showing some signs of concern.
A mailer sent out last week by the Illinois Republican Party with the headline “REPUBLICAN VOTER ALERT!” issued a warning to hard Rs that “Pat Quinn and Mike Madigan are using Chad Grimm to steal the election.”
Grimm and Libertarians reject this claim and point out that these tactics from the GOP show a sense of desperation.
“I’m not going to lie – (the attacks are) flattering,” Grimm said. “I can’t remember the last time a third party has been attacked so much.”
Part of Grimm's appeal to the right is his pro-life view on abortion, which contrasts with Rauner's pro-choice stance. A mailer from Liberty for Illinois – which is not associated with Grimm – touted his pro-life views and dubbed him as the "only conservative" running in the governor's race.
And that is exactly why Republicans are worried and sending mailers equating a vote for Grimm with a vote for Quinn.
But Grimm is quick to note that he is also pulling from the left, largely due to his desire to end the war on drugs. Still, Republicans are the ones showing more anxiety about Tuesday turning "grimm."
Fox, who ran for comptroller in 2002 and 2010, added that the Republican push shows fear.
“I think (the Republicans) are really nervous,” Fox said. “They’re really, really nervous. There are postcards coming out right now that are attacking us, telling Republicans not to vote for minor party candidates.”
“They’re usually not that worried about us,” she continued. “I’ve never seen these kinds of attacks before. From the (ballot) challenge to the mailings, it says to me that they’re really nervous. Instead of representing voters better, what do they do? They squash the competition.”
Fox hopes this run is more individually successful for her than the last two. In 2002, her campaign was not extremely active and she ran rather to fill the party’s seat. She still grabbed 4.2 percent of the vote and made another push at comptroller in 2010 when Democrat Dan Hynes vacated the seat to unsuccessfully run for governor.
She only grabbed 3.3 percent of the vote in the second run, but her confidence is growing for 2014 – both because she has faith in her own credentials (she is the only certified public accountant running) and also because she recognizes indifference toward incumbent Republican Judy Baar Topinka.
Fox is receiving support from what she calls “non-establishment conservatives,” including endorsements from Former Rep. Joe Walsh and Jim Tobin from Taxpayers United of America.
“We are getting a lot of the more conservative vote based on my background and not a lot of conservatives are big on Judy Baar Topinka,” Fox said. “My personal view is that we aren’t seeing her push for real fiscal change in the state. The conservatives that I talk to they want this tax increase to subset. Judy Baar Topinka’s comments are that if the subset the state is going to have a heart attack.”
Fox even said that the push this summer from the GOP against Libertarian ballot access may have ultimately strengthened support for the third party.
“We’ve gotten converts from the Republican Party just because of what the Republican Party did (this summer),” she said. “There are people that said ‘that is the final straw I’m going over to the libertarians.’ There is a certain victory where you see the mood of the people as you see people get disgusted with the political process, which this is a good period to get disgusted with, I'd say. And it will draw more people to us.”
And the Libertarian Party only needs to draw enough for 5 percent of the vote to claim a significant victory. The goal is still to win, but Grimm, Fox and the rest of the party's candidates are realisitic about that and aiming for that 5 percent.
"I believe that 5 percent or more would be a victory for the state of Illinois," Grimm said. "Not so much for me because if I don’t win on election night, I hang my hat up and go back to other endeavors and do my own thing so ultimately it's not what I would like, but for the voters and the people of Illinois, 5 percent is huge."
Polling as high as 7 percent, Grimm certainly has a chance to get there, though he said he is "not counting his chickens yet." The RealClearPolitics polling average for the Illinois gubernatorial race has Quinn leading Rauner 45-44.7 percent. Those low numbers could be a good sign for Grimm, but they also leave Quinn and Rauner the chance to grab what's left of the undecided voters.
In the event that Quinn wins a close election, the Libertarian candidates are aware that they could receive criticism from partisans on the right. It's frustrating, Fox acknowledges, but she said she is more upset with the idea that voters would be throwing their votes away or that libertarians are "stealing" votes.
"We’re not taking anything," Fox said. "They’ve lost (the votes) either because they're not doing what they should be doing or the message they're sending is not what people want to hear."
Joe Kaiser has reported for Illinois Review since 2012. He's currently Executive Editor of Marquette Wire. Previously, Joe was News Editor of The Marquette Tribune. He's also worked for RightWisconsin, and Glenn Beck's The Blaze.