Eric Olson, the Libertarian candidate for North Dakotaâ€™s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has lived in Fargo for most of his life. He studied business administration and computer networking at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Northwest Tech. He runs XPI L.L.C., an inventory business that serves convenience stores, and also works for IMS, an internet retailer that sells military surplus equipment.
Thereâ€™s been a lot of candidates going after that House seat, how do you think youâ€™ll fare this year?
EO: Itâ€™s been whittled down to some degree. Kalk has a fairly solid campaign at this point. I expected more from Gulleson but havenâ€™t really seen it yet. Iâ€™m thinking it will probably change quite a bit after the primary is over.
I expect to do pretty well in this. We know thereâ€™s a very significant portion of the population thatâ€™s not satisfied with either of the major parties. The poll results consistently show independents becoming a majority, pretty much across the board. My biggest challenge is simply name recognition. Getting the general population to now who I am and why Iâ€™m running, to understand what Libertarian means, to understand that there is a party and weâ€™re on the ballot and basically what we stand for. I think the concepts are what most people already either believe in or have some leaning towards, thereâ€™s just a lack of knowledge. Weâ€™re certainly helped a lot by Ron Paulâ€™s campaign and Gary Johnson jumping into the race as an LB candidate.
Does the party struggle with funding?
EO: Aside from my business cards, I havenâ€™t invested a lot in the race at this point, or done any active fundraising. I have received a number of donations that have just been volunteered to me from friends, family and supporters that have found me either through the media, debates or Facebook. So I havenâ€™t invested in signs or any sort of advertising outside of a little bit on Facebook.
How much participation does the Libertarian party get in debates?
EO: I have been in all three debates we were invited to. The first one was myself and five Republicans and the next one was myself and six Republicans. The Bismarck one got a fair amount of press, Fargoâ€™s seemed to be entirely ignored for some reason.
So what issues are your campaigns focused on?
EO: Spending is a big one. I see the debt issues being pretty much mirrored here. Weâ€™re doing the same things that countries in other parts of the world are having failing economies as a result of: inflating our currency, over spending, weâ€™re over 100 percent of the GDP in debt. Reigning in the spending for unnecessary things, bailouts of private industry, is a huge piece of my platform.
As far as social issues, one that is coming up is a ballot initiative for medical marijuana in North Dakota, which I am a proponent of. I will be working on that initiative in my campaign.
I feel that both of our major parties promote essentially the same platform on a number of major issues. They both spend our money excessively. They both ignore civil liberties. They both continue to perpetuate the drug war. Even after claiming that they work on the other side of those issues they turn around and do exactly the same thing.
Libertarians face election hurdles
Two Libertarian candidates on the ballot for the primary election on Tuesday say state election laws create an uphill battle for third party candidates.
Public Service Commission candidate Joshua Voytek and U.S. House of Representatives candidate Eric Olson are running unopposed on the Libertarianâ€™s primary ticket, along side fellow Lib Richard Riemers, who is running for Governor.
They each need 300 votes statewide to get on the general election in November. However, in the primary election, voters are only able to vote for one party, and the Republicans, who commonly lose votes to the Libertarians, are running two contested races on Tuesdayâ€™s ballot.
â€śThe problem with the primary is that we donâ€™t have voter registration in North Dakota, you can only vote for one column,â€ť Voytek said. â€śSo, for example, if someone wants to vote in another race in the Republican column - and the Republican column is the only one thatâ€™s running opposed - they canâ€™t vote for just one race in the Republican column and one race in the Libertarian column because it nullifies their vote. They have to vote just for one column. People invested in a particular partyâ€™s vote that might normally have voted for us in the general election, where they could pick and choose candidates, in the party column they have to pick from all of the above or none of the above.â€ť
Voytek said the partyâ€™s concentration on getting their word out to the public has taken up a considerable amount of effort, while at the same time the major partyâ€™s have been focused on fundraising.
â€ś A lot of our orientation now is just those votes for the primary ballot, because if we donâ€™t get that, obviously we wonâ€™t go to the general election. We havenâ€™t been as strong on fundraising, just trying to basically collect signatures earlier this year and collecting those votes for the ballot. We will probably orientate ourselves toward fundraising more following the primary, provided we get on the ballot,â€ť Voytek said.
Olson called the restriction of a voterâ€™s freedom to vote for more than one party â€śa measure to keep third party candidates off the ballot,â€ť as they struggle gather the 300 votes needed to run in the general election.
â€śItâ€™s something the major parties donâ€™t really have to compete for because they always have turnout thatâ€™s significantly over the minimum, but third parties have to fight for it,â€ť Olson said.
â€śThatâ€™s by far the biggest roadblock to third parties, especially with the smaller races that are limited to a specific district, which is part of the reason why Iâ€™m running a statewide race.â€ť