Libertarian Party sees resurgence as number of congressional candidates jumps by 35 percent over 2008

Robert Nowotny started out as a frustrated voter.

“Occasionally I would be voting for more Republicans than Democrats. Other times it would be the other way around,” Nowotny said. “It just seems like everywhere I look — federal, state and local — things are getting screwed up by government.”

Fed up with the status quo, Nowotny declared his candidacy. Come November, he hopes to be the first member of the Texas House of Representatives elected as a Libertarian.

“I decided, rather than just bitch and moan and complain, I decided to jump in,” Nowotny said.

It’s becoming a more familiar story: Voters, frustrated by the anti-incumbent malaise sweeping the political landscape, turn on incumbents and put their weight behind underdogs. Although good management and fundraising certainly play a role in party growth, today’s zeitgeist could help make a Libertarian boom out of the two-party bust.

For the 2010 election, 171 candidates for U.S. Congress are running with an “L” beside their names, up from 127 in 2008 and 114 in 2006. At all levels of public office, the party counts 716 candidates running as Libertarians this year, compared to 593 in 2008, and 596 in 2006.

Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, said that some of these declared candidates might not meet the requirements to be placed on the ballot. The party will add new candidates up until the election, though, and he thinks the final candidate number could remain above 700.

By no stretch of the imagination does that make the party a powerhouse. It is dwarfed by the Democrats’ and Republicans’ political machines, has never won a seat in the U.S. Congress, and doesn’t have the donor base to offer its candidates much financial support. (“I’m having to generate, pretty much, my own campaign, my own financing,” Nowotny said.)