JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — None of its candidates won, but the Constitution Party is celebrating success in Missouri.
Constitution Party treasurer candidate Rodney Farthing got 2.4 percent of the vote in last week's election. That's a large enough proportion to ensure the party a spot on Missouri's 2010 and 2012 ballots. The party also will remain ballot qualified in 19 other states.
Chuck Baldwin, a conservative Florida minister, was the Constitution Party's presidential nominee, and was on the ballot in 37 states. Baldwin wants to end the federal income tax and stop U.S. military intervention, among other issues.
According to Constitution Party National Chairman James N. Clymer, Baldwin and his running mate Darrell Castle wound up with close to 179,000 votes nationwide. That's a 24 percent increase over the party's vote total in 2004.
Clymer noted that the party was not on the ballot in California or Pennsylvania, and in 2004 those states accounted for 33,000 votes. The Baldwin-Castle ticket even grabbed 3,418 write-in votes in Texas, the highest for any write-in candidate in that state.
In Missouri, the Constitution Party's accomplishment may have come at the expense of the Libertarian Party, the state's most established party after the Democrats and Republicans.
The Libertarian Party failed to reach the 2 percent threshold for any of its statewide candidates in the Nov. 4 election — a first since it appeared on Missouri's ballot in 1992, said Libertarian Party Executive Director Greg Tlapek.
Under Missouri law, a political party loses its reserved ballot spot if it fails to get at least 2 percent or to put forth a statewide candidate in two consecutive elections. That means 2010 will be a make-or-break year for Libertarians.
Tlapek said he wasn't sure what went wrong for Libertarians this year. But he noted two possibilities.
"I think that the presidential campaign kind of got people whipped up into a frenzy and feeling very partisan and unwilling to consider other options for fear of the party they didn't like winning," Tlapek said.
Also, the Libertarian and Constitution parties appeared to split the third-party vote in races where they both had candidates. More than 2 percent of the total vote went to third-party candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, but the Libertarian and Constitution party candidates got less than 2 percent each.
In the treasurer's race, the Libertarian Party did not field a candidate, leaving the Constitution Party candidate to receive all votes that weren't for Republican or Democratic candidates.
"We knew that we weren't going to win any seats," said Donna Ivanovich, the Missouri Constitution Party chairwoman. "The goal was to gain our 2 percent so that we would buy some more time basically to educate the people about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and get them used to our name and field more candidates in the next election."
Now that it's won ballot status, the Constitution Party's goal is to build a broader organization, specifically, to establish local party leaders in each of Missouri's 114 counties and the city of St. Louis by the 2010 election, Ivanovich said.