Legislative candidate David Merrick has two bases covered going into the June 4 primary election. Merrick, a Corvallis resident, is running for House District 60 as both a Republican and Libertarian. With one Republican challenger and no other Libertarians on the ballot, Merrick is a shoe-in for the general election in November.
A former ’60s era Young Republican, Merrick was also instrumental in forming the Libertarian Party in California.
Merrick doesn’t think he’ll confuse the voters with conflicting political messages this election year. Republicans and Libertarians aren’t too far apart on the issues, he says. Both oppose abortion. Both are strong Second Amendment advocates who believe in constitutional guarantees. Libertarians oppose the decades-long war on drugs because it has cost the taxpayers billions of dollars and still hasn’t accomplished much. “I think rather than wage a war against individuals and property we might want to consider legalizing drugs,” he says. Even Republicans are beginning to come around to the Libertarian way of thinking on the drug issue, he says. Where Libertarians depart from the Republican Party line is probably on issues of morality. “Sometimes Republicans like to legislate lifestyles,” he says. Libertarians, on the other hand, believe in individual privacy. Libertarians also disagree with government involvement in business. That means no congressional bailouts for failing businesses and no corporate welfare.
If Merrick defeats Republican candidate Bob Lake in the primary, Merrick’s name will appear on the November ballot as a Republican. If Lake defeats him, Merrick will still be on the November ballot as a Libertarian. “I’m a shoe-in for the general election,” he says.
Though it may come as a surprise to most Montana voters, running for one seat as a member of two parties is still legal. Or, to put it another way, it’s not illegal. Merrick says the Montana Secretary of State searched the law books on his behalf before he filed and found no legal discrepancies that would prevent him from doing so.
Shannon Stevens of the Secretary of State’s office, says her office tried to convince the 2001 Legislature to pass a law making dual party affiliations illegal in an election, but without success. “You should only be able to run on one party,” she says.
Undaunted, the Secretary of State plans to try again to change the law in the 2003 session. Merrick’s name will appear only on the Republican ballot in June because the Libertarian Party did not field enough candidates in any race statewide to merit its own ballot line.