Voters in 8th Congressional District have third-party choices

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Nov. 4, voters in the Eighth Congressional District will have four choices on the ballot. Along with incumbent U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson on the Republican ticket and attorney Joe Allen on the Democratic slate, the Libertarian Party again has nominated a candidate and the Constitution Party is making its second appearance.

If Branden McCullough, the Cape Girardeau native running as a Libertarian, or Richard Smith, the Mansfield, Mo., truck driver carrying the Constitution Party banner, were to win, it would represent their party's best showing ever in a Congressional race. And while each said that is their ultimate goal, they are also realistic about their chances and use other measures, such as raising awareness that they offer alternatives, to gauge success.

"For my campaign, success is alerting people to the hypocrisy in politics," Smith said. "The Constitution Party needs 2 percent to maintain ballot access, but the object should not just be to maintain ballot access, it should be to win."

And McCullough said he wants voters to know there is a party dedicated to protecting all the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. "If you like freedom, less taxes and less government, the Libertarian Party is the party for you."

Both minor parties present themselves as proponents of small government, low taxes and adherence to the constitution. But the Constitution Party also strongly advocates socially conservative views grounded in Christian values. The Libertarian Party platform is the opposite on most social issues, arguing that people should have maximum freedom to choose their lifestyle without government interference.

"The difference between the Constitution Party and the Republican Party, to the best of my understanding from members of the party and candidates, is that they do not compromise their integrity or political positions," Smith said.

Emerson likes to be portrayed as a moderate, he said, but her support for farm programs that provide big payments to farmers shows she is unwilling to buck big donors to keep spending under control. "There is too much money coming in the form of subsidies and corporate welfare," Smith said. "People need to be independent and stop relying on government."

McCullough said he doesn't agree with all of the planks of the Libertarian platform, especially on abortion. He said he is pro-life, an issue that is the source of a split in the party. He also said he's reluctant to go all the way on another issue -- drug legalization. He supports decriminalizing marijuana, but draws the line at harder drugs.

But he's enthusiastic about the basic principle of the party, which is personal freedom. "I want to raise awareness among the people of Southeast Missouri that what we need are constitutional conservatives who want limited government and don't just say they do."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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