INTERVIEW: 1-on-1 with Chase Oliver, 2024 Libertarian presidential nominee and a Georgia resident

"There is a route for voters in November to turn the tables on the two-party system."

Attendees of the Libertarian Party National Convention at the end of May selected Georgia resident Chase Oliver to be the party’s 2024 presidential nominee. Oliver, 38, was the last nominee standing at a hectic (and at times turbulent) Libertarian National Convention held over the weekend of May 24-26. His win at the convention was anything but expected.

Oliver was born in Nashville, Tennessee and now lives just outside of Atlanta, in Snellville, Georgia. The nominee for President recently spoke with Connect Savannah about his campaign, his background, his answer to a popular sentiment of third-party voting being “a waste,” and what Georgia voters have at stake come Election Day on November 5.

A third-party candidate’s chances are never great in the current two-party system, but irritated voters searching for options other than the polarizing frontrunners—former President Donald Trump (Republican) and incumbent President Joe Biden (Democrat)—should turn to Oliver, he says.

“I think if you're voting for someone who you don't truly believe is your best choice, that's the only ‘wasted vote,’ because you're compromising your values. I believe that there should be many choices on the ballot, because right now we have 40 percent of registered voters—for any given election year—who don't vote at all. They deserve to have choices on the ballot that represent them,” Oliver told Connect Savannah.

“I don't believe we're taking votes away from anyone. Nobody’s vote is owned by anyone except for the individual voter. They should pick for themselves, but it's up to them to make that determination. It’ll be up to the voters; who do they believe best aligns with their individual values? There is a route for voters in November to turn the tables on the two-party system.”

The country’s third largest political party gets its nominee through a series of voting rounds for delegates at the national convention. After each round, candidates are eliminated from the bottom of the ballot. Oliver was never a frontrunner; he was not the leading vote-getter following any of the first five voting rounds. Following the sixth round of voting, Oliver (49.5 percent) took a lead over Michael Rectenwald (44.8 percent) with five percent of the delegates casting votes for NOTA (None of the Above). Mike Ter Maat is his running mate as Vice President.

INTERVIEW: 1-on-1 with Chase Oliver, 2024 Libertarian presidential nominee and a Georgia resident
[CHASE OLIVER FOR PRESIDENT]
In the end, Oliver won with 497 votes (60.61 percent), but 300 votes (36.59 percent) were still cast for NOTA, signaling a split within the party when it comes to supporting Oliver’s candidacy. In Georgia, Oliver says the November election will have far-reaching implications.

“We have to hit a certain threshold for this race, because if we do not, we lose our statewide ballot access as a party,” he said. “So I urge every libertarian, even if you disagree with me on an issue or two, this is the time for us to unite together to preserve the ballot in Georgia. It's vitally important that you have your voice and your vote heard. And it is dependent upon you to make that happen this November.”

click to enlarge INTERVIEW: 1-on-1 with Chase Oliver, 2024 Libertarian presidential nominee and a Georgia resident
[JOE DEHN]
Oliver with media at the Libertarian National Convention

The weekend received national attention, thanks in part to speeches made by Trump and Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The latter seems to be Oliver’s biggest challenger for voters looking to stay away from either major party candidate. Oliver was asked about the difference between a vote cast for RFK Jr. and a vote cast for him.

“Unlike with RFK Jr., who is a ‘one time candidate,’ when you vote still within a party structure, it creates a foundation for growth and building that spreads over the years, but it also spreads down in government,” Oliver says. “So for elections that are not a presidential (race) in Georgia, or any other state, you would see growth there too.”

“There are many different metrics for victory. The greatest one, of course, being winning the election. But if we were to have a major breakout in votes of, say, 5 percent or 10 percent, we would naturally and foremost be taken a lot more seriously a lot sooner. We would see the levels of fundraising and activism go up almost instantly with a result such as (5 percent to 10 percent in 2024).”

He began his political activism opposing the War in Iraq while former President George W. Bush was in office, but Oliver’s first time having a political impact on the national stage came in Georgia’s 2022 Senate race featuring Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Oliver was a third option that November, and he received more than 80,000 votes (a little over 2 percent) by the time it was over.

Warnock and Walker were forced into a December runoff because neither collected the necessary 50 percent to avoid it. The eventual winner, Warnock finished 0.6 percent shy of 50 percent, likely due to the voters who went with Oliver over him.

It’s an example, Oliver says, of people making an impact with their vote. He says a stigma exists around third-party voting, with many people feeling pressured to “pick a side.” Oliver adamantly disputes the “wasted vote” argument for third party candidates. If Oliver receives “say 5 to 10 percent of the vote” this November, it will impact the presidential elections four and eight years from now. He refers back to the 2016 election when Gary Johnson was the Libertarian candidate.

He also cites his being left off the stage for the upcoming Trump versus Biden debate on June 27. It’s being hosted by CNN in Atlanta, Oliver’s de facto hometown. Still, Oliver was not invited, and that might be due to results of the past.

“Let's say Gary Johnson got 10 percent of the vote in 2016,” he said. “I have no doubt that at this point we would already be automatically invited to the 2024 debate. I think if we had already had that breakout eight years ago, then of course we would be in a much greater place than we are now. That's why I'm wanting to build that breakout now. So in eight years, we have a real possibility of having gold congresspeople and senators and governors and state legislators that have large libertarian contingents already residing within them.”

During the 2020 election featuring Trump and Biden, Oliver was asked who he would support, “gun to his head.” He responded that “the gun would go off.”

The platform reflects his party’s stances, for the most part.

He is emphasizing immigration and criminal justice reforms as a self-described “pro-gun, pro-police reform, pro-choice Libertarian” who is “armed and gay.” A gun owner who is openly homosexual, Oliver doesn’t shy away from being a gun advocate. But he is also passionate in his unwavering anti-war stance. There are aspects which could alienate certain segments of voters. It’s something he acknowledges when pushed.

But Oliver isn’t asking potential voters to agree with him on every issue. Far from it.

“You don't have to align with my platform 100 percent to vote for me,” he said. “In fact, I think it's rare for anyone to say I completely agree with anyone else every single time no matter what. I wouldn’t ever say I agreed with everything about my candidate for president when I voted in past elections. I think there certainly is a stigma out there about voting for a third party candidate. I have many friends who are political independents and they've known me for years—some of them nearly our entire lives. And they’ll say, ‘I'm going to support Chase Oliver’ and one of the first things that's levied against them is, ‘you're going to help the bad candidate win,’ whichever candidate they think is bad.”

“That is probably a conversation that's happening in living rooms, barrooms, or on Facebook and Twitter and really, it’s all across America right now. When someone thinks about stepping outside of the box, a certain segment of the population feels the need to nudge them back, you know, it’s ‘better to step back inside that box because you're stupid otherwise.’ I think that's really wrong, even morally wrong, to a degree.”

It’s a campaign that will be run on an uneven playing field, at least in terms of funding. It won’t be a new concept for Oliver, however. He refers back to the Walker versus Warnock race and the numbers from that election cycle. Specifically, Oliver cited a “cost-per-vote” metric which uses the amount of money raised by a candidate to compare it to the number of votes received.

“Herschel and Senator Warnock were spending about $20 to $25 per vote in that election. They will happily pay you that for a vote, because of how they earn. It cost their campaigns and related organizations to get those votes and they are glad to pay for them,” said Oliver. “I earned 81,000 votes and spent $20,000 ... It was less than 25 cents per vote. Look, we were massively outspent, but when you look at what we did dollar-for-dollar, we got our voters out and at a much lower cost per vote.”

“We recognize we're going to be out funded again by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. We have a fundraising goal that is somewhere between that $5 million to $9 million and they're going to probably spend $1 billion. So there's still a huge disparity there. We're going to have to be lean and mean in the way that we get our messaging out. We will continue punching above our weight.”

Travis Jaudon

Travis Jaudon is a reporter for Connect Savannah. He is a Savannah native and has been writing in Savannah since 2016. Reach him with feedback or story tips at 912-721-4358
     
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