Meet The Kentucky Libertarian Who Could Swing Senate Control

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October 10, 2014 6:00 a.m.
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Control of the U.S. Senate could be swung by a humble police officer in a Kentucky town of fewer than 10,000 who says he makes $35,000 a year, shares a car with his wife and is “just a guy.”

Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate David Patterson clocks in at 3 percent in the latest Bluegrass Poll, which may be enough to tilt the potentially decisive — and hotly contested — Kentucky race between Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) and Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who are 2 points apart.

Patterson is hardly a seasoned politician: He lacks the killer instinct to seamlessly rip into his opponents and he freely admits when he doesn’t have an answer to a question. He wants to end the drug war, legalize marijuana and let same-sex couples marry (“love is love,” he says); he wants to get rid of Obamacare, the Patriot Act, the NSA’s spying program and the income tax.

“My message is freedom,” Patterson told TPM in an interview on Thursday, vowing to impose a two-term limit on himself if elected — “and that’s if my wife lets me run for a second term. She may not.”

“The NSA, Patriot Act — there’s a whole lot of very, very heavy legislation that has come down in the name of the war on terror. Many citizens may not see it, but I certainly do. And it very much bothers me that the U.S. government can hold and detain a U.S. citizen indefinitely without trial and without charge,” Patterson said. “The majority of both parties are interventionists. They like going into other countries. They both enjoy spending money — our money.”


(Photo credit: David Patterson for United States Senate 2014, Facebook page)

Asked what he’d do about the roughly half-a-million Kentuckians who would lose insurance coverage if he repeals Obamacare, Patterson said, “Obviously we’d need to put something in place to help those individuals until such time as we can determine how we’re going to — once again, I don’t have all the answers. But we have to have something set up to assist them.”

Patterson claims that if he siphons votes from either McConnell or Grimes, he’d do so “kind of equally” from both. But the surveys tell a different story. According to the Bluegrass Poll, Patterson’s support comes mostly from independents, but he has five times as much support from self-identified Republicans than Democrats, and more support among conservatives than liberals. That suggests that Patterson is likelier, if anything, to take votes from McConnell.

And it’s plausible that Republicans end up with a 50-49 Senate margin apart from Kentucky, making the race pivotal to their hopes of overcoming Vice President Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote and claiming the majority.

“But I’m not out of this thing just yet,” Patterson said. “I’m in it to win.”

Earlier on Thursday, Patterson was at the courthouse where he’s suing to participate in the only scheduled McConnell-Grimes debate on Monday evening. He argues that he was unfairly excluded by the sponsor, Kentucky Educational Television.

Patterson said he did not seek the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has libertarian leanings, and is supporting McConnell. “Actually, Rand Paul is a Republican,” he said. “He seems to be associated with the libertarian movement more often than not, and he definitely has some libertarian leaning ideas, and that’s great. But he’s stated openly he’s not a libertarian.”

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