The 2016 Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, Florida, was a dramatic and hard-fought contest, as candidates vied for the only chance besides the Republican and Democratic nominations to appear on the ballot in all fifty states.
After narrowly falling short of the 50% threshold required in the first round of balloting, Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico was easily nominated over the rest of a crowded field by a significant margin. His chosen running mate, Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts, was chosen for vice president in a similar manner.
Over the course of an often-heated nomination contest, some of the other contenders also became widely-known figures in the party. Since then, some have stayed active in the party, while others have left and denounced it. With alleged loyalty to the Libertarian Party often being at the center of the 2016 debate, it’s perhaps worth a look back to ask: where are they now? What have they been up to since then?
In order of their vote percentage on the second and final ballot in Orlando:
Gov. Gary Johnson – 55.8% ✓
The party’s nominee, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, went on to run an active campaign that shattered election records for the Libertarian Party. Though falling short of the goal of making the debate stage, the Johnson/Weld ticket ultimately polled nearly four and half million votes nationwide. It was an astounding number in the context of Libertarian elections. It is by far the most successful Presidential campaign ever for the Libertarian party.
While Johnson’s activities during the campaign were widely covered, he has since enjoyed his retirement from political life, insisting that the 2016 campaign was his last official political election. An avid outdoorsman and endurance athlete, Johnson has spent much of his time on his beloved ski slopes near his home in Taos, New Mexico.
Last summer, he also completed a personal goal in completing the “Ride The Divide” bike tour: an unassisted mountain-biking excursion from Canada to Mexico along the crest of the Rocky Mountains. Johnson says intends to do it again next year.
Johnson has not entirely withdrawn from politics, however. He is still heavily involved with with the 501(c)4 Our America Initiative. Including the pursuit of the lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates. Johnson has said that will appear at political speaking events, rallies and media interviews as time permits. He continues to publish regular commentary on public affairs, both here at The Jack News and in publications such as The Hill.
Austin Petersen – 21.9%
A more controversial figure may not be found in the party. Austin Petersen, the eventual runner-up, ran a highly hostile campaign against the presumptive front-runner Gov. Johnson. Petersen, a former Fox News employee and founder of the website Libertarian Republic, ran with a stated intention of appealing more to social conservatives, while also emphasizing his partisan Libertarian credentials. He made a mark with his frequent and often outlandish social media posts which included vulgar and flippant language.
In one memorable line delivered from the main stage in Orlando, Petersen insisted that if he wanted to be an “opportunist,” he would be a Republican. It was a comment that he may have come to regret.
Since then, Petersen has in fact left the Libertarian Party, denouncing it as ineffective and at odds with his more conservative-friendly positions. Instead, he’s running for United States Senate in his home state of Missouri as a Republican, emphasizing his anti-abortion stance and positioning himself as more closely aligned with President Trump. That turnaround has attracted notice, with many contrasting his previous statements that were more harshly critical of Trump.
It was in reference to the two former two-term Governors, Johnson and Weld that Petersen once applied the label “failed Republicans,” but his own Republican candidacy for Senate is struggling and has failed to gain any traction, media attention or money. The state’s young attorney general, Josh Hawley, is the consensus front-runner and the presumptive nominee. However, much to the surprise of many Missouri political insiders, Petersen continues forward with his campaign.
John McAfee – 14.12%
Few candidates had a more colorful background that John McAfee, the early cybersecurity pioneer who later fled Belize as a suspected murderer. Initially, McAfee’s decision to run for President in 2016 did not involve the Libertarian Party. Instead, he briefly sought to create a new “Cyber Party,” but when the reality of being unable to obtain ballot access sunk in, he switched to seeking the Libertarian nomination.
With arguably the most famous last name of all the candidates, McAfee’s seeking of the Libertarian party’s nomination was initially seen as the major challenge to Gov. Johnson. Instead, his campaign organization failed to gain traction and included a lot of ongoing in-fighting. His chosen running mate, who was hyped as a major political fundraiser and coalition builder for the McAfee ticket, turned out to be a bust and a drag to the campaign.
McAfee made it clear he didn’t intend to stay in the L.P. if it nominated Johnson, and indeed his concession speech to the convention featured a denunciation of the party for its lack of demographic diversity.
Since then, a documentary about his time in Belize was released, throwing additional light on the strange events that happened there and his “Heart of Darkness”-esque strangeness in the jungle nation. McAfee has also continued his regular run-ins with the law, recently shooting up his own house while naked, after concluding that armed assassins in league with his wife were hiding in the walls of his home. (They weren’t.) McAfee has also been involved in the booming cryptocurrency business, promoting a wide variety of new startup coins in a manner some complain is reminiscent of “pump and dump” scams. He’s also claimed to have had his Twitter account hacked, an amusing irony given his original claim to fame.
While no longer a member or supporter of the Libertarian party, McAfee has not entirely cut his ties to the broader libertarian movement. He will be speaking on the topic of Bitcoin and other digital currencies at the 2018 convention of Students for Liberty. While Libertarians didn’t go for the idea of having McAfee represent them on the Presidential ticket, he still continues to attract interest and curiosity for his eccentric persona.
Darryl W. Perry – 5.6%
A strident and at times, angry, representative of the party’s radical anarchist wing, Perry was the official choice of the “Radical Caucus” at the 2016 convention. An activist and talk-show host, Perry moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project, and in particular joined the group of controversial civil-disobedience activists crowd centered on Keene, New Hampshire. After falling short at the 2016 convention, he put himself forward as a protest opposition candidate in opposition to the Johnson/Weld ticket, officially registering as a write-in candidate in several states. However, he did little active campaigning, and ultimately garnered a handful of votes nationwide.
While Perry is still a somewhat polarizing figure in the party, he remains actively involved with the L.P. to a greater degree than most previous candidates for the nomination. At a sparsely-attended state convention, Perry was chosen as the chair of the New Hampshire party, and has since seen some increase in that affiliate’s fortunes. During the past year, three freshmen members of the state’s 400-member House of Representatives have switched parties to Libertarian, though none have announced an alignment with Perry’s internal party politics.
In addition to his involvement in the party, Perry is a frequent host of Free Talk Live, a radio show once loosely affiliated with the Free State Project, but which since has seen the organization cut ties over controversial statements by one of the show’s other co-hosts. Perry has not expressed interest in seeking the presidential nomination again, but he will likely remain a prominent voice of the radical-anarchist wing of the party.
Marc Allan Feldman – 1.9%
While never a top contender for the nomination, Cleveland Clinic anesthesiologist Marc Allan Feldman endeared himself to many Libertarians with his sense of humor and earnest pleas for a spirit of camaraderie. Libertarians were devastated by the news when, shortly after the convention, Feldman suddenly passed away of a apparent heart attack.
The theme of the party’s 2018 convention– “I’m THAT Libertarian”– is a reference to Feldman’s famous closing statement at the 2016 convention debate. In his own rhyming style, Feldman brought the convention to its feet with a verse he had written to encourage unity and diversity within the party.
In his travels to state conventions in his mostly-solo bid for the party’s presidential nomination, Feldman endeared himself to party members with his optimistic takes and avuncular sense of humor. In an otherwise divisive and often bitter nomination contest, he was uniquely admired and appreciated across the party, even while being a distant long-shot for the nomination. It’s no surprise that Libertarians chose to make their 2018 convention theme a tribute to the late Dr. Feldman.