"Leftward Leanings": Update

Duke Magzine images from September-October 2006

Over the past three years, Duke political science chairman Michael Munger, who has been quoted in the magazine talking about the political leanings of the faculty, has driven tens of thousands of miles, crossing the state of North Carolina multiple times and sharing his own political message.

Initially, he went in search of volunteers, campaign funds, and the nearly 70,000 valid signatures required to place him on last November's ballot as the state's Libertarian candidate for governor.

Only after that hurdle was cleared last spring—and much of his campaign chest spent in the process—was Munger able to begin his gubernatorial campaign in earnest.

North Carolina's ballot access laws are some of the most restrictive in the nation. New parties hoping to appear on the ballot must collect signatures representing more than 2 percent of voters from the previous election; and in order for a party to remain on the ballot for the next cycle, its candidate for governor—or its presidential electors—must garner at least 2 percent of the popular vote in a general election.

This arrangement typically leaves "third" parties like the Libertarians running in circles, scrambling to collect signatures in time to qualify for an election, only to see their candidates trounced, and the "LIB" affiliations purged from voters' registration forms.

Munger compared the campaign experience to an Olympic contest: "The Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, they get up, they're going to run the 100-yard dash. They have a nice breakfast, because that's the most important meal, they stretch, they're ready to go.

"The Libertarian candidate or the Green candidate has to run a marathon and then run the 100-yard dash."

Munger wasn't the first to the tape, but, after wrangling invitations to several televised debates, nabbing an endorsement from The Chronicle's editorial board, and finishing his campaign with an "old-fashioned, hand-shaking, back roads and small towns tour" of the state, he did come close—or at least as close as he needed to.

Polling 3 percent, he assured the party a spot on the 2010 and 2012 ballots. He plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010. 

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