By Michael McKnight and Faith Ray
RALEIGH - While Republicans and Democrats endured nail-biting suspense at their respective camps Tuesday night, the mood at the Libertarian camp was much more relaxed and focused on future possibilities.
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Barbara Howe, 4th Congressional District candidate Brian Towey and N.C. House 24th District candidate John Bauman joined a crowd of about 100 supporters at the Bishop's House at St. Mary's College in Raleigh.
While Republican and Democratic candidates were awaiting poll results and preparing for their victory and concession speeches Tuesday night, Howe was busy carving a turkey for the Libertarian's election night dinner. "You wouldn't see Richard Vinroot or Mike Easley doing this," she joked.
When the final results came in, Howe received 1.4 percent to the winning Easley's 52.1 percent.
Although most candidates would have been devastated to have received such a small portion of the vote, Howe preferred to look at the results in terms of the strides her party has made over the last several years.
"We've worked harder than we've ever worked before," Howe said. "I guess we're trying to top our personal best."
When Howe first became active in the party 25 years ago, she said there were only about 60 members. "There are faces here I don't know," Howe said. "That's refreshing."
Towey said the Libertarians have done well in comparison to many other third parties.
"If you started a party and 12 years later it exploded, and people were scrambling over the scraps, like the Reform Party, you would have not been very successful," Towey said. "But if you started a party and 12 years later you were on the ballot in every state in the country, you would have felt like you were successful."
Towey ended up garnering 1.7 percent of the vote to incumbent David Price's 61.7 percent.
Neither Towey nor Howe felt they had taken votes away from the other candidates.
Both said they felt most people who voted for them would have simply not voted had they not run.
"The general assumption is that we take votes away from Republicans, but that has not been our experience," Howe said.
"We really energize voters who wouldn't have voted for anybody."
Despite the Libertarian's low numbers at the polls, Towey said he is optimistic about the party's future.
"People ask me, `Why do the Libertarians bother to run?'" he said. "Well, why does N.C. State bother to play football? It's not to lose."
Bauman said he had no doubts he would lose. "I ran for my beliefs," he said.
"One has to look to the future."
Bauman said while he might not have won, he and the Libertarians were effective in spreading their message.
"I think I've gotten out the message of smaller government," he said. "The name Libertarian should gradually mean more to people."
Of the three candidates, Bauman was the big winner, garnering 2.4 percent of the vote to incumbent Verla Insko's 31.9 percent and Speaker Pro Tem Joe Hackney's 33.7 percent.
The high point of the evening came when a crawl on a local television network announced Towey had won 13 percent of the popular votes.
The celebration was short lived, however, when it was discovered the crawl was a typo and should have displayed that Towey had only 1.3 percent of the vote.
Howe needed to win 10 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot without going through the petition process. Even though she did not accomplish this goal, her husband Tom was not disheartened. He said the Libertarians already had started a petition drive to keep their party on the ballot.
"We'll be back in full force despite what happens," he said. "We'll keep going until we win."
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