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Texas Libertarians clinch ballot access, Greens fall short

Libertarians on Tuesday earned a spot on Texas' next general election ballot. The Green Party must seek another route.

Mark Miller, Libertarian candidate for Texas railroad commissioner.

Texas Libertarians fell far short of winning any races on Election Night, but the party of low taxes and little government did clinch the right to try again. 

The state’s Green Party, however, was not so lucky.

Texas will give Libertarians a ballot spot during the state's next general election, after the party’s candidate for state railroad commissioner nabbed more than 5 percent of the vote — the threshold a party needs in a statewide contest to keep ballot access.

That candidate, petroleum engineer Mark Miller, drew 5.3 percent in a race that former Texas Rep. Wayne Christian easily won. No other Texas Libertarian met the 5 percent mark on Tuesday.

Miller, who drew an unusual amount of newspaper endorsements in the contest, was hoping for more votes. But he was pleased to have achieved that “minimum goal” for his campaign, he said Wednesday morning. 

“Ballot access is really important because it avoids a petition drive, which is very expensive, very time-consuming and very difficult,” he said. “The fact that we were able to stay on the ballot – Libertarians are celebrating today.”

The environmentally minded Green Party, which had hoped to draw more attention when it held its national convention in oil-slick Houston, fell short of its goal. Martina Salinas, who also ran for railroad commissioner, earned the biggest share of its statewide votes, with 3.2 percent.

Her party made its best local showing in the District 1 State Board of Education race. Hugo Noyola Jr. earned nearly 16.9 percent of those votes. 

To regain ballot access, the Greens must secure nearly 50,000 valid signatures in less than three months.

Petition drives for ballot access can be expensive. In 2010, an out-of-state group with ties to the Republican Party funneled $532,000 to the Green Party’s ballot effort.

A message left at the Texas Green Party’s headquarters was not immediately returned.

The off-brand parties faced a particular challenge during this election because Democrats fielded candidates in every statewide judicial race for the first time since 2010. Greens and Libertarians have generally banked on those races — when they lack Democrats — in their quest for relevance. 

Miller, who also serves as the vice chair of the state’s Libertarian party, said he was told that Texas Libertarians had never before clinched ballot access in a four-way statewide race.

“That’s pretty significant for the party,” he said. 

Read more of the Tribune's related coverage:

  • Republicans running in three Texas Supreme Court races and three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals races enjoyed strong victories on Tuesday.
  • Former state Rep. Wayne Christian, a Republican, notched an easy victory Tuesday in the race for Texas railroad commissioner.

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