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Norman man seeks Libertarian Party's presidential nomination

R.J. Harris is running as a Libertarian Party candidate, who also is working on a signature-gathering drive to get the Libertarian Party recognized as a political party in Oklahoma so voters in the state have the opportunity to vote for him next year.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: October 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm •  Published: October 1, 2011
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The time is right for a third-party candidate to occupy the White House, an Oklahoman seeking the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination says.

Many Americans are frustrated with federal spending and are looking for someone with common sense to save the country from economic turmoil, R.J. Harris said.

“The republic is in one of the most dire straits it's been in since before its founding,” he said. “We've got a Washington, D.C., full of career politicians and that doesn't seem to help.”

Voters are “totally fed up” with Democrats and Republicans, he said.

Also, by using social media venues on the Internet, such as Facebook and Twitter, candidates can recruit and stay in touch with supporters at relatively little cost compared with earlier times when contenders needed money for travel and advertising to get their views known, said Harris, of Norman.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, a political newcomer elected last year in a crowded field for Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District seat, pulled out a surprise victory as the GOP nominee after a relatively low-budget campaign that relied heavily on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social media programs make it possible “for individual citizen statesmen to get out there and compete in the arena of ideas,” he said.

“This is definitely a David and Goliath story, but it can be done,” Harris said.

Harris, 38, a 20-year Oklahoma Army National Guard officer, faces a struggle just getting his name on Oklahoma's ballot for the November 2012 general election.

The Libertarian Party needs to get 51,739 signatures of registered voters, which amounts to at least 5 percent of the total votes cast in the last general election. The deadline is March 1.

Signature collection efforts have been under way since May. About 20,000 signatures have been collected so far, Harris said; he expects they will be gathered at a faster clip now that cooler weather is here and more people will be attending events, such as football games.

“It is really hard to get a third party on the ballot,” Harris said. “We haven't had the Libertarian Party on the ballot since 2000. But the excitement out there for this campaign is such that it has really fired up the grassroots activists and supporters.”

Harris said he is getting help from some Republicans who are upset with Republicans in Congress who recently voted to raise the country's debt ceiling, he said.

A Libertarian Party candidate won't be on the March presidential preferential ballot in Oklahoma. Even if it were a recognized party in the state, the Libertarian Party, unlike the Republican and Democratic parties, doesn't hold primaries to choose electors to cast votes in the Electoral College for president.

Libertarian Party delegates will be elected at state conventions, and the delegates will select the presidential and vice presidential nominees at a national convention.

Harris is one of several contenders seeking the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

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