Haugh could be spoiler in US Senate race

Posted September 3, 2014

Sean Haugh is the 2014 Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate.

— When Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis meet Wednesday for the first of two debates in the Senate race, they won't be joined by Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. 

Haugh, who won his party's nomination in a May primary, didn't meet the polling threshold set by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, the group organizing the two debates.  

According to NCAB executive manager Lisa Reynolds, the organization kept the same guidelines for this year's debates as it has in past debates.

"Third-party candidate(s) will be included in the debates to the extent they were polling an average of at least 10 percent two weeks prior to the debates in the (Public Policy Polling), Civitas and Rasmussen polls," the guidelines state.

WRAL News has also used the 10 percent threshold in debates it has sponsored.

Haugh polled at 8 percent in PPP's poll released Aug. 19, at 6 percent in Rasmussen's Aug. 7 survey and at 7 percent in Civitas's Aug. 5 release.

"The feeling of the group was that, if a candidate is not polling at least at that level, then listener and viewer interest would be minimal at best," Reynolds said in an email. "The rationale was to devote as much time to allow voters to hear and observe the candidates in whom the constituents have the most interest.

"Additionally, political consultants have used that threshold as criteria that a third-party candidate can make an impact on the outcome of a political race," she explained. 

Ironically, this race may be the exception to that rule.

Tillis and Hagan have traded small leads throughout the summer, usually only a percentage point or two, and are nearly always within a poll's margin of error. Despite more than $16 million in largely negative ads poured into the race by outside groups through Sept. 1, neither has gained any substantial traction.  

In that context, Haugh's ability to draw even a few points of support could affect the contest's outcome, says North Carolina State University political science professor Steve Greene.  

"Typically, third-party candidates keep dropping in the polls as Election Day approaches, and I see no reason that Haugh should be an exception to that," Greene said. "That said, if he's picking up even 2 to 3 percent of the vote on Election Day, that could easily be enough to tip the balance in a race that appears to be so close.

"Traditionally, Libertarian candidates do draw more from Republicans – though not exclusively – and given the prominent strain of libertarianism in the GOP of late, this has got to be a genuine concern for Tillis," he added. 

Polls seem to confirm that Haugh is more of a threat to Tillis than to Hagan.

In Civitas' Aug. 5 survey, when voters were given only two options – Tillis or Hagan – Tillis led Hagan by 2 points, 45 to 43 percent.

But when respondents were given Haugh as a third option, Tillis ended up 2 points behind Hagan, 39 to 41 percent.   

A Suffolk/USA Today poll released last month included a follow-up question for Haugh voters, asking who their second choice would be. Fifty-four percent said Tillis, and 35 percent said Hagan. 

The Suffolk/USA Today poll also showed Haugh with 10 percent support among unaffiliated voters, a voting bloc where both Tillis and Hagan need to gain votes. 

Still, Haugh's campaign hasn't exactly taken off. As of Wednesday, he had no statement of candidacy on file with the Federal Election Commission.

Campaign spokeswoman Rachel Mills said the campaign had "only recently passed the $5,000 threshold at which a report is required." She said the report was mailed "a few days ago" and should be posted on the FEC website once it's processed.

In a video statement posted on YouTube, Haugh said he's not upset about not being invited, and predicted the debate would be a "snoozefest." He said he planned to spend the evening at work delivering pizzas. He urged viewers to avoid the broadcast, too. 

"They're not really talking to you tonight," Haugh says in the video. "They're auditioning for the political class and their corporate special-interest buddies who want to determine this election. And of course, I don't fit into their plans, so they don't want to hear from me at all." 


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  • Larry Lynch Sep 4, 2014
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    the only legitimate people to occupy the office. he's got my vote.

  • juliomercado Sep 4, 2014

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    WRONG! The only hope for Kay Hagen is for this noncompetitor to yank enough Tillis votes to sway it her way. Third party candidates almost ALWAYS help the incumbent. So we are really stuck with a choice between Hagen, a flunky and rubber stamp of everything rotten Obama does, or Tillis an establishment Gop type that has shown a propensity for damaging our schools. Not much of a choice but i would rather have horrid representation in a senate that stops Obama's lawlessness than another 6 years of Kay Hagen. What HAS she done for NC? NOTHING! What has she done for OBama? She has helped his criminal senate pass his agenda over 90% of the time. If you care about your nation, you better vote Tillis. Swallow hard and do it. Otherwise obama's deconstruction of our constitution continues. BTW, SHE DID SUPPORT THE IMMIGRATION laws that lead to our open borders.

  • Proudly Unaffiliated Sep 4, 2014
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    The Libertarian party in NC has consistently been an irrelevant sideshow. And I say that as a small "l" libertarian. These jokers show up at election time and play politician to get their 15+ minutes of fame.

    What the Libertarian party _could_ do is move legislation that they support by working their rear ends off at the General Assembly. Nope, they don't even try. They are the most dramatic example of a common misunderstanding-- that if you elect the "right" people, then good things will happen. Sorry, no, this is not how our system is designed. What matters is legislation that results from the entire legislative process with all involved and the L party has dropped the ball-- actually they never picked it up which is worse.

    Be sure to recall what happened in the recent the Governor's race in VA, where a well-funded L candidate got 8% of the vote ensuring that a rights-focused conservative lost. The left should fund Haugh so he can get > 8% of the unwise to re-elect Hagan.

  • archmaker Sep 4, 2014

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    you must have missed the recent polls, the leading GOP 2016 candidate is still Romney, and he ain't even going to run.

  • Larry Lynch Sep 3, 2014
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    the only hope for nc - a 3rd party candadate

  • Olenc Native Sep 3, 2014
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    Keep in mind Tillis passed the budget without reading it. That's why they said it didn't cut any teacher assistants and then BAM! turns out it did. They just didn't read it carefully enough.

  • downtowner Sep 3, 2014

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    It actually has produced some noticeable effects in the GOP establishment. For instance, the leading candidate for 2016 is currently Rand Paul who has a strong history of libertarian policies including legalizing all drugs, ending global imperialism and meddling, auditing the fed, and protecting personal liberties from government overreach. So yeah, its working. I'll be voting for Haugh.

  • Catmandu Sep 3, 2014

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    That is what people said in 2012 about Romney. How did that work out for you. :)

  • TheCape Sep 3, 2014

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    Interestingly enough he is actually starting to garner support from Conservatives and Liberals for different reasons. His Facebook page has been an interested read the last few months.

    Wish they would let him debate. Spread the word and lets get him in the next debate. The only reason you would not want him there is because you are already sold out to Hagan or Tillis and are afraid of what he might say. Let the man debate!

  • TheCape Sep 3, 2014

    Whether you want to vote for Haugh or not he should be allowed on the debate. By allowing other party candidates to debate you are offering more solutions and options to this dual party stuff we have now.

    NC Association of Broadcasters phone number: (919) 821-7300

    Call them and tell them you want to see Haugh as well or YOU WILL NOT WATCH. The only way to change this broken two party system is to do something about it.