The Iowa Libertarian Party is set to have its first-ever gubernatorial primary in the state in June of this year after Gary Johnson’s 2016 presidential election totals triggered major party status for the state’s Libertarian Party for at least this year’s election.

Johnson received 3.8 percent of the Iowa vote in 2016, well above the 2 percent benchmark that unlocks major party status for the subsequent election. However, in order to maintain major-party status, a Libertarian Party candidate must achieve 2 percent again in a general election in another state-wide race.

“Being a major party has its privileges, including the ability to hold special conventions and primary elections. That means Iowa voters, when they vote early or head to the polls on June 5, can choose to vote in the Libertarian Party primary… There are also significant disadvantages, especially a struggle for exposure. That’s one reason why the Des Moines Register editorial board decided to make an endorsement in the Libertarian primary race,” wrote the Des Moines Register editorial board.

Given that they are rare events, major newspapers’ editorial boards have in the past almost never weighed in on state-level third-party primaries. The attraction of such an endorsement represents an elevation of the prominence and credibility of the Libertarian Party.

The 2018 Iowa Libertarian Party gubernatorial primary pits Council Bluffs business consultant Jake Porter against Des Moines-based musician and former journalist Marco Battaglia for the party’s nomination for governor. Both candidates presented the cases for their campaigns in a joint interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board, which can be seen in full below.

The Des Moines Register ultimately issued its endorsement to Jake Porter.

“Porter’s experience and clearer articulation of his positions make him better able to make a case for his party in the fall. He is the better choice for Iowa Libertarians who hope to maintain their major-party status,” the editorial board wrote.

It added, “Porter has campaign experience, having run for secretary of state in 2010 and 2014. He says that during the 2014 campaign, he identified a voter registration glitch. Voter preferences for the Libertarian or Green parties were not being properly recorded if Iowans registered through the driver’s licensing process. Porter said he worked with Republicans and Democrats to resolve the error.”

The Des Moines Register pointed to some of the candidates’ positions that the editorial board supports, such as Porter’s advocacy of automatic restoration of felons’ voting rights after they have completed their punishments, the elimination of excessive occupational licensing for services such as hair braiding, and the streamlining of state boards and commissions. The Register praised Battaglia for promoting greater access to mental health services and his interest in getting money out of politics, though it claimed that “he lacked concrete proposals for how to accomplish that.”

While the editorial board did endorse Porter as the candidate best able to keep the Libertarian Party above the 2 percent benchmark required to maintain its major party status, it did say that it would be unlikely to endorse the party’s nominee in the general election as the Des Moines Register considers Porter’s plan to eliminate the state’s sales tax and Battaglia’s plan to phase out the state’s income tax “untenable.”

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