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Libertarian Johnson on MN ballot, IP pushes McMullin

IP voter drive
Outside a fundraiser for Republican Donald Trump, an Independence Party volunteer gathers signatures to put Evan McMullin on Minnesota's ballot. Brian Bakst | MPR Photo

UPDATED 5:30 p.m. with additional party petitions

A pair of third-party presidential candidates grabbed Tuesday for spots on Minnesota's ballot in November, with Libertarian Gary Johnson getting word he made it and the Independence Party's Evan McMullin submitting necessary signatures with little time to spare.

The Libertarian Party said it submitted more than 3,200 signatures to get Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, before voters. The party has received confirmation that Johnson qualified.

Minnesota's Secretary of State's office said petitions were also received from candidates aligned with the Constitution Party and the American Delta Party, triggering a process that allows up to 10 days of review prior to certification or rejection.

McMullin's supporters from the IP filed the candidate's paperwork just minutes before a deadline for minor-party hopefuls and must still undergo a standard review process. McMullin is a former CIA operative and a U.S. House Republican staff member hoping to block GOP nominee Donald Trump from the presidency.

More than a dozen canvassers fanned out Tuesday around the Twin Cities area for the final push. IP Chairman Philip Fuehrer said the team started the day with 1,770 signatures and was working to get well above the 2,000-signature minimum to provide a cushion.

With the presidential race as Minnesota's only statewide partisan contest, the IP is hoping McMullin will net at least 5 percent of the vote and make it a national party for the next two elections.

"I came to the realization during caucuses that once every 12 years we, in a lot of ways, become entirely irrelevant, and that's because the only race is presidential such as this year," Fuehrer said. "What that ends up doing is that people are focused at the top and anything else is just forgotten."

Fuehrer said McMullin comes out of the "Tom Horner wing" of the Independence Party, referring to the former Republican who ran as the party's candidate for governor in 2010. Fuehrer cited McMullin's message of fiscal restraint and states rights, but said he is more conservative on social issues than the party typically advocates.

There are efforts in the works to bring McMullin to the Minnesota State Fair next week, but nothing has been finalized.

Chris Dock, chairman of the Minnesota Libertarian Party, said there are plans to get Johnson to appear at the fair, too, but the party is awaiting final confirmation from his campaign.

If McMullin and the others with candidate petitions pending also makes the ballot, there would be at nine named choices before voters in November. That includes Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Trump, whose full batch of paperwork still hadn't been submitted with about a week to go before the major-party deadline.