News Growl has learned aproximately 100 county-level Republican activists in the New York GOP are launching an unauthorized bid today to draft the Libertarian gubernatorial ticket, Larry Sharpe and Andrew Hollister, as candidates in the September 12th Republican primary.

The Sharpe/Hollister campaign insists the effort is not their idea, nor are they actively seeking the Republican ballot line themselves. They are happy, however, for Republican activists to campaign for the Libertarians in their primary if that is their choice.

“The GOP has not chosen wisely”

The Sharpe Hollister campaign began spontaneously receiving dozens of emails from discontented Rebublicans starting on June 14th, asking how they could help Larry Sharpe enter the GOP primary. Several emails refer to informal organizing taking place among activists on Facebook.

Each time an email was received, Sharpe communications director Lauren McKinnon made it clear that while the Libertarian candidates might be willing to appear on the Republican primary ballot, any effort to draft Larry Sharpe and Andrew Hollister would need to be the result of a spontaneous, grassroots effort from Republicans.

One email received by the campaign (provided to News Growl under conditions of anonymity) expressed the frustration many lifelong Republican members feel with their state party leadership and the party’s presumptive nominees, Marcus Molinaro and Julie Killian.

“Given the GOP choice I say let’s get Larry and Andrew in there because the GOP has not chosen wisely and I feel Larry and Andrew will kick butt in a primary against Molinaro and Killian. They are no good for New York State. I am willing to help out in any way I can.”

Another email reads, “I absolutely support getting Larry to primary Molinaro. I’m willing to help where and when I can,” and another, “WHERE DO WE SIGN FOR LARRY TO GET ON THE BALLOT (ME AND 4 OTHERS AT THIS TIME).”

Again speaking under conditions of anonymity, one GOP county committee member explained the motivation for drafting Sharpe and Hollister in a statement:

We believe if people could hear his message, this would be a no-brainer. Molinaro doesn’t represent us. I’m not sure if he knows what he represents anymore. But it’s time for a change, and maybe this will light a fire in leadership to finally make that change and go for the bold choice. Larry Sharpe deserves our line, and that is why we are out here, hoping to get 15,000 good signatures over the next 3 weeks so that he has a real shot at this.

The 15,000 signatures referred to is a requirement for petitioning a primary ballot in a state-wide race in New York. It is understood that the roughly 100 known participants will begin collecting petitions officially this morning.

As the Sharpe/Hollister campaign is not organizing the drive, and its leaders are conducting their work outside official party channels, it is proving difficult to accurately asses the size and strength of the movement.

Can Libertarian Larry Sharpe run in the GOP primary?

As a registered Libertarian, Larry Sharpe is not eligible to vote in the Republican primary, but thanks to New York’s unique tradition of fusion voting, he is not excluded from appearing on the Republican ballot line in the general election.

Fusion voting in New York normally involves the leadership of a small party (such as the Conservative Party of New York State or the Women’s Equality Party) voluntarily endorsing the candidate of a major party.

The GOP rebels appear determined to turn the standard model on its head, and get the GOP to endorse a minor party candidate – something that has rarely happened before.

New York election law does make provisions for parties to endorsed non-enrolled members, but for a non-member to appear on the primary ballot would normally require the assent of the New York GOP committee. The Sharpe campaign says GOP activists have told them if the 15,000 Republican signatures are collected by the deadline, Sharpe can run against Marc Molinaro in the primary as a write-in candidate. So far News Growl has been unable to confirm whether or not New York election laws or New York GOP party rules allow for this scenario.

HOWEVER (and it is a big “however”) a technicality may allow Andrew Hollister, the Libertarian candidate for Lieutenant Governor, to appear on the Republican primary ballot with or without Sharpe.

Hollister is a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party of New York, and has recently requested to change his voter registration from Republian to Libertarian. According to Hollister, though, the complexities of New York law mean his registration will not officially switch from Republican to Libertarian until December.

Chapter 6 section 120 of New York electoral law allows petitions for primary ballot status to be undertaken for enrolled party members. This would mean that Andrew Hollister could theoretically appear on the Republican primary ballot, running against party establishment favorite Julie Killian.

If Sharpe is forced to be a write-in candidate, or is even excluded from the Republican primary altogether, grassroots GOP activists could still be highly motivated to draft Andrew Hollister onto the Republican primary ballot by himself. Julie Killian has recently expressed support for recently passed gun control legislation known as the SAFE Act, infuriating many conservative New Yorkers.

Larry Sharpe and Andrew Hollister

Although Governor and Lieutenant Governor candidates run together as a ticket on the general election ballot, each position is elected separately in primary voting. If Hollister can be successfully drafted onto the primary ballot, just his presence in the race alone could be highly disruptive. The drama-free progression to the general election the New York GOP had mapped out for Molinaro and Killian could now turn into a scrap for the soul of the New York Republican Party.

Does Larry Sharpe want to run in the GOP primary?

Since the outset of his campaign, Larry Sharpe has criticized the lacklustre opposition other parties have put up against incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo. To Sharpe, the enthusiasm for the Libertarian ticket among Republican activists is just confirmation that the official Republican slate is weak and out of touch with its supporters.

“I’m very happy that the average Republican voter has seen through they New York GOP establishment surrender,” Sharpe said, speaking exclusively to News Growl. “Their ‘sacrificial lamb’ and fake campaign didn’t fool anyone. If it had, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.

“The voters have realized the Republican establishment is asleep at the wheel and completely satisfied with fighting for second place,” Sharpe continued. “The idea that they have selected two down-state liberals to represent all of New York State is proof that they are completely disconnected to the actual Republican voter. The average Republican voter has seen and understands that I stand for all New Yorkers.”

Some Libertarian activists may feel uneasy at the sight of one of their strongest candidates appearing in a Republican primary. According to Sharpe spokesperson Lauren McKinnon, however, they have nothing to worry about.

“Larry is a Libertarian and whatever happens in coming months Larry will be running for governor as Libertarian. We have known for some time that Larry was very popular with thousands of GOP members. If they want to go public with their support and make it official, that’s fine with us.

“Larry is running to win, but there are currently only 10,000 registered Libertarians in New York State. To be sworn in as Governor in January he will need to attract votes from hundreds of thousands of votes from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. That is our path to victory. Whatever the result of this effort to draft Larry and Andrew onto the Republican primary ballot, this shows that our campaign is reaching new voters, and that is exciting.

“Larry Sharpe’s platform is one of individual rights, economic growth, and localizing government control. We believe that this is a message that will resonate with the people of New York across all party lines. Larry Sharpe is not running to be the governor of just New York Libertarians. He is running to be the governor of and a voice for all New Yorkers.”

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