(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) – Democrats and Libertarians are joining forces for a 15-city roadshow.
A Thursday night town hall in Fort Wayne features three Democratic candidates, including U.S. Senate nominee Tom McDermott, and McDermott’s Libertarian opponent James Sceniak. It’s the first in a series of two-party town halls over the next two months.
Democrats have sent candidates and past and present officeholders on the road for six similar barnstorming tours over the last year, in what state chairman Mike Schmuhl says is an effort to show the party won’t give up on even the reddest parts of Indiana. But this is the first time the party has invited Libertarians to share the platform.
Schmuhl says the joint appearances can illustrate a willingness to seek common ground on issues, and dial back what he says is the “noise and vitriol and anger and fear” that dominates the national discussion.
Schmuhl says Republicans were invited to join the tour, but declined. A Republican response released by Democrats says the party will campaign in all 92 counties, but not as part of what it dismisses as a “stunt” aimed at scoring political points. And the letter charges Democrats have done plenty of name-calling of their own.
It’s not the first time Democrats have made a strategic alliance with Libertarians, in Indiana and elsewhere. In former Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly’s 2018 reelection bid, the state party sent mailers promoting the Libertarian nominee as the “true conservative” in the race, hoping to peel off support from Republican Mike Braun. The party sent similar mailers, more successfully, when Donnelly was reelected to his House seat in 2010.
Unlike those efforts, the town hall tour is taking place above the radar. Schmuhl insists the goal isn’t to split the conservative vote, but to show it’s healthy for democracy to talk with voters about differing viewpoints.
Democrats haven’t announced the future stops on the tour, but Schmuhl says it’ll include four stops in Indianapolis “doughnut counties” and one a little further east, in Henry County. Schmuhl says some of McDermott’s fellow mayors will appear at some stops to show support, as will other Democratic candidates, including secretary of state candidate Destiny Wells, and Cinde Wirth, the party’s nominee against Republican Congressman Greg Pence. Gary Snyder, Democrats’ nominee against Republican Congressman Jim Banks, was part of the lineup in Fort Wayne.
Along with Sceniak, Libertarians have nominated candidates for secretary of state, four state House seats, and three of Indiana’s nine U.S. House seats. The party has until June 30 to add more candidates.
Libertarian Donald Rainwater finished ahead of Democrat Woody Myers in more than 30 counties in the 2020 race for governor, ending up with 11% of the statewide vote. But the party has otherwise struggled to crack double digits in races where both Republicans and Democrats are on the ballot.