WASHINGTON – Much of the attention in Georgia’s upcoming Senate race so far has focused on how the two major political parties are maneuvering given the polarizing candidacy of Donald Trump. But the lone Libertarian in the race, Allen Buckley, has been quietly building a campaign he thinks can help him ride the wave of voter dissatisfaction all the way to Capitol Hill in November.
Buckley, an Atlanta-area attorney and accountant, is no newbie to Georgia politics – this is his third run for the U.S. Senate and second challenge to incumbent Johnny Isakson. He has yet to win more than about 4 percent of the popular vote, but he did push then-GOP U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin into a runoff in 2008.
This time around, Buckley said the main themes of this presidential season gel well with the economic message he’s long sold on reforming entitlements, cutting federal spending and pushing a smaller government to invest more in Georgia.
“I think there’s a good chance that if Trump is the nominee and a lot of Republicans who are not for Trump stay home, I think a lot of those Trump voters will also vote for me because they’re not going to want to vote for the establishment candidate,” he said in an interview. Buckley said he also thinks a similar dynamic would occur with Ted Cruz at the top of the presidential ticket.
But it will be hard for Buckley -- or any candidate, for that matter -- to beat Isakson, who enjoys a sizable advantage when it comes to money and name recognition.
Buckley thinks he has a chance by building a coalition of Libertarians, millennials and disaffected members of both parties. He said that by building up his social media presence and meeting with different groups across the state early he can generate media attention that can in turn help him raise enough money to truly compete with Isakson.
“We need somebody to go up there and reduce spending and stop the growth of the debt, to reform entitlements and to simplify the tax system and to solve our nation’s problems and at the same time makes sure our state gets its fair share of federal spending," Buckley said. Isakson is "not getting that job done. Niceness is going to carry you so far, but I don’t think it’s going to get him through this election."