Special elections often throw off the status quo and sometimes even prove harbingers of general elections. In Florida's 13th congressional district, there may be an opening for a candidate outside the traditional two-party system to make headway.With the death of Republican U.S. Representative Bill Young in October, the seat is open and an early contender for the Democrats is Alex Sink, their losing candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race. Several Republican names have circulated as well, including Young's son,
Yet, it is Libertarian Party candidate Lucas Overby who is poised to make his mark on the election.
At 27, Overby is a veteran of the Libertarian Party (LP) and libertarian causes. Joining the party at 17 as part of a civics project, he says he immediately identified with the LP. His activism has included working with NORML, an organization dedicated to the reform of marijuana laws, women's rights groups, and initiative work with the Tenth Amendment Center.
FL-13 encompasses a large portion of the former 10th district after redistricting. Because of this, Young garnered 58 percent of the vote in his final election, his lowest since 1992. This round of redistricting also puts the entire district within the confines of Pinellas County, which houses St. Petersburg. As a result, many of the traditionally older voters are outside the district.
Overby believes this is going to give his candidacy an edge. In an interview, he said he wishes to focus on disenfranchised voters and intends to focus on the economy, budget, and tax reform while working to win the young vote:
"We have one of the largest 18-35 demographics we've ever had. They've not been played well. Still holding on to their social views, we offer a moderate, more diversified front than our opponents."
Overby will likely need to utilize this otherwise neglected voting bloc if he hopes to compete in a race that already has several disadvantages for third party candidates. He was prepared to qualify for the ballot by petition. However, by the time Governor Rick Scott set the date of the special election, March 11, over one thousand signatures were ruled invalid and the campaign had to pay a filing fee of $10,000 which nearly depleted its coffers.
Despite the setback, the campaign marched on and began fundraising again.
Demonstrating his pragmatic streak, Overby was quoted in the Tampa Bay Tribune saying he does support the use of government shutdowns as a method of achieving gains. However, he did not support the recent one on account of the Republicans' lack of actual solutions. When asked about the conditions under which he would support a government shutdown, he said:
"Shutdowns have been useful in the past, but they were a valid tool and one of the reasons for giving Congress the purse strings. But, we have to use them responsibly. Doing it for show without getting anything accomplished is a waste."
Issues aside, Overby's highly personable campaign may prove an asset as he bridges the gap between candidate and constituent in his search for voters. Also on Twitter and Reddit, Overby handles the campaign's Facebook account, where he says, "I may not be able to answer the content immediately, but a response will come from me personally."
Despite the setbacks from his petition, it may be the accessibility of the candidate that makes Florida's 13th district one of the more competitive races to watch in 2014.