Los Altos Hills resident Brian Holtz would like your vote next Tuesday, in part because that is all he hopes to win. A Libertarian candidate resigned to a lifetime of single-digit ballot returns, Holtz is more interested in the power of even a small share of the region's votes.
For the third time, he is running for the District 14 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which incumbent candidate Anna Eshoo has filled for the past 16 years, since her first election in 1992. Holtz – who works at Yahoo by day and campaigns evenings and weekends – expects Eshoo to win handily again this year, and he doesn't seem miffed about the likely outcome.
Holtz, 43, is modest about his campaign efforts, which he expects to total approximately $2,000 – he and his daughters (ages 8, 5 and 2) made a YouTube-style campaign video, pass out pamphlets and just received a shipment of Libertarian Frisbees to hand out on the Stanford University campus.
"I can tell you within 2 percentage points how the election is going to come out. Anna Eshoo is going to get 68 to 70 percent of the vote, the Republican (Ronny Santana) will get about 25 percent of the vote, and the third parties will total up to about 4 percent," he said.
But winning a seat isn't really his end game, Holtz acknowledged. He netted approximately 3.6 percent of the vote in 2004 and approximately 2.2 percent in 2006, he reported, but even meager returns can have an effect on the political process. In close Senate races, the size of the Libertarian vote has occasionally been larger than the margin of difference between the top candidates – meaning that Democrats and Republicans have a tangible incentive to try to reach out to Libertarian voters.
"I would like to see Democrats and Republicans worrying about those extra percents and trying to put more freedom into their pitch and pick up our vote," Holtz said. "I would like to see the big parties put us out of business."
When Holtz says freedom, pretty much the key word of the Libertarian party, he is referring to reduced government intervention and regulation.
"It would be great if we could build a world where my daughters could grow up and they wouldn't have to worry about the government telling them what to do with their bodies or telling them what to do with their money," he said. "I'm in some ways an optimist. I think our country is so much more free than we were 50 years ago, and I think we fundamentally as a people believe in civil liberties and personal freedom – Proposition 8 will be an interesting test of that."
As a lapsed Republican, Holtz said he generally believes that Republicans don't implement the worst of their goals – restraints on civil liberty – but that Democrats almost always implement theirs – restraints on economic liberty.
"There's just no way to fight somebody like Obama, who stands up and says, â€˜I'll bail out your mortgage,'" he said. "My quote might be a little outdated, because the Republicans are now out there trying to outbid the Democrats with the bailout."
Holtz said he also puts his name on the ballot so that voters who are truly disaffected with both major party candidates have other options and thus are able to "vote their conscience." The partisan divide in the country is such that he believes voters often choose to support a "lesser evil" because they are so polarized by fear of an opposing party's candidate.
"Before you do it, you always wonder, gee, what would happen if you ran on a platform of what you think are the right ideas? Would the scales fall from people's eyes? Would you magically get all these endorsements? You quickly get disabused of this naÃ¯ve view," he said. "Unless you have a megaphone, it's really hard to move the status quo. You basically just do what you can. The alternative is not running, and not having anyone to vote for, and you are just counted as one of the 50 million people who sit on their hands and don't vote – and I can't be one of those people."