SMYRNA, Ga. — A former Republican candidate for governor announced his support for the Libertarian candidate on Friday, arguing that neither major party candidate represents conservative values.
David Pennington lost a long-shot bid to replace Gov. Nathan Deal as the Republican nominee in May. Pennington said he wouldn't tell anyone else how to vote but decided to back Libertarian candidate Andrew Hunt based on his approach to taxes and fiscal policy.
Hunt, the former CEO of an Atlanta nanotechnology firm, is challenging Deal and Democrat Jason Carter.
"People say you waste your vote when you vote for a third-party candidate," Pennington said. "I believe you waste your vote when you vote for someone who does not share your ideals or beliefs."
Libertarian candidates in Georgia could play a major role in the races for governor and the open U.S. Senate seat. A candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. Libertarian candidates have earned around 3 or 4 percent of the vote in recent statewide elections.
On Friday, Hunt said making a runoff election himself would be the ultimate victory. He said earning even 5 percent will demonstrate voters' interest outside the two major parties and could force a historic runoff.
"No one needs to be fearful that if you vote for Andrew Hunt, you're going to put either Deal or Carter into office," he said.
Pennington courted conservative voters during the GOP primary, attacking Deal's fiscal policies and during his campaign announcement accused the incumbent of hiding "behind a party label to raise taxes." He earned about 17 percent of the May primary vote.
Carter's campaign suggested the endorsement is a sign Deal can't consolidate support within his party while Deal supporters shrugged Pennington off as a non-factor.
Hunt has said he favors eliminating economic development incentives, opposes any federal involvement in education and wants to get rid of employment penalty taxes. Hunt's fundraising has trailed both Deal and Carter significantly. He reported raising about $23,000 at the end of June, compared to millions contributed to Carter and Deal.
Libertarian Senate candidate Amanda Swafford faces Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue in the Senate race on Nov. 4.