A bushy-eyebrowed pizza deliverer from Durham, N.C., might keep Republicans from winning the Senate.
Sean Haugh isn't a household name and probably never will be. But he's a libertarian candidate for Senate in North Carolina, and his name is on the ballot, and recent polls shows he's doing, well, not terrible. They also show that he siphons off votes from the Republican nominee. So Democrat Kay Hagan, one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents, potentially stands to benefit a lot from Haugh's candidacy.
Haugh’s central goal is to get onstage for debates. A representative of the North Carolina Broadcast Association, which plans to host a debate, confirmed that the group requires candidates to have 10 percent or more in the three polls held closest to the day of the debate. And recent polling suggests that’s not totally unrealistic; a May 30 poll from the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, gave Haugh 8 percent in a survey of 600 registered voters.
That poll also showed Republican nominee Thom Tillis' lead growing when Haugh's name was taken out. And a PPP poll of 877 registered voters from early May gave Haugh 11 percent of the vote.
If Haugh keeps getting numbers like PPP showed, he might snag a spot onstage with Hagan and Tillis. And that situation could give Eastern Seaboard Republicans painful flashbacks. Last year, libertarian Robert Sarvis won 6.6 percent of the vote in Virginia's gubernatorial contest, a tighter-than-expected race that Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe by less than 3 points.
Chris LaCivita, Cuccinelli’s consultant in that race, isn’t pleased with Haugh’s candidacy.
“Libertarians and quote unquote libertarian-minded Republicans exist for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to keep Republicans from winning general elections,” he said.
Republican side-eye doesn’t bother Haugh a bit. When asked if he would consider dropping out of the race if it meant a win for Tillis, who is North Carolina's speaker of the House, Haugh responded, “Gosh, no!
“Both of them should drop out!” he continued. “Both of them are stealing my votes, as far as I’m concerned.”
This campaign isn’t his first rodeo. He ran for Senate in 2002 as well, against Elizabeth Dole and Erskine Bowles, and won 1.45 percent of the vote. But he thinks this time will be different.
“Even if put my name on the ballot and do absolutely nothing, I’m really thinking these polls show the base vote for anything else other than we’ve been getting,” he said.
But he won't do nothing. Haugh has been making YouTube videos touting his candidacy and recently started accepting Bitcoin donations. He also plans to hold town halls around the state, and adds that a few volunteers are putting together a Wikipedia page for him.
“I really feel like never before, a candidate can be competitive without spending seven or eight figures,” he said.
In the meantime, the libertarian will post YouTube videos, celebrate incoming Bitcoin donations, and keep up with his day job, pizza delivery.
“I get to bring joy and relief to about 20, 25 families a night,” he said.