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Libertarians offer statewide slate of alternatives to Democrats,

GOP

ATLANTA - Georgia voters who don't like the choices being offered by the Republicans and Democrats will have an array of third-party candidates to choose from on this year's statewide ballot.

Seven Libertarian Party candidates signed up last week to run for various posts, from governor to two slots on the Public Service Commission.

"That's pretty good for us,'' said Garrett Michael Hayes, the gubernatorial hopeful for the Libertarians, who have fielded as many as 11 candidates in past Georgia elections.

The Libertarian Party first gained access to the statewide ballot with a petition drive in 1984 and has been a fixture ever since.

However, the party has yet to field a congressional candidate because of stiffer ballot access requirements. To qualify at the district level, third-party candidates must have won 20 percent or more of the vote in the previous presidential or gubernatorial election.

"It is a hill that no third-party candidate in the history of Georgia has been able to climb,'' Hayes said.

This year's Libertarian slate, which was nominated at the party's convention in April, includes a mix of candidates who have run before and some newcomers.

Hayes ran for governor in 2002, picking up 2.3 percent of the vote in an election won by Republican Sonny Perdue.

This year's Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor, Allen Buckley, polled 2.1 percent of the vote in a bid for the U.S. Senate two years ago.

While those low showings have been typical of Libertarians on Election Day, the party's candidates often seek to shake up the status quo on the campaign trail.

This year, David Chastain, the Libertarian candidate for state school superintendent, is running on a platform that calls for making the post non-elective.

Instead, Chastain is calling for a constitutional amendment that would provide for the state Board of Education to be elected. Its members then would choose an education professional to serve as superintendent.

Another Libertarian, Public Service Commission candidate Kevin Cherry, has set up a Web site to criticize Republican commission Chairman Stan Wise. Its address is www.stanwise.com, suspiciously close to the incumbent's site, www.stanwise.org.

"My campaign is addressing the issues Georgia voters are concerned about,'' said Cherry, who is challenging Wise for the District 5 seat. "The Democrats and Republicans are playing 'catch-up' by adopting my campaign themes: consumer advocacy, less regulation and alternative energy.''

The Libertarians also have fielded a candidate for the PSC in District 3, Paul MacGregor. Two other Libertarians - Kevin Madsen and Jack Cashin - are running for secretary of state and commissioner of agriculture, respectively.