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'Youth for Johnson/Weld' hopes to remind students that there is another option

Students seeking third-party representation are mobilizing through this grassroots organization

Youth for Johnson/Weld club members Anthony Fraijo, Cameron Canete and David Howman talk to Mountain West Regional Director Lauren McCarthy in front of the Memorial Union on Friday, Sept. 9 2016. 

Youth for Johnson/Weld club members Anthony Fraijo, Cameron Canete and David Howman talk to Mountain West Regional Director Lauren McCarthy in front of the Memorial Union on Friday, Sept. 9 2016. 

Driven by a presidential election that seems to get less conventional with every news cycle, some American voters are considering an option that wouldn't hold much water in most other years: a third-party candidate.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson holds a greater share of the vote than any other third-party candidate, and his impact — especially among those disillusioned with two-party dominance and the campaigns of major party nominees — is clear.

Among those supporting Johnson is David Howman, a justice studies senior who founded Youth For Johnson/Weld on campus this year.

"Realistically throughout this whole election process, you know it's been crazy," David Howman, president and founder of the ASU chapter of Youth for Johnson/Weld, said. "As it became more and more inevitable, I started looking at alternatives such as Gary Johnson. He's such a dark force at this point in time."

Howman said he wants Gary Johnson to be the next U.S. president because of his free trade policy and emphasis on individual liberty. 

The club has 32 members and is officially backed by Johnson's campaign, Howman said. 

"I got in contact within the actual campaign, and they were looking to create an ASU-based chapter," he said. "The club was born out of that. We've grown pretty quickly so far and are having regular meetings, and we expect to grow a lot more once we get our name out there."

Howman said the organization's goal is to spread awareness of libertarianism — which advocates for limited government in both social and economic realms — in hopes Gary Johnson will garner enough support to participate in upcoming presidential debates.

He said members will begin hosting tabling events outside of the MU leading up to the debates to increase student engagement.

Johnson needs 15 percent of the vote in five national polls to take the stage in a debate. Currently, he has 12 percent — the most any third-party candidate has gained in 20 years, according to a Pew Research Center poll

Cameron Canete, the club's co-founder and communications director, previously worked for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

However, he said he has never seen students as passionate about a candidate until Youth for Johnson/Weld's first meeting.

"Everything is up in the air right now, and it's anyone's game … and I'm speechless with how passionate these kids are about the cause," Canete said. "But for us, it's not necessarily about joining the club — it's spreading his name."

He said the club’s biggest challenge is its Libertarian affiliation, due to the popularity of the U.S.'s two-party system.

"The polarizing spectrum of the political spectrum right now makes it hard to break through, even though most Americans are independent," Canete said.

Although this isn't quite the case — 39 percent of voting Americans identify as independent, according to Pew Research Center data — Canete isn't far off, as independents do make up the plurality of voters. 

Following Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's recent primary victory against former candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Canete also said members of the club hope to gain support from former backers of Sanders' campaign.

According to a Pew Research poll, 90 percent of Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton.

"This club means a lot (to students) considering Johnson is climbing in the polls," Canete said. "I think he has a lot of potential to claim the presidency if he is on the debates."

Like Canete, other club leaders have experience working in local politics and for political organizations.

Justice studies senior Vamsi Krishna Pappusetti, the organization’s secretary, is also the vice president of Young Americans for Liberty, a bipartisan political organization that has chapters on campuses across the country. He said he predicts the club will merge into a libertarian based student organization once the election concludes.

He said the Johnson campaign initially reached out to him to start the club, but he was too busy. However, after Howman founded it, Pappusetti said he decided to join.  

“I actually want to work in the Libertarian party someday, so this means a lot to me,” Pappusetti said. “We are here to represent Gary Johnson and get people involved. Obviously, he is not as popular as Hillary or Trump. A lot people don’t know there is a third option.” 

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