Carmel Congressional candidate predicts big year for Libertarians

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The two major candidates for U.S. president, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, have historically high negative ratings, according to polls.

A Washington Post-ABC news poll has both candidates at 57 percent unfavorable ratings, a first for the poll.

Matt Wittlief, a Carmel resident running for U.S. Congress as a libertarian, said this presents a perfect opening for a third party candidate to do well.

“There’s a lot of excitement nationwide, and I think that can translate to local races,” he said.

Wittlief, a father of three and lifelong Hoosier, is taking on incumbent U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, a Republican, and Angela Demaree, a Democrat and an Indianapolis-based large animal veterinarian, for Indiana District 5.

Wittlief grew up on the south side of Indianapolis and graduated as valedictorian from Lutheran High School. He has a master’s degree in applied mathematics from Purdue, and he lives in Carmel with his wife, Diamond, and three children: Nienna, Tommy and Samantha. He works as a solutions consultant for an analytics technology startup.

Wittlief describes himself as a “reluctant politician” because he’s more about his ideals than his ego. He said he believes in small government, an idea that many Republicans espouse but don’t always support.

“When you look at the War on Drugs or morality in legislation, the Republicans have proved that they aren’t really about small government,” he said. “I haven’t researched every vote of hers, but Brooks has mostly stuck with the party line.”

Within the Libertarian Party, both in Indiana and nationwide, there’s been an ongoing debate among party members about whether the best candidates are those that are party purists or those that are “most electable,” such as someone who has held previous office. Gary Johnson was named the libertarian candidate for president and has previously served as governor of New Mexico as a member of the Republican Party. Wittlief said he’s familiar with that debate and believes both are necessary to help the party grow. He believes he’s mostly true to the cause of the party, but he also has real world experience in business, which he said makes him qualified to run for office.

Wittlief said he understands it’s an uphill climb for a third party — Gary Johnson received less than 1 percent of the popular vote as a libertarian presidential candidate in 2012 — but he said it’s important to provide that choice.

“That’s the biggest reason I’m running,” he said. “People should have a choice besides just the two major parties that don’t always represent the American people.”

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