The road to the U.S. Senate runs through YouTube—at least, Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh hopes it does.
A 53-year-old pizza delivery man and Durham resident, Haugh is running his campaign for North Carolina's U.S. Senate seat mainly through social media. North Carolina’s top third-party option, he has advocated for small government and expanded personal freedoms in a series of YouTube videos—produced in his campaign manager's basement, usually clad in a t-shirt and with a beer in his hand.
His campaign represents an option for those disenchanted by the two main political parties, Haugh said.
“That’s why I’m here, to give them that option. If there’s no option, I would skip it myself," Haugh said. "I did this as an act of conscience because I personally wanted to vote for someone who was for stopping all war…. I understand why people are turned off from the political process.”
Polling indicates that Haugh's chances of winning are slim—with a recent USA TODAY and Suffolk University poll showing Haugh holding 5 percent of the vote, compared to Democrat Kay Hagan's 45 percent and Republican Thom Tillis' 43 percent.
Yet when asked what he hopes the legacy of his campaign will be, Haugh indicated that a win is still the end goal.
“I’m hoping that the legacy of this campaign will be that I serve at least six years in the US Senate,” he said.
Haugh was not invited to participate in Wednesday night's debate between Hagan and Tillis. Before the debate began, he posted a message on his official Facebook campaign page indicating his dissatisfaction.
"Seriously, if my Democratic and Republican opponents are afraid to face little ol' me, how can they stand up to our enemies?" he wrote.
Though Haugh's portion of the vote is small, it is still enough to influence the race—especially with the margin between Hagan and Tillis as narrow as it is. But in response to the notion that he could be the spoiler who propels incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan to victory over Republican Thom Tillis—a possibility discussed by several pundits recently—Haugh rejected the idea of a "spoiler" system.
“The whole spoiler notion is backwards because the Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians don’t own anyone’s votes. The individual voter owns their votes and decides who will own each vote," Haugh said. "One particular dynamic of the race that I’ve been talking about more and more openly is that my Republican opponent is unelectable. This guy has such high negatives that he can’t win.”
Haugh's platform is built on principles of limited government and personal freedom, he noted.
“People should be able to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they’re not harming anybody else,” Haugh said.
His positions on several issues reflect this desire for freedom from government constraint. When asked for his view on the legalization of marijuana, Haugh called for full legalization of drugs, citing signs that the legalization in Colorado has decreased violence. He added that he believes the government should release all non-violent federal prisoners and expunge their records.
An additional hot-button issue that Haugh has addressed in his campaign is that of same-sex marriage.
“[Marriage is] the last thing government should be regulating, and I think people should be free to form their relationships however they like, as long as everything’s between consenting adults,” Haugh said. “Not just gay marriage. To me, it’s just marriage. It’s not up to me to decide who’s going to get married, it’s up to them.”
Haugh has also expressed a strong anti-war stance, in addition to speaking out against police militarization. He noted that he hopes his campaign can inspire voters, particularly young people and students.
“Be involved in the political process," he described as his message to students. "Not only does your voice matter, but we have to have it. The system is totally dependent on citizen involvement. Here in America, the citizens are supposed to own government, not the other way around. The government is supposed to work for us.”