Michael Munger isn't your archetypal politician.
In races where candidates fight bitterly for a single percentage point to tip even the smallest advantage, Munger, chair of the political science department and professor of economics, has been fighting for three years for a chance at 5 percent in the polls.
After campaigning for North Carolina governor as a third-party candidate for three years-long before Obama became a household name or people used the word "Maverick" in drinking games-Munger sits at only 5 percent against Democratic Candidate Beverly Perdue and Republican Candidate Pat McCrory, according to a SurveyUSA poll.
Yet 5 percent has been crucial.
As a Libertarian, Munger has been making headlines as the first third-party candidate to participate in a live, televised gubernatorial debate in the state. Following some controversy around his lack of invitation to the gubernatorial debates, he has established himself as a legitimate candidate.
Munger has been making headlines in other ways-he doesn't exactly play nice. In an interview with The (Raleigh) News & Observer earlier this year, he called Perdue a "Stepford wife" and said that Republicans have "circus clowns" as candidates. There have been other road blocks in his campaign, such as when Rasmussen Reports stopped including him in polls as a candidate.
Despite all this, more and more people are following his campaign. Mainstream media, as well as the local and national political blogosphere, are tuning in. He also appeared as one of the two keynote speakers at the Libertarian National Convention in May.
In North Carolina, Munger has been one of the driving forces behind the Libertarians' successful campaign to get on the ballot across the state this election, where 30 party members are vying for local and state positions. They face a steep battle: In the state's history, zero Libertarian politicians have been elected in competitive races.
Munger said the third-party difficulties of getting on the ballot, let alone getting elected, stems from the state's restrictive ballot law. With a specialization in research concerning campaign finances and elections, Munger says he has fought for third parties across the state.
"I've represented the Green Party as an expert witness on campaign finance, and I've also been an ACLU witness in state court. The decision went against us, but this isn't just a Libertarian issue. It's a civil rights issue," he says.
His chance of winning? Even at only 5 percent in the polls, Munger says he would have a chance if people weren't afraid to vote for a third-party candidate.
"If all the people who said, 'I want to vote for you, but I don't want to waste my vote,' actually did, I think I'd actually have a chance at winning."
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