Libertarian lives outside Pennsylvania congressional district he hopes to represent
Drew Miller is a political outsider in more ways than one.
Miller, 37, of Pittsburgh's South Side, is the Libertarian Party's nominee in the March 13 special election race to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy. In the past half-century, only two independents have been elected to Congress. No minor-party candidates have been.
What makes Miller even more of an outsider is that he doesn't live in the congressional district he hopes to represent.
The South Side is in Pennsylvania's 14th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills. The special election is being held in the 18th Congressional District, which includes parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Greene and Washington counties.
The Washington Post reported last year that nearly two dozen House members are registered to vote outside the congressional districts they represent.
Miller announced his long-shot campaign by email this week, saying he would offer an alternative for voters seeking a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate aiming to minimize government interference in their private lives.
“I think I have a shot. Even if I don't, I think this race is so close between (Democratic nominee Conor) Lamb and (Republican nominee Rick) Saccone, I could actually be the spoiler between who wins,” Miller said in an interview.
Libertarian Gary Johnson won enough votes in Pennsylvania in the 2016 presidential election to qualify for the party to appear on the ballot in the March special election, a Department of State spokeswoman said. The Green Party also received enough votes to appear, according to the spokeswoman.
Johnson won 2.4 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein won 0.82 percent of the state's votes. Libertarian Senate candidate Edward Clifford III won 3.89 percent of the vote in his race against Republican Pat Toomey, who won the election, and Democrat Katie McGinty.
Miller, an energy lawyer, said the Libertarian parties of Allegheny and Washington counties selected him in a Dec. 20 caucus meeting.
“There wasn't really anybody from Allegheny County that wanted to do it, so I told them I'd throw my hat in the ring,” he said.
He said another woman had been interested in being a candidate but decided to withdraw during the meeting, leaving him with the party's nomination.
Unless a minor-party candidate has a lot of money, they are not likely to make an impact in the race, said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist based in Harrisburg.
“If somebody came in with a million dollars to lay on the table as a third-party candidate, they could make an impact. Absent that, I just don't think there's running room,” Gerow said.
Only one race will appear on ballots March 13, and voters are unlikely to turn out to support a third-party candidate, he said.
Miller said his campaign has no money. He said he had to form a nonprofit to start collecting donations, and that process is under way.
He said he plans to try to energize young voters looking for an alternative to the two-party system.
“The odds are against me in terms of the money being spent, but in the same regards I think people need to realize that if there's that much money spent, the candidates are going to be working for the parties themselves and not the constituents,” he said.
Miller served as legal counsel for former state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, who was convicted in 2012 on state corruption charges for using taxpayer-funded staff to do campaign work. He said he worked in her Cranberry office and wasn't aware of the improper activities while they were going on.
He said he graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with a major in broadcast journalism and a minor in political science. He graduated from Widener University Commonwealth Law School in 2007, he said.
The March special election became necessary after Murphy resigned in October following reports that pro-life lawmaker asked a mistress to have an abortion during a pregnancy scare.
Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @wesventeicher.