Larry Sharpe, a little-known candidate on the libertarian fringe who has been energetically campaigning against Governor Andrew Cuomo and polling between 3% and 4% of likely voters, has a peculiar history of waging hapless campaigns that split the Republican voter base to benefit Democrats.
During the 2016 presidential election, Sharpe aspired to be Gary Johnson‘s running mate on the Libertarian Party ticket, which waged as an unapologetically anti-Donald Trump message and was funded by donors aligned with Hillary Clinton.
This year, Sharpe is playing the same role at the gubernatorial level.
Sharpe has been campaigning as a truer, further rightward alternative to the more centrist Republican nominee Marc Molinaro, in an orchestrated effort to diffuse the opposition vote and help re-elect Cuomo in a year when he is vulnerable and would be certain to lose a head-to-head contest.
Observers worry that many activists are being duped by the electioneering scheme.
Sharpe is said to be a puppet of former Governor Bill Weld, of Massachusetts. A fierce advocate of gun control, Weld defeated Sharpe for the 2016 Libertarian vice-presidential nomination. Weld is an outspoken Trump critic who intends to run for president in 2020.
To accomplish their goal of undermining Trump’s reelection, the Libertarian Party and Weld need to increase ballot access in as many states as possible. In New York, a party earns a ballot line for four years if their gubernatorial nominee attracts at least 50,000 votes.
“Larry Sharpe’s motive is purely to create this ballot line and to give Weld easier access in 2020 to assist the Libertarian quest to defeat President Trump,” explains one party insider.
“Sharpe is brilliantly executing a plan to mislead conservative voters. The presence of a Libertarian ballot line in New York would displace the Conservative line, possibly resulting in the loss of ballot access for the party,” explains the Republican official.
Although Sharpe has raised less than $450,000, he lists more than $150,000 in unitemized disclosures, which has been raising eyebrows among operatives and election law attorneys. They note that the basis of former Senator George Maziarz‘s prosecution and resignation was for the same offense with fewer dollars.
One Republican claims that GOP headquarters has evidence that Democrat operatives close to the Governor have been “actively orchestrating” the flow of those unitemized monies to Sharpe. The campaign has been spending heavily on paid social media operatives.
Sharpe identifies himself as an “entrepreneur and business consultant.”
Perhaps most curious is Sharpe’s support of a markedly left-leaning agenda that he disguises with conservative buzzwords and a brash anti-establishment tone. He supports legalizing drugs and creating heroin injection sites; wants to vastly expand the pardoning of criminals; and has taken a hostile posture with law enforcement.
While Sharpe has never taken a vote on any Second Amendment issue, he has made gun rights the centerpiece of his campaign. Operatives say that his motivation is simple: he is using the issue to leverage all of the organizing that has been done in recent years to secure 50,000 votes and with it a ballot line.