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This article concerns the Libertarian presidential candidate. For information on other people of the same name, see Edward Clark.
Ed Clark

Election date
November 4, 1980
Running mate David H. Koch
Opponent(s) Ronald Reagan (R)
Jimmy Carter (D)
John B. Anderson (I)
Incumbent Jimmy Carter (D)

Born 1930
Political party Libertarian

Ed Clark (born 1930) is an American politician who ran for Governor of California in 1978, and for President of the United States as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in the 1980 presidential election.

Clark is an honors graduate of Tabor Academy, Dartmouth College and received a law degree from Harvard Law School.

1978 California governor campaign

In 1978, Clark received some 377,960 votes, 5.46% of the popular vote, in a race for Governor of California. Although a member of the Libertarian Party, he appeared on the California ballot as an independent candidate.[1]

According to a 1980 article in Mother Jones magazine, Clark's 1978 vote ran strongest in "wealthy Orange County, a long-time stronghold of right-wing sentiments; in the back country of the Sierra Nevada, where loggers, miners and developers rail against government restrictions on land use; in Berkeley and the gay neighborhoods of San Francisco, which share the Libertarians' antipathy for drug laws and vice squads; and in the cocaine-and-Perrier precincts of Marin County..."[2]

Another factor leading to the unprecedented (for California) 5.46% vote total for Clark was his libertarian campaign occurring the same year as the successful Proposition 13 which limited property taxes, and the unsuccessful anti-gay Briggs Initiative (Proposition 6). Clark and the California Libertarian Party campaigned in support for Proposition 13[3] and in opposition to Proposition 6[4] both of which turned out people to the polls who might be more inclined to favor a libertarian candidate.

Clark lost the race to Jerry Brown, who was re-elected with 56% of the vote. Republican nominee Evelle J. Younger had 36.5% of the vote.[5]

1980 Presidential campaign

In 1979 he won the Libertarian Party presidential nomination at the party's convention in Los Angeles, California. He published a book on his programs, entitled "A New Beginning". The book's introduction was by Eugene McCarthy. During the campaign, Clark positioned himself as a peace candidate and emphasized both large budget and tax cuts, as well as outreach to liberals and progressives unhappy with the resumption of Selective Service registration and the arms race with the Soviet Union.[6]

When asked in a television interview to summarize libertarianism, Clark used the phrase "low-tax liberalism," causing some consternation among traditional libertarian theorists, most notably Murray Rothbard.[7][8] Clark's running to the center marked the start of a split within the Libertarian Party between a moderate faction led by Ed Crane and a radical faction led by Rothbard[9] that eventually came to a head in 1983, with the moderate faction walking out of the party convention after the nomination for the 1984 presidential race went to David Bergland.[10]

Ed Clark's running mate in 1980 was David H. Koch of Koch Industries, who pledged part of his personal fortune to the campaign for the vice-presidential nomination, enabling the Clark/Koch ticket to largely self-fund and run national television advertising.

Clark received 921,128 votes (1.06% of the total nationwide)[11]; the highest number and percentage of popular votes a Libertarian Party candidate has ever received in a presidential race. His strongest support was in Alaska, where he came in third place with 11.66% of the vote, finishing ahead of independent candidate John Anderson and receiving almost half as many votes as Jimmy Carter.[12]


  1. ^ Doherty, Brian. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, New York: Publicaffairs, p. 406
  2. ^ Paul, Mark. "Seducing the Left: The Third Party That Wants YOU". Mother Jones, May 1980.
  3. ^ Doherty, p. 405-406
  4. ^ Libertarian Review, vol. 7 no. 9 October 1978
  5. ^ JoinCalifornia election history for the state of California,
  6. ^ See, for example, The "Ed Clark: Isolationist Libertarian" television ad at and NBC's August 8, 1980 profile of the Libertarian Party at
  7. ^ Doherty, p. 415
  8. ^ Raimondo, Justin. An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, Prometheus Books
  9. ^ Hayes, Christopher. "Ron Paul's Roots". The Nation, December 6, 2007
  10. ^ Doherty, p. 418-421
  11. ^ U.S. Presidential Election Atlas,
  12. ^ U.S. Presidential Election Atlas,
Party political offices
Preceded by
Roger MacBride
Libertarian Party Presidential candidate
1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
David Bergland


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