Angela Pence wants to go to Washington, but she’s still got to log hundreds more miles on the road and hundreds more pages of signatures to get there.
Atlanta Civic Circle caught up with the Chickamauga resident, who’s been crisscrossing North Georgia’s mountainous 14th Congressional District in her 2015 Kia Optima since February to collect the equally mountainous 23,000 signatures she needs to get on the ballot as the Libertarian candidate.
A lot has changed since we first checked in nearly two months ago. While Pence is fighting to break into North Georgia’s U.S. House contest as a third-party candidate, the most notable candidate in the crowded field is fighting to stay in the race.
A federal judge’s April 18 ruling that a lawsuit to remove the Republican incumbent, Marjorie Taylor Greene, from the race could proceed has forced the controversial congresswoman to focus on her legal defense instead of campaigning for re-election. Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group, filed the challenge, arguing that Greene should be disqualified, because she participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“I’m not really surprised that this is happening,” Pence, 31, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “She’s such a large figure and has been incredibly outspoken. I figured somebody would step up with the perceived thought that she was connected to January 6. I’m not surprised they framed it in a way that she very well may not be eligible.”
Asked if she thought Greene was involved in the Jan. 6 incident, Pence, who has been following the court case, replied, “I hope not.”
But when pressed, she added: “I don’t think it looked very good for her. Honestly, I do believe she called for people to partake in a protest on January 6. I don’t know if she truly understood the gravity of what that protest was going to turn into.”
If Greene is removed, what does Pence think of her own chances of running as a Libertarian in the heavily Republican 14th district? It would depend on the Republican Party’s pick to replace Greene, she said, adding that the lawsuit likely won’t be decided before the May 24 primary. “Who they would replace her with, I have no idea.”
That said, Pence believes Greene will win the primary. “But if she is replaced–or, most certainly, if they cannot replace her–then my chances are definitely pretty good as well.”
Greene’s predicament aside, Pence has her own worries–namely, getting on the ballot in the first place.
In Georgia, no third-party candidate has been able to run in a U.S. House race for almost 80 years–ever since the state legislature passed one of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country in 1943, aimed at keeping communists out of Congress.
The law requires third-party candidates to collect voter signatures from fully 5% of their congressional district’s active voters for ballot access. So far, none have succeeded.
Pence has until July 12 to collect the 23,000 signatures she needs and pay a $5,220 qualifying fee to get on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election. So far, she’s got about 4,000. We’re on a shoestring budget. I’m not part of either of the two major parties.
Even so, her enthusiasm is undimmed. Pence and her team of volunteers had only gathered about 700 signatures at the end of February when Atlanta Civic Circle last checked in, so they’ve made some headway.
“We’re on a shoestring budget. I’m not part of either of the two major parties,” said Pence, who’s raised about $8,000 for her petition-gathering campaign so far.
“I have petitions out everywhere, which is so cool,” she said, adding that people have been stepping up to help her collect signatures. ”Really, that’s across the aisle. It’s Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and independents–just everybody is rallying around the idea of getting me on the ballot.”
Momentum has picked up over the last month, Pence said, especially among voters 60 and older, a demographic some thought the 31-year-old mother of eight wouldn’t be able to reach.
“I’m not your polished candidate. I have blue hair,” Pence said.“But I’ve actually found [older voters] to be incredibly receptive. The support has grown so much. I’m so humbled by it.”
Pence said she’s considering starting a mail-in signature effort, and she thinks attending some key upcoming events in her district will help get her name out there. Sharing her surname with former Vice President Mike Pence (no relation) doesn’t hurt either.
If she doesn’t clear the 23,000 signature hurdle by July, Pence added, she’ll follow through with a write-in campaign for the November 8 ballot. “It is a hard number,” she acknowledged. “But we didn’t come to not get it. We most certainly are pushing for it.”
ANGELA PENCE: AT A GLANCE
Signatures collected so far: About 4,000.
Money raised: Nearly $8,000. She’s put about $400 of her own money in the campaign.
Miles logged: “I have no idea. I know I’ve had to have my oil changed twice.”
Biggest challenge: The signatures. “That’s such a monumental number to have to overcome but we’re pushing through.”
Biggest lesson learned: “The traction my campaign is gaining on little to nothing, financially, really speaks volumes about how somebody can absolutely make a difference, especially if they’re out there connecting with people.”
Biggest campaign trail surprise: How the over-60 voters, which make up the largest voting bloc in the 14th, have warmed up to her.
Biggest personal surprise: Pence recently learned she’s pregnant with her ninth child, due in December. “I have some weird food cravings. Every day, I’ll go to Sonic and get their onion rings.”