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April 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, April 02, 2004

Libertarian wins by two votes Libertarian wins by two votes (April 02, 2004)

Mountain View resident is nominated after cliffhanger in primary

By Grace Rauh

After weeks of nail biting and visits to the registrar of voters' Web site every few hours, Michael Laursen secured the Libertarian nomination for the state Senate by two votes.

The close win may not have captured widespread attention in Democratic-heavy District 13, which includes Mountain View, but at least two people carefully tallied the results as they trickled in -- Laursen and his opponent John Webster, who both live in Mountain View.

As of noon on Tuesday, Webster still hoped for a few more votes to push him over the edge at the last minute.

It would be nice if "we had to decide by a flip of the coin or something," Webster said. "My brother's in my district, and he's a registered Libertarian, and he didn't get around to voting. It's like 'Ackhhh.'"

On election night, Webster led the race with two votes. But days later the numbers shifted and Laursen, a moderate Libertarian, pulled ahead with a one-vote lead that put the total count at 259 to 258. Since that turnaround, Laursen remained the front-runner, breaking away with a five-vote edge -- the greatest margin of the race -- on March 16.

Since March 22, Laursen's 285 votes remained steady against Webster's 284, but on March 30 -- the deadline for the county to certify the election -- officials found a single write-in vote for Laursen that put him safely in the winners' circle.

"Isn't that amazing," said Elma Rosa, spokesperson for the county's registrar of voters. "That is exactly why we stress to our voting public, every vote counts."

Laursen is a political newcomer who only entered the race to prevent the colorful and confrontational Webster from gaining the nomination. While he nervously counted down the days to Tuesday's election certification, he admitted trying to be "low-key about it because if I lost to Webster, I would consider it kind of an embarrassment," he said.

Webster has raised eyebrows and ire amongst some Libertarians for his unconventional opinions and actions. In 1990 he was arrested in a sting operation for what he calls "talk-thought crimes." In a series of tape-recorded conversations with a female undercover police officer, he discussed running away with her, raising children and "arranging pleasant sexual experiences" for them within the family, he said.

Webster claims he could not have realistically organized a sexual meeting between his son and the police officer, but "I wanted to. See, that's my crime," he said. Webster pleaded no contest and spent eight months in jail.

A software engineer at Adobe Systems in downtown San Jose, Laursen is single and promotes policies that give parents a choice on where their kids go to school. He hails from a more moderate camp within the party that wants to raise awareness about Libertarian ideas among voters. The Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County endorsed Laursen.

"I'm planning on actually having a little fun with this now," he said. "We plan to become the second party in this area."

E-mail Grace Rauh at [email protected]

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