Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Donald Rainwater detailed his limited-government agenda to a crowd of a couple dozen at a campaign event Saturday at West Jay Community Center in Dunkirk. It was the first of three campaign stops that day as he later traveled to Bluffton and Fort Wayne. (The Commercial Review/Riley Eubanks)
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Donald Rainwater detailed his limited-government agenda to a crowd of a couple dozen at a campaign event Saturday at West Jay Community Center in Dunkirk. It was the first of three campaign stops that day as he later traveled to Bluffton and Fort Wayne. (The Commercial Review/Riley Eubanks)
DUNKIRK — Indiana has never elected a third-party candidate for governor.

Libertarian Donald Rainwater made his pitch on why he should be the first to a crowd of a couple dozen at a mask-less rally Saturday at West Jay Community Center.

Rainwater, the only gubernatorial candidate to hold an event in Jay County this year, has campaigned on a limited-government platform targeting Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mask mandate and executive orders in response to COVID-19, the respiratory virus that has killed nearly 4,000 Hoosiers this year.

“The government does not have the power to suspend our rights in the middle of an emergency,” Rainwater told the crowd, which responded with applause.

Holcomb mandated masks in public spaces when social distancing is impossible under the emergency powers provision, which extends the powers of the executive branch during a crisis. That provision has been criticized by local state Rep. J.D. Prescott (R-Union City) and other Republican state lawmakers.

“I’m just a Hoosier who is tired of government doing more than it should,” Rainwater said prior to his rally.

It should be a business’ decision rather than the government on whether it wants to impose a mask mandate, Rainwater said. He made the point while ignoring the community center’s mask mandate along with the rest of his campaign staff and supporters, none of whom entered the room with a mask on.

In addition to supporting the statewide legalization of marijuana, Rainwater advocates for abolishing personal income and residential property taxes and has said he will veto any attempt to raise taxes while governor.

“We need to start focusing on what’s best for the individual Hoosier at the state level,” he said.

He spent a few dozen minutes at his rally calling for the end of statewide standardized testing and said the size and scope of state and federal departments of education should be greatly reduced in favor of a “localized” and “simplified” education system.

When asked how he would work with the state legislature, something Holcomb has struggled with at times in his first term, Rainwater said he has had a number of state lawmakers contact him supporting his ultra-conservative approach.

He didn’t divulge any names of who he has received words of encouragement from outside of state Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour), the lone lawmaker to publicly endorse Rainwater.

Rainwater unsuccessfully ran as a Libertarian for the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives in 2016 and 2018, respectively, losing by more than 50 percentage points in both races. He performed better but still lost when he ran against Westfield Mayor Andy Cook in the mayoral election last year, winning nearly 40% of the vote as a Libertarian. He was the only candidate to run against Cook in the general election.

If elected, Rainwater would be the first governor outside of the Republican and Democratic parties since the executive branch was helmed by members of the now-defunct but periodically dominant Whig party from 1831 to 1843. Prior to that, independent James B. Ray was the only governor outside of the two major national parties to serve as governor when he was elevated to the office from president pro tempore of the state senate in 1825.

According to the latest poll from SurveyUSA, Holcomb leads the race for governor by 30 percentage points over Democrat Woody Myers. Ten percent of likely voters said they would be voting for Rainwater in the poll, which was conducted prior to the first gubernatorial debate last week.

There is another debate scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight between Holcomb, Myers and Rainwater. It will be broadcasted live on the local PBS station (WIPB, channel 49).