BY JORDAN WILLOW EVANS ON APRIL 12, 2023 5:10 PM
Presidential hopeful and former Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park operator Joseph Maldonado-Passage, more famously known as “Joe Exotic,” has announced on social media that he is leaving the Libertarian Party. Exotic’s leaving follows multiple critical exchanges between him and Libertarian National Committee Chair Angela McArdle over social media.
“Joe Exotic’s explosive departure from the Libertarian Party comes as a result of his frustration with their relentless infighting and extreme weapon ownership views,” Exotic says in a press release sent out earlier this week. “Fearlessly challenging the status quo, Joe Exotic now champions responsible gun regulation that fiercely protects the Second Amendment while ensuring public safety.”
This past March, Exotic announced he’d seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. “Yes, I know I am in Federal Prison and you might think this is a joke but it’s not. It is my Constitutional right to do this even from here,” Exotic wrote on his campaign website. At that same time, he uploaded a photo of his FEC filings on Instagram, showing his affiliation with the Libertarian Party.
Before his 2024 presidential campaign, Exotic was a candidate for office on two other occasions—including as a Libertarian candidate. He first ran for president in 2016, appearing only on the ballot in Colorado and collecting various write-in votes nationwide. He ultimately took just over 600 votes. Two years later, Exotic would run for Oklahoma Governor as a Libertarian, facing off against Chris Powell and Rex Lawhorn in the primary. He would ultimately come in third with 18.7% of the vote and win several counties.
Exotic is now running for the Democratic Party nomination, stating in the same press release that it’s part of his larger “quest for accountability.”
“The driving force behind Joe Exotic’s daring switch to the Democratic Party is his unyielding determination to take on President Joe Biden is a no-holds-barred, gloves-off debate on critical issues like justice and prison reform,” he states.
“Unrelenting in his quest for accountability, Joe Exotic seeks to expose deep-rooted corruption within the Department of Justice and fiercely advocates for innocent Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned in federal penitentiaries.”
Exotic’s initial 2024 announcement quickly generated controversy, as Exotic, star of the 2020 Netflix original “Tiger King,” is currently serving a 21-year sentence following an indictment on two counts of murder-for-hire.
However, it’s important to note that while unusual, Exotic is not the first candidate to mount a presidential campaign while incarcerated. Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs earned over 900,000 votes for approximately 3.4% of the total cast during the 1920 presidential campaign while incarcerated for violating the Espionage Act. More recently, Keith Judd, a perennial Democratic candidate who ran several times while incarcerated, created headlines in 2012 when he broke 40% of the vote against then-Barack Obama in the West Virginia Democratic presidential primary.
LNC Chair Angela McArdle soon dismissed Exotic’s candidacy in an interview with the tabloid news organization TMZ. “We stand for personal and economic freedom,” McArdle stated. “[W]e are not a landing pad for former reality stars and D-list celebrities.” Exotic and McArdle would continue pushing back against each other on social media, including on policy issues, until Exotic’s ultimate departure.
Response from those in the Libertarian Party has primarily been positive to Maldonado-Passage’s leaving the party. Since his leaving, several prominent members and accounts have made statements on social media. “Thank God… Joe Exotic is running as a Democrat, the party where he belongs,” stated LNC Treasurer Todd Hagopian on Twitter.
“The party of psychopaths and degenerates, you’ll fit right in,” wrote the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.