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Austin Petersen
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Petersen speaking at the 2018 Young Americans for Liberty St. Louis Spring Summit
Austin Wade Petersen

(1981-02-19) February 19, 1981 (age 43)
Alma mater Southwest Missouri State University
Occupation Political activist, radio show host, writer, publisher, political commentator, film and television producer
Political party Republican (2017–present)
Libertarian (before 2017)

Austin Wade Petersen (born February 19, 1981) is an American writer, political activist, commentator, and broadcaster. He is the host of the Wake Up America show daily newscast. He was the runner-up for the Libertarian Party's nomination for President of the United States in 2016, finishing second place to Gary Johnson with 21.9% of the vote.

On August 7, 2018, he finished third in the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Missouri with 8.3% of the vote, behind winner Josh Hawley and runner-up Tony Monetti.

Early life and education

Petersen was raised on a farm in Peculiar, Missouri, the son of Donna and John D. Petersen. He attended Southwest Missouri State University, where he graduated with a degree in musical theater.


Early work

Petersen's early career included stints as a model and as a product demonstrator at FAO Schwarz; at the latter position, he briefly appeared during a Late Night with Conan O'Brien sketch filmed at the store.

In 2008 Petersen worked for the Libertarian National Committee and the Atlas Network, assisting on the 2008 and 2012 presidential bids of former U.S. Representative from Texas, Ron Paul. He was an associate producer at the Fox Business program Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano, which aired from 2010 to 2012, and later went to work as director of production at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. Petersen has also been a frequent guest on the RT program The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann.

Petersen served as an executive producer of the 2014 film Alongside Night, an adaptation of the novel of the same name which promoted agorism, an anarcho-capitalist political philosophy. Several prominent Libertarian figures, such as Ron Paul and Adam Kokesh, appeared in the film.

Post 2016-activities

As of 2018, Petersen was the owner and CEO of a photo and video consulting firm called Stonegait LLC and is the founder of The Libertarian Republic and Liberty Viral – both libertarian news and commentary websites. He ran for the United States Senate as a Republican in 2018, but was defeated in the primary by Missouri's Attorney General Josh Hawley. In 2019, Austin Petersen took over as the host of the KWOS Morning Show on Jefferson City but stepped down to host the Wake Up America show in September of 2022.

2016 presidential campaign

By 2015, Petersen was living in Kansas City, Missouri, "behind a midtown QuikTrip" when he announced his candidacy in the 2016 Libertarian Party nominating convention for President of the United States. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, he was described by Reason editor Matt Welch as "an eager libertarian dudebro on the make".

Petersen called himself the Bernie Sanders of the Libertarian Party due to his grassroots fundraising strategy. After Ted Cruz terminated his campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for president, Petersen received the backing of Mary Matalin and Erick Erickson. In many polls, he placed in the top three presidential choices for his party, along with opponents John McAfee and Gary Johnson. On May 29, 2016, at the Libertarian National Convention, Petersen lost the nomination to Johnson, getting second place on the second ballot. Petersen congratulated Johnson on the win and gave him a replica of George Washington's pistol. Petersen then criticized Johnson's vice presidential pick Bill Weld, in response to which Johnson placed the replica into a garbage can.

Petersen, thereafter, endorsed Johnson for president.

2018 Senate campaign

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In late June 2017, Petersen filed an exploratory committee to consider running for the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri. On July 4, 2017, Petersen formally announced his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2018 Missouri Senate race.

In the runup to the Republican primary election in August, President Donald Trump endorsed Petersen's rival Josh Hawley and campaigned for him. Petersen complained bitterly about Trump's involvement in the primary. In the August 7 primary Petersen came in third with 8.3% of the vote.

Political positions

Petersen is anti-death penalty. He opposes the War on Drugs. He applies a free-market capitalist approach to economics.

Personal life

Petersen resides in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Petersen was married to Stephanie Renee Cole on October 23, 2021.


  • Alongside Night (2014) – Executive Producer
  • Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano (2010–12, 19 episodes) – Associate Producer

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Austin Petersen para niños

  • Libertarian Party presidential primaries, 2016
  • United States presidential election in Missouri, 2016
  • United States Senate election in Missouri, 2018
  • Stossel Libertarian presidential forum, 2016
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