On Monday, June 6th, a group of Libertarians planned to gather in Charles Town, West Virginia, for a social meeting. Although I’ve read about a lot of Libertarian meetings in various parts of the state, they were always very far from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, places such as Charleston (about 240 miles) or Parkersburg (about 220 miles). Therefore, when I heard that they were meeting in the panhandle, only about 90 miles away, I thought this gathering might be the best and only opportunity to meet some like-minded folks from our neighbors to the north and west. However, the name West Virginia can be somewhat misleading as Jefferson County, the easternmost county in West Virginia is actually east of the Shenandoah Valley.
About a dozen people attended. With the exception of the three candidates, the group lived in various places in Jefferson County, with one or two hailing from the neighboring Berkley County. At the same time, the Charles Town City Council held a meeting to discuss a new anti-discrimination policy and one or two folks at the Libertarian gathering stepped out to listen to the proceedings. As mentioned, the three candidates were: David Moran, the Libertarian candidate for Governor of West Virginia, John Buckley, the Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State, and Brenton Ricketts, who is running for state auditor. Unlike Virginia, which only elects three statewide office holders in the year after the presidential election, West Virginians vote on six in presidential years, and the Libertarian Party has a candidate for each position.
While there I learned more about how West Virginia politics and elections differ from Virginia. Given that Virginia has a very high threshold for official party recognition of 10% of the statewide vote, we only have two political parties. West Virginia, with a threshold of only 1% has four. Along with the Republicans and Democrats, they also have the Libertarians and the Mountain Party (which is an affiliate of the Green Party). Another interesting fact is that although Virginia has more than eight times as many residents, both states have the same number of members in their House of Delegates at 100, and West Virginia has only six fewer state senators than Virginia. There are several Libertarians running for state office this year and one candidate for House of Representatives too. In addition, West Virginia has voter registration by party, but again voters can choose from any of the four parties or register as an independent. Apparently, the West Virginia Libertarian Party has seen a swell in registration in recent months.
During the evening, I spoke with a former Republican as well as a leader of a local Young Republican group who attended the gathering. I told them about the loyalty oaths that the Virginia Republican Party makes their members sign and the penalties enacted upon those who broke party ranks (for example, if they voted in another party’s primary). Both seemed to think that these kinds of restrictions and demands from the RPV were completely absurd.
In addition, as John Buckley led the West Virginia delegation at the recent national Libertarian Convention in Orlando, it was fun to hear his thoughts of the event and his opinions of the candidates who ran too. And, by the end of the night, I picked up two new Facebook friends.
With the general dissatisfaction with Republican candidate Donald Trump and the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, will the Libertarian Party experience an upswell in interest and votes? Will disaffected conservatives and Bernie supporters buck the two major political parties by supporting someone like Gary Johnson, or will they obediently fall in line, casting their vote for whomever they decide is the less evil option?
Overall, it was a good event in Charles Town on Monday night. I hope I can attend another gathering before too long.