An Evening With The Charles Town Libertarians

IMG_0349On 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.

ISFLC 2015

On February 13th, 14th, and 15th, Students for Liberty held their annual International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C.  Some of the featured speakers this year included: Former Representative Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, and, via satellite, Edward Snowden.

This year’s ISFLC marked my third, having previously attended in 2013 and 2014.  Unfortunately, as was the case last year, no students from James Madison University made the journey.  Nevertheless, Nicholas Farrar, the former president of Madison Liberty did make the conference.

I intended to attend only on Saturday, but on Friday morning I received a call.  Apparently a group of students traveling to the conference from Nashville, TN, broke down in Mt. Jackson, VA, about thirty miles north of my home.  As luck would have it, they ran into a Methodist minister (who also happened to be my last roommate from college) who contacted me.  I was unable to find anyone who could transport the students the rest of the way to the conference and therefore prepared to do so myself.  However, right before leaving Harrisonburg, I received word that a bus coming from Texas would pick up the stranded students and thus that particular crisis was averted.

Early Saturday morning, I left for ISFLC along with a new friend and local Democratic activist.  The drive north was uneventful, though I was disappointed to discover that the conference was not in the same location as it had been the previous two years.  After parking, we made our way from the garage through a dimly lit maze of hotel corridors until we found the check-in counter.  While waiting for the annual taping of the Stossel Show, we explored the various informational tables.  A handful of groups, like YAL, the Koch Institute, and the Libertarian Party had booths in very visible locations while the majority were clustered on a lower floor.  During this time, we ran into the 2014 West Virginia Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate John Buckley.

Marc Allen Feldman
Marc Allen Feldman

One of the first fellows who reached out to me was Marc Allen Feldman, an individual who is seeking the 2016 Libertarian nomination for president.  Although neither the Republican or Democratic Parties has ever had a booth at ISFLC, The Republican Liberty Caucus did, staffed by former RLC national chairman Dave Nalle.

As we sought out lunch, we ran into Representative Thomas Massie (KY-4).  He was speaking to a gathering of students on a variety of topics.  IMG_2805

Over a hundred people stood in line for well over a half an hour as we awaited entrance to attend the Stossel Show.

IMG_2815Although not boasting a list of controversial speakers as they had in previous years, the program did include Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) and a variety of folks who spoke about the abridgement of students’ rights on college campuses, not only in this country, but internationally as well.

Afterward, Representatives Amash, and Massie as well as Young Americans for Liberty leader Jeff Frazee, spoke to a rather sizable gathering of students. IMG_2824

As I mentioned to him before the conference, I would have liked to speak to Representative Amash in person too, but the opportunity never presented itself.  Nevertheless, I was able to snap a photo of him as he hurried from one meeting to the next.  IMG_2827

Given the threat of snow, we decided to leave the conference around 5 PM.  I found that unlike previous conferences, parking was exceedingly expensive, $33 for about seven hours.

The drive back started out relatively uneventfully, though a light snow began to fall as we took I-66 through Manassas.  By the time we reached Front Royal, the snow reduced visibility to several feet and so I pulled off the road, hoping that the weather would subside, worried that I’d have to spend the night in my car.  After a short pause, the snow became lighter and so we continued on.  Shortly after turning on to I-81, we were forced off the highway and told the interstate was closed due to several tractor trailer wrecks.  Switching to US-11, the journey slowly advanced south for several miles until we could return to the interstate.  Although the roads were not in the best condition, we were able to return to Harrisonburg without incident.  A drive that normally takes about two hours instead took four.

All in all, it was another enjoyable conference, though it is my sincere hope that many JMU students will be able to experience it for themselves in 2016.

2014: In Political Review

UntitledAs today is the last day of 2014, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my political adventures over the previous 365 days.

I suppose the most monumental event for me, at least politically, was running for city council.  Although involved in more elections than I can count, that race marked my first time as a candidate.  It was a unique experience and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of folks that I may not have otherwise encountered.  It also gave me an insight into my fellow candidates, viewing them from an angle that most voters would never know.  Yes, the voters preferred other choices, but I’ve said that one win or loss isn’t as important as advancing the liberty movement.  Taken as a whole, running was both rewarding and discouraging.

2014 marked the end of my 19 year involvement with the Republican Party as I was expelled from my local unit in February.  It was disheartening to see the party place blind loyalty over their principles, but for far too many people in politics, values are a mere smokescreen to advance their own power.  A few months later, about a decade after attending my first meeting, I joined the Libertarian Party.  Although I am keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of political parties, it is difficult to promote and advance your ideas by yourself and have discovered a number of good people who call themselves Libertarian.  I especially appreciated the opportunity to meet Will Hammer, the Libertarian candidate for House in the 6th, and Paul Jones, the Libertarian candidate in the 5th.  Thanks also to Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian senatorial candidate, as well as John Buckley, the West Virginian Libertarian senatorial candidate and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who helped my campaign.  Also, I don’t want to forget Josh who created a fine website for me and Jonathan who crafted a bunch of campaign literature; thank you too to my friends that are still within the GOP.  Before moving on, let me offer another big thanks and shout-out to Marc Montoni, the LPVA Secretary, whose assistance, advice, and friendship were valuable to me in so many ways.

I feel I should mention that earlier this year I faced a pretty significant political threat.  Although I’ve been bullied by a variety of sources previously, this particular threat had a rather nasty sting to it especially considering it was done by someone who once declared me a good friend.  I shouldn’t be surprised that some people in politics will say or do almost anything to try and achieve their goals, but that doesn’t make the encounter any less disappointing.

On a lighter note, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit firsthand about Guatemalan politics during my mission trip with my church to that country.  Comparative politics is usually interesting.

I was glad that the radio show with Andy Schmookler on 550 AM WSVA continued and am grateful to Karen Kwiatkowski for filling in for me on two shows I could not participate due to my run for council.

I’m pleased to say that this website, The Virginia Conservative, still is going strong; it’s a little amusing that it continues to accumulate more fans that my run for council did.  Not seeking to garner praise from any particular group or person, I pledge to continue to offer my candid thoughts and news into my seventh year.

Moving on to politics at JMU, I wonder if I am the first person to be refused entry to a meeting of the JMU CRs.  I’ve been active in trying to promote college activism for years, but several months ago, like George Wallace enforcing segregation, a leader of that group blocked the door to their meeting and requested that I not come in.

Although I’m disappointed that Nick, the former leader of Madison Liberty, has graduated and left the area, I’m looking forward to seeing how Emery advances the group next year and plan to aid him however I can.  I also hope that Students for Sensible Drug Policy continues to be a force on campus.  Although my time with the JMU CRs was brief, I must I was glad for the opportunity to meet Christian, a like-minded activist, and hope he presses that group in a more principled direction.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment and recognize two of my fellow former candidates for city council.  Although we certainly disagreed on a number of issues, both Republican D.D. Dawson and Democrat Alleyn Harned showed themselves to be particularly worthy opponents and I appreciated their warmness and decency in a field that sorely needs it.

Have I missed something or someone?  I have no doubt that I have.  But please forgive me; after all, it’s hard to condense an entire year into a single post.

Best wishes to you all in 2015.  Let’s see where the next year takes us!

Thank You Rep. Capito

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.  Image from her congressional website
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. Image from her congressional website

I must confess that Representative Shelly Moore Capito (R- WV 3) is not a person for whom I have a lot of praise.  In my research, it seems to me that, more often than not, she has consistently advocated policies that increase the size and scope of the federal government.  As such, she and I seem to have what might be considered a fundamental disagreement over the proper role of Washington D.C.

Nevertheless, today Rep. Capito did something some might consider remarkable.  This election cycle, Capito is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.  According to the Charleston Daily Mail, in accepting a debate with her Democratic opponent, Natalie Tennant, Capito “also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate.”  That means she believes John Buckley, the Libertarian candidate, and Bob Baber, the Mountain Party candidate ought to also have a place on the stage.

I firmly believe that when politicians do the right thing, they ought to be praised for it.  And so, today I say thank you to Representative Capito for helping to expand political dialogue in the state of West Virginia.  I hope the politicians from this side of the mountain will take note and learn from your example.

also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate. – See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM01/140819521/1298#sthash.684hIDoo.dpuf
also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate. – See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM01/140819521/1298#sthash.684hIDoo.dpuf
also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate. – See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM01/140819521/1298#sthash.684hIDoo.dpuf