First Impressions: Jason Carrier

Photo from Brian Hiner, 6th district LPVA Chairman

For the last several weeks, I have been wondering if anyone would seek the Libertarian Party nomination for governor.  Robert Sarvis ran in 2013, but that was only the second time in Virginia history that the LPVA fielded a candidate for this position.  Although Mr. Sarvis did run for the Virginia Senate in 2011, he was not well-known statewide before the 2013 Virginia Libertarian Convention in Waynesboro.  When I asked if anyone would run this year, I was told that there were several prospective candidates but nothing was public yet.

As my search continued, I was given a name, Jason Carrier.  Being the curious fellow I am, I sought him out and sent him a Facebook message hoping to learn more.  Most importantly, I asked him why he was running.  His response was, “The party needs a candidate to keep momentum up.  I’ve been preaching Libertarian values to anyone who would listen for years, so I figured I would quit bitching and try and do something about it.  It is about forcing the other two parties to compete in the arena of ideas, pulling them to a pro-liberty agenda.”  As you might imagine, given my beliefs and support for political competition, I thought his answer was a good beginning.

On Saturday, March 11th, the 6th district Libertarian Party held a convention in Staunton, Virginia.  I ended up sitting next to a fellow in a red button-up shirt and tie who turned out to be Jason Carrier.  After the main business of the meeting, such as the election of officers and Will Hammer gaining the Libertarian nomination for the 20th district in the House of Delegates, Mr. Carrier took the floor.

Mr. Carrier spoke of about himself and his experiences but, unlike many other office-seekers, especially first-time candidates, his life wasn’t the central focus of his talk.  Instead, he discussed a number of issues of importance to his campaign such as reducing taxes, regulatory reform, and even privatizing the roads in the Commonwealth.  Perhaps surprisingly he had favorable things to say about one of his opponents, Republican candidate Denver Riggleman, who he said shared many principles with Libertarians.  As a self-identified jarhead, occasionally Mr. Carrier would pepper his speech with some mild language that you wouldn’t expect from your average politician.  After his remarks, he fielded a multitude of questions from the audience on a variety of topics.  As one example, although most Libertarians are pro-choice, it was a pleasant surprise to hear a statewide candidate advocating for life.

Although brief, I have to say that I am impressed with Jason Carrier thus far.  He seems authentic and not a typical politician willing to say whatever he thinks will earn your support.  He spoke with conviction and didn’t waffle or appear dazed like some people do when they are caught in the high-beams of public attention.  He didn’t avoid tough questions by shifting the discussion to other topics and was quite open and approachable.  One interesting idea he proposed, and although I’ll admit I am ignorant of the subject, I’m not sure of the present viability of solar power producing roadways.  Lastly, unlike some third-party candidates, he did not promise certain victory if given the party’s nomination, which is a pretty tough task given numerous legal hurdles, press barriers, and mindset of voters who are constantly told that supporting a third party or independent candidate is akin to “wasting their votes”.  If he does not win, he seeks to capture at least 10% of the vote.  Doing so would make it much easier for Virginia voters to routinely have a third choice in future elections.  In addition, he hopes that his run will inspire more candidates to run under the Libertarian Party banner.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Jason Carrier as the campaign continues, but, as I’ve said, my first impressions were quite positive.  If you’d like to meet him in person and you live in the Harrisonburg area, I’m told he’ll likely be stopping by the next meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians on the evening of March 21st.

The Rise of the LPVA

Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention
Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention

The Libertarian Party of Virginia stands on the brink of political history as they look to certify a candidate for U.S. Senate and all eleven congressional districts in the state.

In order to understand the significance of this event, I think it useful to reflect back on my experiences with the LPVA.

In 2004, I found myself living in Charlottesville.  As most political activists in Virginia know, Charlottesville is one of the more liberal cities in the Commonwealth.  Being a Republican, I attended many of the meetings of the Charlottesville Republican Party while living there.  However, I found the group so demoralized and so fragmented that after a few gatherings I began to seriously question why I should offer my time and energy to them.

About this time, I heard of another organization, the Jefferson Area Libertarians.  They met at a place called the Mellow Mushroom.  For several months I simply sat and listened to their discussions.  Although I didn’t agree with everything they stood for (and who agrees with anyone 100%?) I thought the group was far more spirited than the local GOP.  As such, at one point I asked them about the candidates they were running for office.  The response was unexpected.  They seemed to think I was crazy for asking such a question.  To me, although philosophical discussion is great, without a plan to turn your vision into reality, it is of little tangible value.  I found that many of Libertarians around the state weren’t particularly interested in getting involved in campaigns and elections and thus I became critical of the LPVA.  To me, if a party doesn’t recruit candidates and work to help them, they aren’t really a political party, but rather little more than a debating society.

Although the LPVA did run candidates, such as for governor and senator, they were a rarity, especially in my corner of the state.  That began to change in 2010 with Stuart Bain who challenged Representative Bob Goodlatte in the 6th district.  Then, in 2013, the party not only ran Robert Sarvis, a candidate for governor, but also over half a dozen candidates in House of Delegates races.  This year, as mentioned at the beginning of the piece, the Libertarian Party has a candidate in every congressional district as well as for Senate.  Now, will all of the Libertarians make the ballot?  We’ll find out soon, but I would be surprised if they did.  Nevertheless, it is certainly amazing to watch what is happening.

Taking the entire picture of Virginia politics, although in control of the state legislature, the Republican Party is fractured between the grassroots and establishment, still reeling from a successive string of statewide losses.  At the same time, the Democratic Party has fared well in statewide contests, but is not challenging every Republican Representative in the November election and recently lost control of the Virginia State Senate in unusual circumstances which has left many of their supporters crying foul.

One shouldn’t expect some sort of radical outcome in the November elections, although yes, as Dave Brat showed us recently, anything is possible.  After all, the smart money in American politics is maintaining the status quo.  The more exciting questions revolve around the future.   With this multitude of Libertarian candidates this year, what will 2015 look like?  Bolstered by their activity, will dozens seek positions in Richmond next November?  Will a Libertarian claim office in the near future?  Could more than one emerge victorious?

Like them or hate them, it is hard to refute the claim that the Libertarian Party of Virginia is making waves.  Will 2014 herald the beginnings of a new era in Virginia politics?  Or will it merely be a high-water mark for the Libertarian Party, a footnote in history?   Right now it is too early to tell.

A Libertarian in the 6th

IMG_2633On Saturday, Virginia’s 6th district Libertarians gathered in Lexington to decide if and who the party would nominate to challenge Bob Goodlatte in the November election.  This year Representative Goodlatte is seeking his twelfth term in the House of Representatives.

Only one candidate sought the Libertarian nomination, Will Hammer of Staunton.   However, he was not a shoo-in as it should be noted that Libertarians have the option to choose “none of the above” rather than have a party nominee.  In what turned out to be a very close vote, the 6th district Libertarians did give Mr. Hammer their party label.  The last time the Libertarian Party nominated a candidate for this office was with Stuart Bain in 2010.

Also at the convention, the Libertarians picked a new 6th district chairman.  Jonathan Parrish from Lynchburg, who ran for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2013, was elected without opposition.

With Mr. Hammer’s nomination, there are at least two candidates that are challenging Representative Goodlatte: Will Hammer as a Libertarian and Paul Bevington as an independent (who previously was running against Goodlatte for the GOP nod).  The Democratic Party has not nominated anyone and will not do so.  There are rumors of another third party candidate, possibly a Green Party candidate, but they are unconfirmed at this time.  The next hurdle will be to collect the thousand plus signatures required to appear on the November ballot.

Who will make the cut?  Who will fall short?  On June 10th, we will have that answer.

6th District Conventions Aplenty

This weekend, the Republican Party will be holding their sixth district convention in Botetourt County.  The details are as follows:  It will be taking place on Saturday, April 26th, 10:00 A.M. at the Lord Botetourt High School located on 1435 Roanoke Road in Daleville, Virginia.  One of the main purposes of this gathering is to elect a chairman of the regional party.  As previously mentioned, they will choose between current chairman Wendell Walker and former Speaker of the House of Delegates Vance Wilkins.  Representative Bob Goodlatte does not have an intra-party challenger (though if he did, that contest would have taken place in a primary at a later date).

Then, on May 3rd, the Libertarian Party will be holding a sixth district convention of their own.  This convention will be held on Saturday, May 3rd, starting at noon at the Macado’s restaurant at 30 North Main Street in Lexington, Virginia.  One of the major features of this gathering will be to determine who, if anyone, will be the Libertarian nominee to run against Representative Goodlatte.  For the record, the Libertarian Party last ran a candidate in the 6th in 2010.  It would not be surprising to see the party field a challenger, especially given that there is not a Democratic candidate in the race.

Thus far I have received no word on whether the Democratic Party will be holding a sixth district convention in the near future or if they have already done so.

Exciting political times here in the central western portion of Virginia!

The 2014 Libertarian Convention

On Saturday, February 8th, the Libertarian Party of Virginia held their annual convention just east of Richmond, Virginia at the Marriott Hotel in Sandston.  The main purposes of this gathering were to nominate a candidate for the November U.S. Senate race, elect new individuals to lead the state party, and conduct business of the state central committee.  In the back of the convention hall, the Virginia Citizens Defense League maintained a booth.

The night before, a multitude of Libertarians gathered at the hotel to socialize and greet old friends and new.

IMG_2466Attendance to this convention was a little more than eighty, about double the size of last year’s meeting.  Surprisingly, despite this up tick in attendance, there were merely three attendees from the Harrisonburg area, my corner of the state.

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Libertarian U.S. Senate Candidate Robert Sarvis

The only candidate to seek the Libertarian nomination for Senate was Robert Sarvis, the party’s 2013 candidate for governor.  Unlike some political groups, such as the Republican Party of Virginia, delegates could choose to vote “none of the above” thus forgoing a candidate for the election.  Speakers spoke in favor of and against Mr. Sarvis and the vote that followed was done via voice so the precise  count is unknown.  Nevertheless, Robert Sarvis easily captured a sizable majority of the crowd to become the Libertarian nominee.

Libertarian Party Chairman Chuck Moulton did not seek reelection to his position and so Bill Redpath, the 2001 Libertarian candidate for governor, was elected in his stead.  All other party leaders were reelected without opposition.  Dr. Jim Lark is the Vice Chairman of the LPVA, Marc Montoni is the Secretary, and James Curtis is the Treasurer.

Although not voted upon at the convention, several candidates announced their intent to run as Libertarians for the House of Representatives.  Ideally, the party is seeking to offer contenders in all eleven congressional districts, though presently it sits at a little less than half.

All in all, attendees to the 2014 convention seemed to enjoy themselves and the party seems to have swelled in membership, some joining shortly before the convention itself.

Was Sarvis’ record-setting 6.5% of the vote in 2013 a fluke or a sign of an emergence of an actual third party in Virginia?  How will Mr. Sarvis and the Libertarian slate fair in November?  It should be interesting to watch.

The Libertarian State Central Committee Meeting

Saturday marked a political first for me (given my 18 years active in politics, firsts aren’t all that common anymore).  I attended my first state central committee meeting of a political party.  It has been my experience that the Republican Party doesn’t typically advertise their meetings of their state central committee; by comparison, the Libertarian Party not only posted their meeting on Facebook, but they also invited non-committee members to attend.

IMG_2395Shortly before noon, Nick (the leader of JMU’s Madison Liberty) and I made the trek from Harrisonburg to downtown Charlottesville for the 1 PM meeting.  The upstairs room which held the SCC was packed.  I was told that this gathering was the largest that the party had ever seen outside of one of their conventions.  Besides the leadership of the Libertarian Party, there were a multitude of other familiar faces including Robert Sarvis and former House of Delegates candidate Jonathan Parrish.  The Harrisonburg/Rockingham liberty community was well-represented, with at least seven attendees in the audience.  Although not a member of their party, I was permitted to witness the proceedings.

Major points of business for the group included discussing plans for the 2014 Libertarian Party Convention, tentatively slated for February 8th in Richmond, and issues dealing with the Tidewater Libertarian Party.  Before the November 5th election, the leader of the TLP endorsed Ken Cuccinelli for governor over Libertarian Robert Sarvis and several members of their leadership had made statements either favorable to Cuccinelli or disparaging of either the LPVA or Robert Sarvis.  Although the TLP removed the head of their group in response, some LP leaders wished to disaffiliate the TLP with the state organization.

Unfortunately, as the discussion grew heated, Nick and I had to leave as he needed to travel to northern Virginia for Thanksgiving break.  However, after dropping him off in Harrisonburg, I turned my car around and returned to Charlottesville.  Being the political animal that I am, I found the discussion far too intriguing to simply abandon it.  However, by the time I returned, the meeting had concluded.  Nevertheless, the social that followed was worthwhile and I relished the chance to speak with Robert Sarvis, fellow former RLC-VA board member Steven Latimer, Roanoke Libertarian leader Melissa Scott, 2013 House of Delegates candidate Laura Delhomme, LPVA secretary Marc Montoni, LPVA vice-chairman Dr. Lark, as well as meeting several new folks.  I heard that although the vote was close, the LPVA decided to maintain ties with the Tidewater Libertarian Party.

Although it ended up taking about four hours worth of travel time and gas, I was glad for the opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon and evening with Libertarians from across the state.  It was nice to finally meet quite a few people whom I’ve only had contact on Facebook.

In liberty!

A Contentious Libertarian Convention

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LPVA Secretary Marc Montoni & Chairman Chuck Moulton

Yesterday, the Libertarian Party of Virginia held their state convention in Waynesboro.  About forty people attended the event, including a handful of nonparty members.  The main purpose of the gathering was to decide if and who the party should nominate for governor in the upcoming November elections.

The only candidate who submitted his name for consideration was Rob Sarvis.  For the record, Mr. Sarvis previously ran for the Virginia State Senate as a Republican against Dick Saslaw in 2011.

Mr. Sarvis’ candidacy seemed to run into a bit of a roadblock almost immediately.  Chuck Moulton, the chairman of the party, suggested removing the requirement that a person must have been a member of the party for at least 30 days prior to the convention in order to vote.  Presumably such a move would aid Sarvis as it was quite likely he brought several new members to the convention to support his cause.  However, this idea was rejected.

Next, Laura Delhomme, one of the coordinators for the 2012 Gary Johnson campaign, and Bill Redpath, a previous Libertarian candidate for governor, spoke in favor of nominating Rob Sarvis.  James Curtis, treasurer of the Virginia Libertarian Party, argued the position that the party should not have a candidate for governor.

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Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Rob Sarvis

Then, Mr. Sarvis came to the podium and discussed his political positions and experience.  He declared that his campaign would be “an opportunity to serve the cause of liberty”.  Afterward, he fielded questions and comments from the audience.  One major sticking point with a few of the delegates revolved around his work on an app called Pic Bubbler.  According to the app’s website it seeks to “get people naked” by creating the illusion of nudity.  Some worried that Sarvis’ association with the app could negatively affect perceptions of the party.  In addition, the leadership of the party raised quite a few hard-hitting doubts regarding Mr. Sarvis’ commitment to the party and his ability to spread their message; it seemed quite possible that the Libertarian Party would end up without a nominee.

Although a fair number of the eligible attendees did not vote, Mr. Sarvis was approved by a 14-5 margin.  Thus, assuming he collects the required number of signatures, Libertarian Rob Sarvis will appear on the November ballot alongside Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

No candidates stepped forward to be either the lieutenant governor or attorney general nominee for the Libertarian Party and so those two spots will remain vacant.

After that, the two Libertarian Party candidates for House of Delegates who attended the convention (of the ten statewide) spoke about their campaigns.  Keegan Sturdivant is running in the 8th district while Laura Delhomme is doing likewise in the 47th.

Although the convention itself had many contentious moments, with business concluded, the gathering took a more cordial tone, moving to the nearby Greenleaf Restaurant in downtown Waynesboro where attendees enjoyed dinner, drinks, and a few hours of stimulating conversation.

In comparison to the recent Republican conventions, Sunday’s Libertarian gathering was a good bit shorter and less theatrical.

So how will the Libertarian Party fair in the 2013 elections?  Will this year mark the election where they finally capture a seat in state government?  Only time will tell.