Do Libertarians Cost Republicans Elections?

The 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial election had the makings of a watershed election.  Although third-party or independent candidates often run for the highest office in the Commonwealth, with the exception of 2009 which featured only a Republican and a Democrat, they typically have a minimal impact.  Running through the list from the last twenty years, in 2017, the Libertarian candidate won 1.1% of the vote.  In 2005, a former Republican State Senator left his party and ran as an independent garnering 2.2% of the statewide vote.  In 2001, the Libertarian won .8% and in 1997, the Reform Party candidate picked up 1.5%.  In addition, in all of these other elections the winning candidate received over 50% of the vote so that no one could effectively argue that these third-party or independent candidates impacted the final result.[1]  But 2013 was an unusual affair in Virginia politics.

Although Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate, had enjoyed a lead over his opponent earlier in the year, by mid-July Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, dominated the polls.  In addition, about a week before the November 5th contest, multiple polls had Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, at or above 10%.[2]  He achieved this result despite being excluded from every debate.[3]  Ten percent is a particularly important threshold for if a third-party candidate were to win at least 10% of the vote in a statewide contest, then the state would recognize his or her political party.  This result, in turn, would permit that political party to hold primaries at the expense of the taxpayers and would allow future candidates from that party to receive ballot access without going through the signature collection process.[4]  As a result of Sarvis’ apparent success, coupled with Cuccinelli’s falling numbers, some Republicans began to blame Libertarians for a potential loss in November.[5]  However, the simple fact was that some libertarian voters preferred the Libertarian option to the Republican.  “The 37-year-old former lawyer is proving particularly attractive to a bloc of right-leaning independents uneasy with Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s strident opposition to abortion and gay marriage.”[6]

Even though Sarvis ultimately fell short of the 10% threshold, he captured 6.6% of the vote, the highest percentage for a third-party gubernatorial candidate in the south for over forty years.[7]  In addition, his vote total of about 145,000 votes was greater than 56,000, the margin that separated the Republican and Democratic candidates.[8]  Were the claims of some Republicans correct?  Did Robert Sarvis cost the Republicans a victory in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election?  If he weren’t on the ballot would a sufficient number of his voters still cast their ballots for the Republican candidate to ensure Cuccinelli’s triumph?

As another example of a Libertarian candidate potentially costing Republicans a win, in the 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial election the Democratic candidate defeated the Republican incumbent by a margin of about 5,000 votes.  The Libertarian candidate picked up over 28,000 votes.[9]  After this election, the Libertarian Party claimed that they had indeed snatched victory from the Republicans.  “We are always happy to split the vote in a way that causes delicious tears.  Tonight there are plenty of tears from Bevin supporters.”[10]

But in the absence of Libertarian candidates, would most Libertarian voters cast a ballot for the Republican option?  Do Libertarian candidates take a larger percentage of what would otherwise be Republican votes?  To answer these questions, we first have to understand what ideology drives libertarians.  According to a 2012 psychology study, Libertarianism was not widely studied prior to that time.  Furthermore, as compared to liberals and conservatives, libertarians have a “stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle, and weaker endorsement of all other moral principles.”[11]  Along these same lines, libertarian ideology “rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power, to be impartially exercised for the common good.”[12]

But libertarians have voted Republican in the past, often in overwhelming numbers.  For example, in the 2000 U.S. Presidential elections libertarians preferred George W. Bush over Al Gore by a margin of 72% to 20%.  However, as the Bush presidency continued policies which resulted in ballooning federal deficits, the curtailing of civil liberties, along with the expansion of government power, positions which libertarians by-in-large oppose, libertarian support for the Republican Party waned considerably.[13]  After the Bush Presidency ended, libertarians once again largely shifted into the Republican column “supporting John McCain over Barack Obama by 71 to 27 percent.”[14]  However, the Libertarian Party has been active during this time, running candidates for president in every election since 1972.  In the two aforementioned elections, it would be difficult or impossible to claim that the presence of a Libertarian candidate cost the Republican Party the election given that the Republican candidate won the election in 2000; in 2008 the Libertarian candidate won a little over half a million votes or .4% of the nationwide vote, while the Republican and Democratic candidates were separated by a margin of about 9.5 million votes.[15]  Clearly then one cannot argue that the mere presence of a Libertarian candidate spells automatic doom for the Republicans.

Even though there is scant research done on the supposed Libertarian spoiler effect, others have asked similar questions.  For example, what about candidates from other political parties in the United States?  The 1992 Presidential election was a particularly historic election where the independent Ross Perot won 18.91% of the vote, the best showing for a third-party or independent candidate in terms of overall vote total since the election of 1912.[16]  Given that Perot’s percentage of the vote was greater than the disparity between the totals of the Republican and Democratic candidates, it comes as no surprise that some Bush supporters lamented that Perot had cost them the election.[17] [18]  However, later research shows that rather than denying Bush reelection, Perot’s candidacy had the opposite effect, drawing more votes from Clinton than Bush.  In addition, many of Perot’s voters went to the polls specifically to vote for Perot; about 20% of Perot voters would not have cast a ballot if Perot were not listed as a choice, thus his candidacy substantially increased turnout.[19]

Perhaps the most widely considered spoiler in the modern era was the candidacy of Ralph Nader under the banner of the Green Party in the 2000 presidential election.  The election came down to Florida where Bush defeated Gore by a margin of about 500 votes.[20]  Although some research argues that Gore actually won the state due to the improper rejection of 50,000 overvotes, most of which would have supposedly gone to Gore[21], others point to Nader’s nearly 100,000 votes, most of which, they assert, would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.[22]  One study claims that about 60% of the Nader voters who would have turned out even if their preferred candidate weren’t on the ballot would have voted for Gore thus handing him the presidency.[23]  In that same election, the Libertarian candidate won 16,415 votes in Florida.  If Gore had won the Sunshine State and the Electoral College, would angry Republicans have pointed to Libertarians as spoilers? 

Another aspect to consider is the idea that the two-major party candidates in essence steal votes from a third-party candidate and not the other way around.  If a voter were to cast his or her vote sincerely, then he or she would select the candidate who most aligns with his or her values.  However, given the nature of the first-past-the-post electoral system, where any vote that goes to a losing candidate is, according to some, wasted, then voters will cast their votes strategically instead, choosing between the lesser of two evils.[24]

Returning to the idea of third-party candidates in gubernatorial contests, the 1998 Minnesota Governor election featured three candidates, a Republican, a Democrat, and the Reform Party’s Jesse Ventura.  Although Ventura won the election, researchers have determined that if he were not in the race then the Republican candidate would have been elected.  Ventura was the Condorcet winner and the Democratic candidate was the Condorcet loser.  It is estimated that approximately 7% of voters would not have cast a ballot were Ventura not an option.[25] Although one could make a rather tepid argument that Ventura “stole” the election, doing so would also require one to make the claim that no one other than Republicans and Democrats ought to be allowed to run for office, an undemocratic notion antithetical to the idea of liberty which undermines the principle of the right to self-determination.

Third-party candidates can make an impact in politics outside of running for office through the mere threat of their candidacy.  Lee shows that

while two-party politics is essentially one-dimensional in that a dominant cleavage defines political conflict, third parties are often concerned with issues that are ignored by the major parties…US House members from districts under high third-party threat vote beyond the dominant dimension of major-party conflict, which is an attempt preemptively to co-opt potential third-party supporters.[26]

In addition, we do have data from third parties in other western democracies.  For example, there is the typically largest third party in the UK since the 1922 election, the Liberal Democrats, formally known as the Liberals.  Running for office has the effect of promoting policies which Liberal Democratic voters oppose.  “By contesting elections they motivate the major parties to present more extreme policies” and “by presenting its sincere center-left beliefs, the Liberal Democrats enable the Conservatives to present more extreme positions than they would present if the Liberal Democrats positioned themselves strategically.”[27]  However, these findings may not translate particularly well to the case of American Libertarians given that the party has not yet successfully elected a candidate to Congress.

Later political scientists have found other effects for third-party voters when exploring ballots cast for the New Democratic Party in Canada.  “The share of the vote received by the NDP is not only governed by the individual characteristics of voters, but also by the competitive position of the party in each constituency.”[28]  The party is “a safe repository for the sophisticated vote of dissatisfaction.”[29] But, as is the case with the Liberal Democrats in the UK, although both electoral systems consist of districts which are single-member pluralities, like the United States, both of these parties have won and continue to win seats in the national legislature.  The Libertarians in the United States haven’t won an election at the federal level though this disparity could be, in part, a result of a presidential system as opposed to a parliamentary one, or, as mentioned in my previous work, due to particularly repressive ballot access laws in the United States.

Although some politicos may argue that voting for a third-party candidate in a two-party system is essentially an irrational action, tantamount to throwing one’s vote away or that doing so results in the election of the greater of two evils as Lee (2013) suggests, Anthony Downs identifies two conditions under which voting for a third-party candidate makes sense.

A voter may support a party that today is hopeless in the belief that his support will enable it to grow and someday become a likely winner-thus giving him a wider range of selection in the future.  Also, he may temporarily support a hopeless party as a warning to some other party to change its platform if it wants his support.  Both actions are rational for people who prefer better choice-alternatives in the future to present participation in the selection of government.[30]

Returning to Republicans and Libertarians in the United States, perhaps surprisingly, some Republicans don’t like the idea of Libertarians supporting their party as they are concerned that this ideology will transform the Republican Party.  As Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated in 2012 while facing a libertarian challenger for the Republican nomination, “These people are not conservatives.  They’re not Republicans.  They’re radical libertarians and I’m doggone offended by it.  I despise these people.”[31]

So, what should libertarians do?  Should they support a Republican Party which is often hostile to their ideology or cast their ballots for Libertarian candidates who are unlikely to win, potentially “spoiling” elections for Republicans?  David Boaz, the executive vice-president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, argues that given present policy trends neither of the two major political parties is a particularly welcoming home for libertarian-minded voters unless they make a concerted effort to change.

Libertarians have yet to find a comfortable home among political parties, particularly younger libertarians. Given the anti-competitive restrictions on third parties imposed by campaign finance and ballot access laws, the two-party system is likely to survive for the foreseeable future. However, if Republicans embrace the libertarian roots of the party, they stand to gain favor among these independent-minded voters. And if Democrats move toward drug policy reform, marriage equality, withdrawal from Iraq, and fiscal responsibility, they also stand to gain. As long as neither major party is committed to liberty and limited government, libertarians will likely continue to be only weakly affiliated with either party.[32]

If the above logic is correct, then neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party ought to consider themselves the rightful owner of libertarians’ votes; they ought to refrain from calling Libertarian candidates spoilers when their candidate loses by a margin smaller than the number of voters the Libertarian candidate earns.  Nevertheless, it is an idea that needs further empirical exploration.

Resources

“2013 – Virginia Gov: Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe vs. Sarvis.” RealClearPolitics. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2013/governor/va/virginia_governor_cuccinelli_vs_mcauliffe_vs_sarvis-4111.html (November 30, 2019).

Adams, James, and Samuel Merrill. 2006. “Why Small, Centrist Third Parties Motivate Policy Divergence by Major Parties.” American Political Science Review 100(3): 403–17.

Berkes, Howard. 2012. “GOP-on-GOP Attacks Leave Orrin Hatch Fighting Mad,”

National Public Radio, April 12, 2012, http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsall politics/2012/04/12/150506733/tea-party-againtargets-a-utah-gop-senator-and-orrin-hatch-isfighting-mad.

Boaz, David, and David Kirby. 2006. “The Libertarian Vote.” SSRN Electronic Journal: 1–28.

Boaz, David, and David Kirby. 2010. “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama.” SSRN Electronic Journal: 1–19.

Bowler, S., and D. J. Lanoue. 1992. “Strategic and Protest Voting for Third Parties: the Case of the Canadian NDP.” Political Research Quarterly 45(2): 485–99.

Collins, Eliza. 2019. “Did Perot Spoil 1992 Election for Bush? It’s Complicated.” The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/did-perot-spoil-1992-election-for-bush-its-complicated-11562714375 (December 3, 2019).

Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Federal Election Commission. 2001. 2000 Presidential General Election Results. https://transition.fec.gov/pubrec/2000presgeresults.htm (December 4, 2019).

FEDERAL ELECTIONS 2008 Election Results for the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. 2009. Washington D.C.

Freeman, Samuel. 2001. “Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View.” Philosophy Public Affairs 30(2): 105–51.

Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I. Page. 2014. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12(3): 564–81.

Hamby, Peter. 2013. “Libertarian Threatens to Spoil GOP Hopes in Virginia – CNNPolitics.” CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/27/politics/virginia-governor-sarvis-spoiler/index.html (December 4, 2019).

Herron, Michael C., and Jeffery B. Lewis. 2006. “Did Ralph Nader Spoil a Gore Presidency? A Ballot-Level Study of Green and Reform Party Voters in the 2000 Presidential Election.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2(3): 205–26.

Hohmann, James. 2013. “3rd Candidate Could Cost Cuccinelli.” POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/virginia-governor-race-robert-sarvis-ken-cuccinelli-097591 (November 30, 2019).

Hohmann, James. 2013. “Libertarian Excluded from Va. Debate.” POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/virginia-governor-debate-robert-sarvis-libertarian-098161 (November 30, 2019).

Iyer, Ravi et al. 2012. “Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians.” PLoS ONE 7(8): 1–23.

Jacobs, Ben. 2013. “Libertarian Robert Sarvis Drew Record High Votes in Virginia.” The Daily Beast. https://www.thedailybeast.com/libertarian-robert-sarvis-drew-record-high-votes-in-virginia (November 30, 2019).

Lacy, Dean, and Barry C. Burden. 1999. “The Vote-Stealing and Turnout Effects of Ross Perot in the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election.” American Journal of Political Science 43(1): 233–55.

Lacy, Dean, and Quin Monson. 2002. “The Origins and Impact of Votes for Third-Party Candidates: A Case Study of the 1998 Minnesota Gubernatorial Election.” Political Research Quarterly 55(2): 409–37.

Lee, Daniel J. 2013. “Third-Party Threat and the Dimensionality of Major-Party Roll Call Voting.” Public Choice 159(3-4): 515–31.

Leip, David. 1992 Presidential General Election Results. https://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1992&f=0&off=0&elect=0 (December 3, 2019).

Mebane, Walter R. 2004. “The Wrong Man Is President! Overvotes in the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida.” Perspectives on Politics 2(03): 525–35.

“Ross Perot: Election Spoiler or Message Shaper?” 2019. Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/ross-perot-election-spoiler-or-message-shaper (December 3, 2019).

Rotemberg, Julio. 2009. “Attitude-Dependent Altruism, Turnout and Voting.” Public Choice: 223–44.

Scher, Bill. 2016. “Nader Elected Bush: Why We Shouldn’t Forget.” RealClearPolitics. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/05/31/nader_elected_bush_why_we_shouldnt_forget_130715.html (December 4, 2019).

Staff, WKYT News. 2019. “Libertarian Party Says It’s Happy to Cause ‘Delicious Tears from Bevin Supporters’.” WKYT. https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/Libertarian-Party-happy-to-cause-delicious-tears-from-Bevin-supporters-564541541.html (November 30, 2019).

The New York Times. 2019. “2019 Kentucky Governor General Election Results.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/05/us/elections/results-kentucky-governor-general-election.html (November 30, 2019).

“Title 24.2. Elections.” § 24.2-101. Definitions. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title24.2/chapter1/section24.2-101/ (November 30, 2019).

“Virginia Elections Database ” Search Elections.” Virginia Elections Database. https://historical.elections.virginia.gov/elections/search/year_from:1997/year_to:2017/office_id:3/stage:General (November 30, 2019).

“Virginia Governor – 2013 Election Results.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/projects/elections/2013/general/virginia/map.html (November 30, 2019).


[1] “Virginia Elections Database ” Search Elections.” Virginia Elections Database. https://historical.elections.virginia.gov/elections/search/year_from:1997/year_to:2017/office_id:3/stage:General (November 30, 2019).

[2] “2013 – Virginia Gov: Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe vs. Sarvis.” RealClearPolitics. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2013/governor/va/virginia_governor_cuccinelli_vs_mcauliffe_vs_sarvis-4111.html (November 30, 2019).

[3] Hohmann, James. 2013. “Libertarian Excluded from Va. Debate.” POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/virginia-governor-debate-robert-sarvis-libertarian-098161 (November 30, 2019).

[4] “Title 24.2. Elections.” § 24.2-101. Definitions. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title24.2/chapter1/section24.2-101/ (November 30, 2019).

[5] Hamby, Peter. 2013. “Libertarian Threatens to Spoil GOP Hopes in Virginia – CNNPolitics.” CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/27/politics/virginia-governor-sarvis-spoiler/index.html (December 4, 2019).

[6] Hohmann, James. 2013. “3rd Candidate Could Cost Cuccinelli.” POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/virginia-governor-race-robert-sarvis-ken-cuccinelli-097591 (November 30, 2019).

[7] Jacobs, Ben. 2013. “Libertarian Robert Sarvis Drew Record High Votes in Virginia.” The Daily Beast. https://www.thedailybeast.com/libertarian-robert-sarvis-drew-record-high-votes-in-virginia (November 30, 2019).

[8] “Virginia Governor – 2013 Election Results.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/projects/elections/2013/general/virginia/map.html (November 30, 2019).

[9] The New York Times. 2019. “2019 Kentucky Governor General Election Results.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/05/us/elections/results-kentucky-governor-general-election.html (November 30, 2019).

[10] Staff, WKYT News. 2019. “Libertarian Party Says It’s Happy to Cause ‘Delicious Tears from Bevin Supporters’.” WKYT. https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/Libertarian-Party-happy-to-cause-delicious-tears-from-Bevin-supporters-564541541.html (November 30, 2019).

[11] Iyer, Ravi et al. 2012. “Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians.” PLoS ONE 7(8): 1.

[12] Freeman, Samuel. 2001. “Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View.” Philosophy Public Affairs 30(2): 107.

[13] Boaz, David, and David Kirby. 2006. “The Libertarian Vote.” SSRN Electronic Journal: 1–28.

[14] Boaz, David, and David Kirby. 2010. “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama.” SSRN Electronic Journal: 1.

[15] FEDERAL ELECTIONS 2008 Election Results for the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. 2009. Washington D.C. 5.

[16] Leip, David. 1992 Presidential General Election Results. https://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1992&f=0&off=0&elect=0 (December 3, 2019).

[17] Collins, Eliza. 2019. “Did Perot Spoil 1992 Election for Bush? It’s Complicated.” The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/did-perot-spoil-1992-election-for-bush-its-complicated-11562714375 (December 3, 2019).

[18] “Ross Perot: Election Spoiler or Message Shaper?” 2019. Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/ross-perot-election-spoiler-or-message-shaper (December 3, 2019).

[19] Lacy, Dean, and Barry C. Burden. 1999. “The Vote-Stealing and Turnout Effects of Ross Perot in the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election.” American Journal of Political Science 43(1): 233–55.

[20] Federal Election Commission. 2001. 2000 Presidential General Election Results. https://transition.fec.gov/pubrec/2000presgeresults.htm (December 4, 2019).

[21] Mebane, Walter R. 2004. “The Wrong Man Is President! Overvotes in the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida.” Perspectives on Politics 2(03): 525–35.

[22] Scher, Bill. 2016. “Nader Elected Bush: Why We Shouldn’t Forget.” RealClearPolitics. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/05/31/nader_elected_bush_why_we_shouldnt_forget_130715.html (December 4, 2019).

[23] Herron, Michael C., and Jeffery B. Lewis. 2006. “Did Ralph Nader Spoil a Gore

Presidency? A Ballot-Level Study of Green and Reform Party Voters in the 2000 Presidential Election.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2(3): 205–26.

[24] Rotemberg, Julio. 2009. “Attitude-Dependent Altruism, Turnout and Voting.” Public Choice: 223–44.

[25] Lacy, Dean, and Quin Monson. 2002. “The Origins and Impact of Votes for Third-Party Candidates: A Case Study of the 1998 Minnesota Gubernatorial Election.” Political Research Quarterly 55(2): 409–37.

[26] Lee, Daniel J. 2013. “Third-Party Threat and the Dimensionality of Major-Party Roll Call Voting.” Public Choice 159(3-4): 529.

[27] Adams, James, and Samuel Merrill. 2006. “Why Small, Centrist Third Parties Motivate Policy Divergence by Major Parties.” American Political Science Review 100(3): 403–17.

[28] Bowler, S., and D. J. Lanoue. 1992. “Strategic and Protest Voting for Third Parties: the Case of the Canadian Ndp.” Political Research Quarterly 45(2): 497.

[29] Ibid. 498.

[30] Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York, NY: Harper & Row. 49.

[31] Berkes, Howard. 2012. “GOP-on-GOP Attacks Leave Orrin Hatch Fighting Mad,” National Public Radio, April 12, 2012, http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsall politics/2012/04/12/150506733/tea-party-againtargets-a-utah-gop-senator-and-orrin-hatch-isfighting-mad.

[32] Boaz, David, and David Kirby. 2010. “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama.” SSRN Electronic Journal: 19.

The Equality of Opportunity Myth

Growing up, I was often told that Republicans believed in the idea of equality of opportunity, that everyone, regardless of his or her beliefs, ethnicity, or circumstances ought to have the same chance for opportunity and success.  Unlike the socialists, who I was told promote equality of results, Republicans desire a fair and level playing field.

I first began to question Republican support for equality of opportunity during the 2013 general elections in Virginia.  During that election, we had three choices for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis. In case you didn’t know, making the ballot in Virginia isn’t an easy task.  Two of the three candidates for governor had to collect the signatures of 10,000 registered voters across the state.  Terry McAuliffe needed to do so to be in the Democratic primary and Robert Sarvis needed to do so in order to make the general election ballot.  However, Ken Cuccinelli didn’t need to meet this signature requirement because he was nominated in the Republican convention.

Even though we had three candidates on the ballot for governor, as the election went on the debate organizers consistently excluded  Robert Sarvis.  Whether you liked Sarvis or not, given the efforts he had to make, he had as much a right to be on the debate stage as McAuliffe and Cuccinelli did.  If one believed in liberty and equality of opportunity, then he or she would fight to allow all voices to be heard, not merely the candidate he or she preferred.  Clearly, Ken Cuccinelli would agree, right?

Well, in October of 2013 I had the opportunity to find out in person as Ken Cuccinelli invited a handful of activists, including myself, to speak with him in Lynchburg.  I should add that at this time I liked Ken Cuccinelli as a person and supported much of what he did when he was in the Virginia Senate and as attorney general.  Heck, I still like Mr. Cuccinelli and believe he is still a positive force in Virginia politics though, of course, I don’t agree with everything he does (such as his efforts at the 2016 Virginia Convention), and I’m sure there is quite a bit I have done that he has disagreed with.  I didn’t think that the Cuccinelli for Governor campaign had been going that well as it had been horribly nasty and negative and, by speaking personally to Mr. Cuccinelli, he might be able to reverse course.

However, when we sat down in Lynchburg, it became obvious that the Cuccinelli campaign would not change its direction.  One of the attendees suggested that Mr. Cuccinelli should welcome Mr. Sarvis to the debates, but that idea was rejected.  As such, when I returned to Harrisonburg, I wrote a piece in my local paper encouraging folks in the Shenandoah Valley to support Robert Sarvis due to Ken Cuccinelli’s apparent rejection of the idea of equality of opportunity for Mr. Sarvis.

After about a year of refusal for contact, in late 2014 or early 2015, I spoke to my state senator, Mark Obenshain, about this same matter and about crafting legislation to make ballot access fair and equal for all candidates regardless of party affiliation.  As Senator Obenshain ran on his father’s slogan that “The most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving and expanding the realm of personal freedom in the life of this country,” surely you would think he would support the equality of opportunity for all political candidates regardless of political party.

As many of you already know, instead he told me that he thought no one should be on the ballot except for Republicans and Democrats.  Having just finished running for local office as an independent, I took that news as a personal affront and particularly hypocritical especially given that he sent me a letter right after the election time thanking me for running.  Sometime before this incident, someone who knows my state senator far better than I ever will told me that he wasn’t much of a conservative, he just pretended to be one.  I didn’t believe it at the time though looking back I think it was because I didn’t want to believe it.  But, in that moment, I remembered those words and realized my state senator wasn’t an ally in the fight for liberty, limited government, and equality of opportunity, but rather an adversary.  I felt as if I had been lied to and, unwittingly through my actions, I had helped promote that lie to others.

This year, much like 2013, Virginians will see three candidates on the ballot for governor in November:  Democrat Ralph Northam, Republican Ed Gillespie, and Libertarian Cliff Hyra.  And, like 2013, one candidate, the Libertarian, has been excluded from the debates.  Ralph Northam states he favors allowing all candidates on the stage.  So far, Ed Gillespie refuses to comment on the matter, though in 2014 when he ran for U.S. Senate, I received word that his campaign would not participate in a debate that included the Libertarian nominee.  At this point, as far as I can tell, he still maintains a similar viewpoint.

What if Ed Gillespie weren’t allowed to participate in the debates because he is a Catholic.  Certainly, many people would denounce such a move as being against religious freedom.  What if Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax weren’t allowed to participate in a debate because he is black?  Wouldn’t that rightly generate outrage and cries of racism?  Or what if Jill Vogel, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, were discriminated against simply because she is a woman?  Would you remain silent in the face of sexism?  Aren’t these all wrong?  I am neither Catholic, nor black, nor a woman, but I would be upset at these policies even though as a white, Protestant male I would personally benefit from this kind of discrimination.  Why then should political affiliation be any different?  Why should Cliff Hyra be excluded simply because he isn’t part of one of only two legally recognized political parties in Virginia?   Whether a candidate runs as a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Constitutionalist, independent, or something else,  if he or she jumps through the necessary hoops to make the ballot, shouldn’t he or she be treated with the same respect and dignity as any other?  When we support discrimination when it benefits us, then we have surrendered the moral argument and it becomes logically inconsistent if we later declare discrimination unfair when groups of what were formerly minorities seize the majority and decide to return the favor by treating us unjustly.  Although we may not look the same and we think differently, aren’t we all made in the image of the same God?

Although Republicans claim that they promote the idea of equality of opportunity, it is clear that some of them don’t really adhere to these principles.  They seek to maintain a monopoly on power and political access at the expense of freedom, healthy competition, and the rights of the average citizen.   However, it is important to remember that there are some good and principled Republicans and Democrats who do.  If people don’t enjoy political freedom, then, over time, using the lesser of two evils conundrum, it is much easier to chip away at their economic, personal, and religious liberties as well.

Adhering to the principles I was taught, I believe that everyone should have the same chance to succeed in all areas of life, including the political realm, regardless of age, sex, religion, race, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation.  If any candidate, politician, judge, or bureaucrat opposes this equality of opportunity and seeks to use the law to bully or discriminate against one of these groups, not only should they be defeated, but for the sake of liberty and a free society, they must be defeated.

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 Rocktown Libertarians

Photo of the August 2013 meeting by Lisa McCumsey

In the past, the Rocktown Libertarians have hosted a number of candidates seeking office.  In 2012 we had Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.  In 2013, there was Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor.  In 2014, there were many hopefuls: Robert Sarvis again, this time the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, Will Hammer, a Libertarian candidate for House of Representatives, Helen Shibut, a Libertarian candidate for Harrisonburg City Council and me, Joshua Huffman, an independent for Harrisonburg City Council.  In 2015, we had April Moore, a Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate as well as Will Hammer once more, this time as a Libertarian seeking a House of Delegates seat.  Then, in 2016, Chris Jones, the Mayor of Harrisonburg (a Democrat) stopped by as did Harry Griego, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.

2017 is shaping up to be an even more exciting year.  At the Rocktown Libertarians’ March meeting we will be hosting Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) to speak about this year’s General Assembly session which should be ending in just a few short days.  Then, in April, the Rocktown Libertarians will be joined by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) to discuss ways to make ballot access more fair for all, including Libertarian Party candidates.  We’ll likely have other special guests as well, but they are still in the works.

Sounds like an interesting group, doesn’t it?

Well, if you’d like to learn more about the Libertarian Party of Virginia, work to promote liberty, and meet fellow activists of a variety of political affiliations, I hope you’ll consider attending an upcoming meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.  We get together on the third Tuesday of every month starting about 6:30 PM at the O’Charley’s at 101 Burgess Road in Harrisonburg.  Come stop by, say hello, and enjoy some good food and good conversation!

A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

As the 2016 presidential election kicks into high gear, the attacks against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be intensifying.  Everyday we heard things that suggest Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot and is totally unqualified to serve in office.  Others say that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook and that she’d be in jail if not for her political connections.  Although some people might decry this overly negative campaigning, unfortunately it is the way politics has been trending for quite some time.

For example, when I started out in the mid 90s, I was taught by folks on both sides of the aisle that Republicans shouldn’t associate with Democrats and vice versa.  Adherents to the other political party were stupid, not to be trusted, and often just plain evil.  One should never treat one’s opponent with civility if it can be helped, because they certainly wouldn’t offer you that same level of respect.  Unfortunately, this problem has gotten even worse.

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Robert Sarvis (L) and Ken Cuccinelli (R) in 2013

Toward these same lines, we’ve had a preview of this year’s horribly negative campaigning before, right here in Virginia in the 2013 race for governor.  The Ken Cuccinelli campaign branded Terry McAuliffe as a corrupt businessman who was totally unqualified to serve in any office, let alone governor, while the McAuliffe folks painted Cuccinelli as a right-wing zealot who wished to turn back the clock on the rights of many individuals.  Both sides went heavily negative and although there were positive selling points for both men, these topics were generally forgotten as both campaigns tried to portray the other as an absolutely horrible outcome.  During the campaign, I spoke with some Cuccinelli staffers who actually declared that their primary goal was to expose McAuliffe in the worst possible light so that by Labor Day most Virginians would consider him completely unelectable.  From what I witnessed, I suspect the McAuliffe folks decided to employ a similar strategy of demonization against Cuccinelli.  They both framed the campaign as the choice of the lesser of two evils and voters were urged to vote against either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli rather than feeling positive about either.  As a result, many of my Republican friends then and now still refer to our governor as Terry McAwful.  However, in that ugly morass was a third candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Although the powers that be conspired to keep him off the debate stage, he still managed to capture 6.5% of the vote from Libertarians and those who were sick of the race to the bottom campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats.

And here we are again in 2016.  We have a Republican and a Democratic candidate who both suffer from exceedingly high negatives.  Unfortunately, many polls indicate that the average American views Trump and Clinton in an unfavorable light.  Odds are, if the Republicans or Democrats nominated a candidate that was at least halfway likable, he or she would be enjoying a huge lead over his or her primary opponent.  The problem is that negative campaigning does work…at least to a point, provided that there are no other candidates in the race.  In November many Republicans and conservatives will hold their noses and vote for a deplorable man like Donald Trump if they are convinced that they have no other choices and that he is the only way they can stop their greater foe, Hillary.  Likewise, many progressives and Greens despise Hillary Clinton for being corrupt and loath the revelation that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders.  However, if the don’t support Clinton how else can they stop a thug like Trump?

Well, fortunately voters do have other options as there are two (or possibly three) other candidates who could garner enough electoral votes to win the election.  They are: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and potentially Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (although working toward it, he has not reached the ballot access threshold yet).

I remain fully convinced that if the United States were like every other democratic nation, which offers voters a variety of choices and not simply only two (or often one) candidates, this era of increasingly negative campaigning would be drastically curtailed.  After all, if two candidates or their campaigns decide to make it their primary mission to prove that the other is wholly unsuitable for office, then voters could choose a third option and reject the campaign of fear and hatred that both of his or her opponents offer.  If a third party candidate could win a major election from time to time, campaigns would soon come to the realization that they would actually have to sell their own candidates and promote their own supposed principles, rather than presenting themselves as the better of two horrible options.  Maybe then we could get candidates that we actually like, ones that can be trusted to uphold some kind of values, and perhaps party platforms would be more than lofty ideals that are often ignored or even repudiated by their own candidates.  Now, wouldn’t that be something!?

The Virginia SFL Conference

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Robert Sarvis speaking at the conference

Yesterday, Students for Liberty held their first statewide conference in Virginia on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  The event included students from a variety of colleges across the Commonwealth and even a few from neighboring states.  The conference featured a wide variety of speakers including: former Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, a writer for Reason Magazine, and the aunt of Ross Ulbricht, the imprisoned creator of The Silk Road.

As with any political gathering, I found some parts more interesting than others.  I thought the fellow from Reason was particularly entertaining and the talk of Ulbricht’s trial made me realize how little I knew about the matter and that I ought to learn more (which I explored once I returned home).  I also liked the panel discussion with the leaders of the George Mason, UVA, VA Tech, and William & Mary student leaders.  Although those on the left often treat the Koch brothers as a boogie-men, I appreciate the fact that I’ve gotten something useful from the Charles Koch Institute every time I’ve spoken with their representatives.  On Saturday, it was a portable charger for my cell phone.  I also had a good conversation with the woman at the Ladies for Liberty Alliance table.  Heaven knows that we could use some more good, strong, principled women in the liberty movement (especially locally).

While I sat on a bench during one of the break times, it was amusing to observe which of the conference attendees were introverts, like myself, and which were extroverts.  Although we all share a similar political philosophy, it can sometimes be taxing to be immersed in large groups for too long.

The William & Mary Libertarians
The William & Mary Libertarians

It was great to see so many students from my alma mater (William & Mary) at the conference.  I had the opportunity to speak with several of their members and I’m hopeful for the chance to attend one of their meetings before the end of the school year.

I’m pleased to say that I left the conference feeling encouraged, knowing that a growing number of students in Virginia are fighting to expand our freedoms, and that they are doing so outside of the constraints of the two major political parties.

For those who weren’t able to make it, unfortunately you missed an event that was both great and free.  So, what was your excuse?

Thanks to the students and organization who made yesterday possible.  Anyway, I hope this becomes an annual gathering and I look forward to seeing everyone at the next one!

Obenshain Out? Gillespie In?

Senator Obenshain
Senator Obenshain

In a move that surprised many political activists, yesterday Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), widely considered to be the Republican front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia in 2017, announced that he would not be seeking that office.  With Obenshain’s decision, it now seems likely that Ed Gillespie will not only seek the nod, but also be the new presumptive front-runner.  Gillespie, as one may recall, narrowly lost the race for U.S. Senate in 2014.

Although some people in the Republican Party are enthusiastic about Gillespie being their standard-bearer in 2017, others have expressed dismay.  Rewinding the clock to the last election, I spoke to many liberty activists in Virginia who were opposed to Gillespie, viewing him as yet another establishment, big government Republican.  As the 2014 election drew close, a vast majority of liberty-minded Republicans told me that they would be casting their ballots for Libertarian Robert Sarvis as opposed to the official Republican nominee.  A few others stated that they would write-in Shak Hill or simply not vote.  At one point, I could only find one member of the liberty movement statewide who openly supported Gillespie.  Even though that number has grown slightly, a vast majority of the liberty activists in Virginia seemed to be opposed to a Gillespie candidacy in 2014 and have remained that way today.

Does that mean that Gillespie cannot win in 2017?  Certainly not.  After all, even without the support of many traditional Republican voters he came remarkably close to knocking off Senator Mark Warner.  Now, I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that Warner has far better name id and favorability than likely 2017 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam.  Therefore, one would assume Gillespie’s chances couldn’t get any worse.  However, if the Republican Party of Virginia nominates Gillespie again, it will likely widen the rift and civil war currently plaguing the party.

For one example, last night one of my liberty-minded friends posted a piece on Facebook in support of Ed Gillespie’s candidacy.  Although several people were quick to respond, denouncing Gillespie publicly, I was told that even more expressed their disapproval of him privately.  As another activist wrote, “Anyone who wants to challenge Gillespie for the 2017 gubernatorial nomination in VA – please get in touch with me about helping your campaign.”

Even though I would argue that Obenshain is in a weaker position than he found himself in 2013, yesterday’s announcement was still unexpected.  Given the relationship between Obenshain and Gillespie, I wouldn’t be surprised if the state senator throws his support behind the former RPV Chairman.  However, unless Gillespie discovered and articulates the principles of liberty, I assume that one or more conservative challengers will rise up to oppose him.  And, meaning no disrespect to Ed Gillespie, as he seems like a decent person outside of politics, if Gillespie is the nominee again then I hope that the Libertarians nominate a strong candidate so that the liberty vote within the Republican Party, the Libertarian Party, and elsewhere has someplace to make itself heard.

Northam v. Obenshain?

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Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam presiding over the Virginia Senate January 19th, 2015

Are the 2017 gubernatorial elections in Virginia beginning to take shape?  Rumors of candidates and potential candidates for a contest still two years away have been swirling these last several months.

On the Democratic side of things, it appeared likely that there would be a showdown between Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring in much the same way that then Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli fought over the Republican nomination back in 2012 and 2013.

Moving on to the Republicans, State Senator Mark Obenshain from Rockingham County seems to be the most likely choice as he lost his 2013 statewide race by a razor-thin margin.  However, there are other possibilities too.  Some of the possible candidates being mentioned include: Representative Rob Whittman from the 1st district and 2014 Republican senatorial candidate Ed Gillespie.

As for the Libertarians, although I would be surprised if they didn’t run a candidate for governor, I haven’t really heard any names bandied about; their 2013 nominee, Robert Sarvis, seems like a possibility.

Well, now the 2017 picture has become at least a little more clear.  Attorney General Mark Herring has announced his plans to seek reelection to his current post, which leaves Ralph Northam as the likely Democratic nominee.  Personally, I think this a wise move for the Democrats as I believe Northam would be the stronger candidate for governor.

Right now, my prediction is on a Northam v. Obenshain contest, but a lot can happen in the next year or so.  Who will be the next candidate to officially announce his or her plans for 2017?

Angela Lynn Withdraws

Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur
Angela Lynn and Ellen Arthur

Yes, you read the headline correctly. Angela Lynn, the Democratic candidate for the 25th District Virginia House of Delegates seat, has withdrawn…not from the race, mind you, but from her speaking engagement with the Massanutten Patriots (also known as the Harrisonburg Tea Party).

Although Ms. Lynn was supposed to be the featured speaker at the group’s monthly meeting later today, I have received word that due to another commitment she will not be there. Instead attendees will hear from Will Wrobleski, campaign manager for Delegate Steve Landes, the Republican incumbent for the 25th district.

Now, I’m sure that some Democrats and some tea partiers would be pleased by this news. After all, most tea parties are heavily slanted toward the Republican Party and thus Democrats would argue that Ms. Lynn’s time could be better spent elsewhere. Similarly, some tea party goers likely don’t have much of an interest in hearing from a Democratic candidate. However, I encourage both sides to think differently.

Although it is true that some tea parties are joined at the hip with the GOP, openly endorsing all Republican candidates, encouraging their membership to vote Republican and join the official party, and only inviting Republican candidates and elected officials to speak at their meetings. I would argue that those tea parties have failed in their mission and have become part of the problem that they were originally created to fight against. Therefore, I have pressed for a different agenda during my time as part of the leadership team of the local tea party.

To me, one of the most important skills a person can learn is to think and reason for him or herself. In politics one shouldn’t merely swallow the talking points of a political party or politician whole. So too in religion one should not accept every word of a spiritual leader simply because of his or her title. Even though the tea party isn’t as open-minded as I’d like, I’ve pushed for a variety of speakers representing various political parties and philosophies.

For example, in 2012 I pressed for a speaking slot for a representative from Libertarian Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign. In addition, that year I lobbied for a city council forum featuring all of the candidates: Republican, Democratic, and independent. In 2014, although a candidate for office myself, I sought a similar forum at the tea party including all of my opponents. I had to more or less plead with the Democrats to show up and even then only one of the two did so.

Yes, if we are to consider the situation from a purely selfish perspective, I should have tried to monopolize the tea party for myself. After all, I had spent far more time with the group than all of my opponents combined. They knew me and I think many of them liked me (shocking isn’t it?). And, to the best of my knowledge since that meeting, none of the candidates, including the ones who were elected that November, have returned to visit the tea party. But, I felt there was something more at stake than this one mere election, even though the outcome could very well affect me personally.

Looking back, after the 2012 city council forum, one tea party member came up to me and said that he really liked what Democratic candidate Deb Fitzgerald said that night. And do you know what? I agreed with him. Although I was a member of the Republican Party at that time, at that event Ms. Fitzgerald earned one of my three votes. Of course being a member of the GOP I couldn’t tell anyone as much. But it was a gratifying experience helping my fellow tea party folks see beyond the party labels and get to know the candidates for who they actually are. The same held true in 2013, when I tried to set up similar speaking engagements for Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis. I doubted that many had ever heard of a Libertarian…other than the caricature that the Republican and Democrats paint of them. Drawing from my own experience, I had heard my first Libertarian candidate at a tea party meeting back in 2010.

And so, as was the case in 2012, 2013, and 2014, I encouraged the tea party and Angela Lynn to come together, not necessarily so that the members would be enamored with her, but rather so they could understand where she stands on the issues and ask her questions in a one-on-one fashion. In addition, she would have the chance to learn about the tea party too. After all, it is far easier to dismiss or marginalize a person you have never have never met. By comparison, Republican Steve Landes has done a much better job, having spoken to the tea party on a variety of occasions over the years. However, by cancelling her appearance, it is doubtful that any of the tea party folks will ever hear her message.

Again, my purpose isn’t to promote or hinder either Landes or Lynn, but rather encourage folks to explore the tangible differences between the two and discover which of their choices matches most closely with their own ideology. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give a person is a reminder that they are able and allowed to think and reason for themselves. Alas, with Ms. Lynn’s rejection of this offer, it seems that my efforts to continue to spread political dialogue and promote intelligent thinking beyond the tired Republican vs. Democrat rhetoric has hit a snag. As you might imagine, I’m quite disappointed with her decision. At one point we had scheduled a slot for two Democratic candidates at the tea party. With this cancellation, we now have zero. It is frustrating to spend one’s political capital on someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate it. Given the trend this year, I don’t know how much longer the tea party leadership will continue to consider my suggestions to include candidates other than the Republicans.

And so, as the headline of this article proclaims, Angela Lynn withdraws…from speaking to the local tea party tonight.

A Bittersweet Anniversary

Photo taken by Jason Lenhart.  Image from the from page of the Daily News Record, April 25th, 2014
Photo taken by Jason Lenhart. Image from the front page of the Daily News Record, April 25th, 2014

On this date last year, I announced to Facebook and the Harrisonburg community that I would be seeking a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council that November.  In that election, I ran as an independent.  Although I had associated with the Harrisonburg Republican Party since the age of fifteen, I had grown increasingly disenchanted with the party over the years as they and their elected officials often endorsed candidates and legislation which stood in stark contrast to their supposed principles.  As a result of our growing rift between what they said they believed compared to what they actually did, I was expelled from that organization in February of 2014.  Once you couple that issue with open hostility from the Harrisonburg Libertarian Party, running as an independent seemed to be the logical choice.

However, that’s not to say that I didn’t have friends in both the Republican and Libertarian camps.  As such, my first official campaign event, taking place on April 24th of 2014, was a signature collection drive on the campus of JMU alongside U.S. Senate candidate Robert Sarvis and 6th district House of Representatives candidate Will Hammer.  An article and photo featuring the three of us appeared the following day in my local paper, The Daily News Record.

In the weeks and months that followed, I learned much, met many new people, picked up new friends, and unfortunately discovered a few enemies.  Having been involved in politics for so long, I’ve certainly seen and faced a lot.

Prior to this campaign, one of my worst experiences centered around a death threat I received while working for Dr. Ron Paul in 2007.  However, soon after making my announcement for council, I received a phone call from some who used to call me the best of friends who promised a barrage of unyielding personal attacks against me if I continued in my effort to seek elected office.  Although I decided to press onward, as you might imagine, this blackmail cast a dark cloud of uncertainty over the campaign, making my effort all the more difficult, and did much to crush my enthusiasm for this project.  As I have been reminded consistently over the years, and last year’s race for city council was no exception, politics often attracts the worst elements of humanity.  However, I should add that while there are certainly those that sought to destroy me, there are others who came forth that evening to lift me up.

April 24th of 2014 was marked by unbridled hope while the following day brought crushing disappointment.  Therefore, even one year later these two days remain a bittersweet memory of the beginnings of my foray to seek public office.