Looking back on my run for the Oregon Governorship in 2014 as the nominee of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, I have several observations on the campaign which might be worthwhile sharing.
I ran because I’d long thought about running for office, but only for a top position. I wanted to radically change things, not begin a long career up the professional politician’s career-ladder. That’s why I made my proposals radical, and said just what I thought on the issues. There were several laws I felt were needed, and many abuses I felt were not being addressed or even talked about by anyone, so I determined to bring those to the public’s attention as part of my campaign.
I planned to run just a local campaign, and disseminate my views largely through posts on this website. I wrote about seventy pieces on a whole panoply of political problems, and hid nothing from the public as to what I was for and against, and what I would or wouldn’t do as Governor. Since people insist on political labels, and it is a way for them to conceive of a politician as a friend or enemy, I labelled myself an enviro-Libertarian Jeffersonian Minarchist, or an enviro-vegan Libertarian.
Since I was running as the Libertarian candidate, I confined myself almost exclusively to the general problems and solutions which Libertarians generally propose, like abolition of the personal income tax, or the legalization of gambling and prostitution, but I didn’t hide my views on hunting, logging, or slaughterhouses.
The first challenge was getting one’s statement in the voter’s pamphlet. This required 500 valid signatures, and the State gave you about 35 days to collect them and get them to Salem. You also had to submit your voter’s pamphlet Statement first and have it approved by the Secretary of State’s office before you could start gathering the signatures, and since nowhere on the Secretary of State’s website did they tell you the first date you could submit your Statement, you didn’t even know beforehand how many days you’d have in which to gather the 500 signatures. The only way we found out was that the Libertarian nominee for Senator, Mike Montchalin, had the initiative to phone the Secretary of State’s office and ask. That’s how careless and inconsiderate the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, then under the auspices of the new Governor Brown, was to those of us running to improve and correct the State’s Government — they couldn’t even be bothered to publish such vital information to the candidates on their website as the first date you were eligible to submit your statement, after which you could start gathering signatures. (Approval seemed to take about half-a-day.)
I spent six days wandering around town, and hanging in front of the Librarium, gathering signatures. Probably 25% were filled out incorrectly, so the signatures were worthless. It was frustrating to talk to someone for five minutes, have them decide to sign, and then notice after they walked away, that they’d filled out something incorrectly.
I saw that I would spend a whole month, that I could expend just talking to people or shaking hands and introducing myself, in this futile attempt to get 350 words in the voter’s pamphlet, although this usually tends to double a candidate’s vote total. The Senatorial Candidate Mike Montchalin got just over twice the number of votes I got with his Statement and photo in the pamphlet, though this may have been due to his better campaigning, or voter repugnance at my views. However I did beat the total of the previous Libertarian candidate, Wes Wagner, who got 19k+ votes in 2010 with his statement in the pamphlet, while I got 21,903 without a statement, but that might well be just because of the growing popularity, though slight, of the Libertarian ideal in American politics. People are seeing that Government is not working, and is abusing them, and the natural American Libertarian streak, that inspired Jefferson and other Founders, is still amongst us.
So, after expending six days to collect about 85 signatures, of which probably 25% had errors which would have disqualified those signatures in the eyes of the Secretary of State, and for the reasons stated in the next paragraph, I suspended my signature gathering drive, and after that I just went up to people and introduced my candidacy and showed them my platform sheet. If I felt they were especially sympathetic or gungho Libertarian, then I’d show them the signature sheet, ask them to sign it, and explain that it was very unlikely I’d get the signatures in time. This liberated me to concentrate on the issues, and, not being a pragmatist, I was quite willing to spend a good deal of time explaining some of my views to one person.
I didn’t like collecting signatures for two other reasons. First, it seemed like this free printing of my Statement at the taxpayer expense was a clear violation of Libertarian Doctrine. Here we were preaching against government welfare, yet we were hypocritically taking a government freebie. That alone made me uncomfortable, and not want my statement in the pamphlet. Secondly, I didn’t like the feeling of having to ask people for something. One could have paid $3,000, unlike the Democrat and Republican who had their Parties and donors pay for them, so they didn’t have to tie up a whole month of their life, but that would have been collaborating with the Socialist State, and even enriching it through it’s extortion — talk about an uneven playing field in American Politics. But no Liberal Democrat politician has once called out the injustice of this rich man’s party’s hypocrisy. My Senatorial co-runner, Mr. Montchalin, did, by dint of persistent hard work in 100+ heat in Pendleton, manage to finally collect the 500 signatures, though I’d guess he spent over 20 days doing it. It was over 100 degrees in Cave Junction too almost that entire month, and the streets looked like the post-North Korean nuclear attack on the U.S. West Coast.
However, one thing I did like about the signature gathering process was the fact that I could go up to a stranger and engage them in political discussion without it seeming strange to them. I had the 20 or so key points of my platform printed in large type on a sheet of paper, and I would introduce myself and show them the sheet. This led to some very interesting political discussions.
One fellow I remember looked over my list and liked it until he got to my proposal to ban the supplying of meat, fish and poultry to State Prisoners, since the AMA has stated that a vegetarian diet is completely healthy, and this would save the taxpayer money. Prisoners could still buy certain kinds of meat through the mail, like jerky. He got quite hot under the collar about this proposal, but when I explained that the current situation violated the deepest religious values of both Hindu-American taxpayers and vegetarian/vegan taxpayers, who were forced at gunpoint to violate their most sacred religious and moral views, he saw the point, and ended up shaking hands and saying, “We should debate!”
Then there was the local owner of the Chinese restaurant in town. When I approached him, he spoke Chinese to me, as if he didn’t understand English (he does). He was with his two grandsons. I explained to them that I was running for Governor, and that I would abolish the income tax for small businessmen and abolish business license requirements. One rolled his eyes in surprise; evidently he’d never heard anything so radical before in milquetoast Oregon. Later on, when going to my car which was parked near his house, the owner saw me, smiled, and waved.
Additionally, there was the pleasure of converting someone over to your view by making them think of something they’d never thought of before. One Republican conservative/libertarian liked almost everything on my platform list except the abolition of the death penalty. I explained my plan for a more arduous imprisonment, but also the principle that the life energy of the murderer now should rightly become the property of the next of kin, so that a child whose parent had been murdered would be given the money that prisoner would earn working 6-12 hour days for life. He seemed to never have thought about this, and seemed to like the idea, and added “I see I will have to rethink my views on the Death Penalty”. Another gentleman, who had a booth set up with his wife, liked much of my platform, and liked my belief that marriage, being a religious institution, should be completely separate from our law and government, so that tax rates for single and married would be identical, and divorce would be handled through private religious and secular courts, saving the taxpayer the costs of operating government-run divorce courts and marriage-license offices.
As to my dealings with the Press: Though I sent an email to the local paper, which is a few blocks from my residence, I never once got a request for an interview, even though I was running for Governor. Shows how much the editor loves Libertarians, and his Care and Consideration in carrying out his duties as a member of the American Press. That Care and Consideration I did get from the major newspaper in Bend. They did an editorial staff interview of me over the phone. They would interview all candidates and then endorse one. ( It wasn’t me.) But at least they carried out their responsibility as part of the Press to ask me for my positions.
However, to its credit, the local newspaper did hold a Candidates Night. When I contacted the editor as to whether I could speak, he told me it was only for local candidates, as if the Governorship of the State wasn’t worth the public’s time, but he did say I could set up a table if I wanted. When I showed up at the hall, the editor told me that I could have three minutes to speak, along with fellow LPO Candidate, Mark Seligman.
Prior to our speaking, we had been listening to the questioning of the candidates for County Commissioner and Sheriff, and there had been absolute silence in the hall. But when I got up to speak along with Mr. Seligman, the editor got up and left, and in the back of the hall there were loud conversations going on between the two Sheriff candidates and other individuals, loud enough to the extent that it was very distracting to both the speaker and those trying to listen to us. I purposely raised my voice, and kept raising it as I pounded out the core principles of Jeffersonian Libertarianism and the Inalienable Rights of Man, as well as the Libertarian Non-Aggression Principle, which is its core axiom. Finally the Sheriff candidates looked towards the stage and ceased their banter, and I, and then Mr. Seligman, were able to deliver our talks in silence. So, while I was very disappointed that the editor didn’t even bother to interview me in his paper or explicitly invite me to the Candidates Evening, he did in part make up for it by offering me table space and three minutes to talk, which he could have not offered to do. So I give him a little credit for carrying out his almost-sacred Duty to the Public as part of the American Press.
One part of the Press that really did carry out it’s responsibility to the pubic was Don Merrill and radio station KBOO in Portland. Merrill has done a whole series of in-depth interviews with Oregon politicians and would-be politicians (as well as leading figures in jazz), and his interview with me was excellent. He was very well informed, stayed neutral during the interview, and edited out my faux pas nicely. That interview is available on the web.
As far as the Libertarian Party of Oregon was concerned, as illustrated by the thread discussions held on its Facebook webpage and their votes on potential state initiatives in the Libertarian primary, I felt that they were generally not Libertarian enough in hammering on economic issues. There seemed to be a great emphasis on a few issue, like drivers cards GMO-food labeling, but not a lot on the basis market issues that Libertarians should be practically concerned with, like abolishing the personal income tax, or estate/inheritance tax, or farm subsidies. Very few commentators seemed to be worked up about these issues compared to topics like GMO crops, gun laws, top two primaries, and the militarization of the police. My top issues were the legalization of heroin for the terminally ill, the abolition of Capital Punishment, and the abolition of the personal income tax. Then abolishing estate tax and legalizing cannabis with a few exceptions.
One thing I did like about Oregon Libertarians was the large percentage of what I’d call enviro-Libertarians, at least if you went by the GMO-crop ban numbers. About 40% of them favored the ban, and about 60% bought the corporate line. There’s a lot of scepticism too about vaccines amongst Libertarians, while even Portland Liberals have voted again and again to ban flouridation of their water, which used to be an ultra-Right and Libertarian position in the 50s and early 60s. So there seems to be a crossover between Environmentalists and Libertarians in Oregon which I thought might make me an unusually welcome candidate, but shortly after I won the nomination, a Pacific Green candidate entered, and I imagine he ended up taking a sizable chunk of Green votes I might have attracted, even though he was a phony in my view because he was pro-timber logging and pro-hunting, while my platform included the most radical environmental proposals: a live-logging moratorium, banning atrazine and neonicotinoid and other pesticides, and outlawing hunting, etc.
I also liked the fact that Libertarians seemed generally to take a very sympathetic view of the child-refugees from Central America who were swarming into Texas and other border states due to the Fascistic War on Drugs. Republicans were calling for guns at the border to turn back these children, but the Libertarians clearly saw that this exodus was due to the anti-Libertarian controlled substance laws, which are a prescription for Communistic Totalitarianism, and that’s exactly what we’ve had in America since the days of the Fascist Hoovers (both Jedgar and Herbert), at least in the realm of drug laws. And remember the Democrats have not once stopped this disgusting tyranny when they have held power, showing that they are a morally bankrupt party, and no person should ever join or support them.
And I found it interesting that the anti-pesticide group of which I had attended numerous meetings, and whose proposals I was putting forth almost word for word, never once mentioned my candidacy on their website. Even though a Capitalist was putting forth every proposal they said was so emergently important to save the Earth, they weren’t going to publicize him. Maybe they’d rather have a socialist and Democrat destroying the Earth and spraying pesticides on kids like now former-Governor Kitzhaber than a pro-environmental Capitalist.
Additionally, I attended a sort of farm festival cum environmental information cum artisan’s wares at a large wooded butterfly sanctuary. I wanted to campaign, gather signatures, and felt my environmental views might find fertile fields at this gathering, but when I got there, one of the sponsors and his wife, both in the pesticide group I attended, wouldn’t let me gather signatures, even though this was supposed to be a fair dealing with environmental and farm issues and my platform included very radical environmental measures. The wife of the gentleman hysterically accused me of “forcing her to be a vegetarian” which cracked me up. These Liberal/Leftists (I’d guess they vote Democrat) butcher alpacas for profit, murdering these gentle creatures and grinding their corpses into sausage for filthy lucre, so they weren’t too jazzed about my animal welfare measures, like outlawing slaughterhouses — something I told the public I would not institute without a democratic majority behind it in the State. My purpose on certain issues was to bring them up for discussion, even if they hadn’t a ghost of a chance of passing.
So that shows you. The Left Enviros wouldn’t vote for a radical Capitalist even if he proposed exactly what they wanted, and the Libertarians in general didn’t even seem to know who Murray Rothbard was, or what his views were. And they generally seem engulfed in issues other than the free-market economic issues, which I think are the most important to the American Public, along with Bill of Rights and environmental issues.
And the problems with putrid politicians were well illustrated when I campaigned at our local 4th of July Lions Club Festival, held at the city park. When I arrived, i ran into Mark Seligman, the Libertarian Candidate for the State Legislature from our district. And seated next to Mr. Seligman was Mark Gatlin, who was running for County Commissioner. I chatted with Mr. Seligman on various issues, and at one point mentioned that my top issue was the legalization of heroin for the terminally ill. He told me I shouldn’t mention it because “it’s a vote loser”. The Principle, that no Citizen should have to die in excruciating pain, and has the inalienable Right to put whatever they want in their bodies, seemed to be completely forgotten by Mr. Seligman in the name of “pragmatism”, who remember was calling himself a Libertarian. Disgusted, I turned to Mr. Gatlin. “What do you think? Do you think heroin should be legal for the terminally ill?” His reply was “No.” “So you don’t think people have the right of self ownership?”, I asked. To which he replied, “There’s something else, oxycotin.” “But if someone doesn’t want to take oxycotin, or its not killing their pain, don’t you think they have the Right to take heroin?”. To which he replied, “Legalizing heroin is anarchy.” At that point, I couldn’t bear being around such a callous person, so I split. Then I ran into Mark Seligman again. “I’m telling you, man, legalizing heroin is a vote loser.” I turned to him, “You’re not a Libertarian, you’re a Democrat”, which I’d define as someone who won’t speak out on an injustice because it will lose him votes. (I still voted for him.)
Later, when I was leaving, I happened to pass Mr. Gatlin’s table again just as two teens were standing about 20 feet away, both smoking cigarettes. The smoke was drifting in our direction, and one of my campaign proposals would have criminilized assault by second-hand smoke within 100 feet of another person, with more severe penalties for smoking near a child or pregnant woman. I went up to Mr. Gatlin again. “Do you think that should be legal?” I queried. “What?” he asked. I pointed to the two youths, “That people can be exposed to tobacco-smoke in a public place?” “Yeh”, he replied. So you can see the hypocrisy of this Fascist — he’ll deny the dying pain relief in the name of preventing Anarchy, but he doesn’t mind people being able to poison other people and children in public. What a hypocrite!
After Seligman and Gatlin, I was pretty sick of politicos.
However, the number of interesting conversations I got into, the number of supportive and kind comments I got from people, and the joy of finding another human brain that saw things exactly as you saw them, and agreed with you 100% on an issue, made campaigning worthwhile. It was also gratifying to see someone’s thinking change before your eyes as you brought up an aspect of a political issue that they’d never ever thought about.
Finally, there was the subject of hits on this campaign blog, a subject which must be dear to any minor party candidate not included in the usual polls, which only list the two bipartisan candidates, but would never dare publicize a minor party candidate by including them in its surveys. Such candidates are relegated to the catagory of “other” in the poll results.
Of course, as soon as I set up my campaign blog and began posting, I was expecting a flood of hits daily — surely several hundred. The depressing reality was that, even though I was running for the Governorship of one of the United States, I was only garnering 5-15 hits a day with only three months to go before the election. The lack of interest was disconcerting.
One day, however, I awoke to find over 40 hits. I’d caught on! I’d finally lit that brushfire of Liberty mentioned by Samuel Adams! But no, it was due to the fact that a group, Women Against Registry, was soliciting my views on the sex registry, and had probably noticed my platform proposal to increase the sentence for first degree rape. I had a back and forth dialogue with some of their members, and they made me aware of the problems for people with minor sexual offenses like public urination or mooning that have kept them on sex registries for decades, as well as the problems for children as young as six to ten placed on sex registries. However, they weren’t very jazzed about my proposal for increased rape sentences. After our dialogues ceased, the blog hits declined again to their indifferent 5-15/day.
Contrast those 5-15 hits, to the roughly 1500 I got the day before the election, and the 2150 on the day of election. Political interest really hits a frenzy in those last three or four days before an election, and blog post hits are a good guide to the intensity of that frenzy.
I’m very glad I ran, and put my platform before the Oregon Voters. They finally had a choice and a voice on many issues that no politician ever mentions because they are trying to win, not trying to bring Justice and Right Action to politics.
The worm has eaten its way into the Fascistic apple.
-Paul Grad, enviro-vegan Libertarian,