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Florida Libertarians Get People in Office

February 13th 2006

Florida Libertarians Get People in Office

Lady Liberty

St Petersburg, Fl--Slowly but surely, Florida Libertarians are getting people in local office, from citizen advisory boards to elected positions. Their growing number not only affects policy, but signals changes in public thinking, they say.

Many observers agree. "They're winning," says the Miami Herald bluntly in an editorial on the growing presence of the Libertarians, noting that while the positions seem modest, the Libertarians are putting them to full use.

Libertarians champion human rights and call for private and voluntary replacements to government programs.

 

WELCOME CHANGE

The change is welcome to the Florida Libertarian Party or LPF(www.LPF.org), whose website contains a link to its upcoming convention, which features an array of policy speakers, such as Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, on how Libertarian ideas are being implemented.

There is little doubt the LPF  suffocated for decades under restrictive Florida election laws--called by Ballot Access News "The worst in the nation, if not the free world"--facing vast costs to mount State House and other campaigns. Florida was so difficult the national LP informally used it as sink-or-swim  training ground. Worse, even offices that were not directly affected by the laws were hard to obtain: People tended not to even be aware of the LP as they were not on the ballot, and offers based on their work in coalitions from everything to school privatization and home-schooling to tax relief and homestead exemptions could not be easily used: Much of the party's time and effort was spent in getting their Presidential Candidate on the ballot and fighting the election regulations.

The LP mounted a campaign to change them. The campaign, spanning three decades in what TV reporters called 'an epic battle' eventually forged a broad coalition that culminated in a Constitutional Amendment. The Amendment, Revision 11, mandates all parties be treated equally.

SEA CHANGE

 

The Amendment, after technically taking effect, really did not have an impact until 2000, in large part because many election officials needed time to be trained and adjust their systems. In addition, the Libertarians benefited, ironically, from relationships built on the coalitions they forged and a reputation of political staying power from refusing to compromise on anything until they got what they wanted.

Last month the Pinellas affiliate--location of the cities of Clearwater and St. Petersburg--had 5 people confirmed in local boards. According to its Secretary Julie Chorgo, "We're taking this in perspective. It's a first step we're coordinating with massive outreach, education, and coalition efforts. We spend a lot of time talking to people in government and local educators about where Libertarian ideas have had good results so they can judge for themselves. But our people are giving a new take on home-schooling and postal privatization or abolition. It's an element that supports everything else."

Despite the modesty, the number is symbolic, and can be seen as reflecting a Sea Change for the Libertarians: In 2000, when the Amendment was implemented, there were only 5 Libertarians in government office of any kind in Florida. Now just one county has that amount--and busy LPF affiliates elsewhere have 40 people in office around the state, ranging from a senior advisor to the Governor to several inter-county board members who were elected with a total of 1 million votes--approximately equal to 1/5th of the Florida electorate.

It's also symbolic on a national level for the Libertarians: 26 State parties have less or the same people in office than Pinellas, a county of one million, according to the national LP website, including large states such as Texas.

GETTING THE PUBLIC FAMILIAR WITH THE 'FARM TEAM'

The Florida Libertarians say more is in store, as they quietly run people for local office, go door to door, do their community seminars and open houses,  and get people appointed. Says Chorgo, who herself is on a local board, "These boards are key training grounds. Congress may propose, but often the boards dispose, because they are close to the people affected. You build credibility as you help solve problems. In due course we'll see Libertarian legislators and city council people in Florida as in some other states. We did very well when we ran people for State House in 2002--16% of the vote, which set a US Libertarian record--and made a splash because we ran more candidates than the Democrats."

The Libertarians attribute the result to intensive training, in large part, given the candidates. Referring to the training, Chorgo said "These weren't just warm bodies as some Libertarian--and other-- parties do who are flustered by the most elementary questions and retreat into homilies about less government and the Constitution. Many were people with experience in government, and they took 200 plus hours of intensive training and practice so they were policy oriented, gave a consistent Libertarian message,  didn't attack opponents but focused positively on what we had to offer, understood the election was but one step in building public support, and made a good personal impression. Many were appointed to local boards or elected to non-partisan office."

According to Pinellas officers, their present  focus is building a 'farm team' of people who are out in the community and serving in local boards solving problems and advising. This is coordinated with activism efforts in alliance with many community organizations, and an outreach effort that includes a discussion seminar on the Libertarian pledge and how it applies to policy problems (Libertarian Party members sign a pledge not to advocate initiating force--including by government--as a policy solution), a seminar that's apparently the only one of its kind. "It's a two way process. We feel the  public is getting familiar with Libertarians in office, and like their systematic approach to problems" says Chorgo, who co-chairs monthly problem solving sessions open to the public. "But these things take time."

 
 
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By Mike Davis
Freelance Writer

 

Keywords and misspellings: law legal legle libeterian party libatarian affiate


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:48 PM