Florida Libertarians Get
People in Office
February 13th 2006
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.
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.
champion human rights and call for private and voluntary
replacements to government programs.
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.
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."
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
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.
PUBLIC FAMILIAR WITH THE 'FARM TEAM'
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."
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
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."
Keywords and misspellings: law legal legle libeterian party