Members of the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts met in Westborough over the weekend to mobilize ahead of the presidential election. The Party of Principle, a moniker they’ve adopted in this tumultuous election cycle, saw one of its largest Massachusetts based conventions in years, with activists flocking to hear from big players in Libertarian circles and set goals for the future.
United behind what’s considered to be the most high profile ticket the Libertarians have fielded in their 44 year existence, spirits were high and optimistic, and for good reason. According to a September poll from WBUR, Gary Johnson, the former two term governor of New Mexico, currently hovers around 9% of the vote in Massachusetts. If Johnson’s numbers remain consistent into November, he will guarantee the party major party status for the next two years- something that the Massachusetts affiliate hasn’t had since 2010.
Furthermore, Massachusetts Libertarians announced they intend to field a complete slate for 2018, including a gubernatorial candidate. Speaking to the impassioned crowd, Daniel Fishman, the party’s political facilitator and the Northeastern regional director for the Johnson-Weld campaign, made it abundantly clear that this opportunity is a prime turning point for the small party. “We have a legitimate chance to win second place”, he told convention goers, “The [MassGOP] is fractured […] It’s no longer a party at all.”
David Blau, party treasurer and another long-time activist, echo’d Fishman’s enthusiasm for the future. “I’m very excited for the campaign. I’m very excited for after too. Win or lose, the campaign is over on the 8th and the party will carry on [come] the 9th.” Asked if he thought Johnson’s momentum and polling would give him the chance of making it into one of the two remaining debates, Blau remained skeptical. “The [CPD] is beholden to the two major parties.”, Blau said, “They have no self interest.”
Thomas Simmons, the party’s sole candidate for Congress, was another figure who saw a hopeful future on the horizon. Simmons, who serves as the chair of the Business Department at Greenfield Community College, is arguably one of the best chances the Libertarians have at securing a seat in Congress. With no Republican challenger, an incumbent Democrat that Simmons described as “no where to be found”, and an endorsement from Bill Weld, Massachusetts’ former state governor, Simmons has taken advantage of an unusual opportunity.
“I’ve campaigned in gay bars and College Republican clubs”, Simmons quipped, noting that his major strategy is to hold the Republican base and siphon dissatisfied Berniecrat voters from the Democratic base. Simmons also spoke of how important it has been to know your audience and add a personal touch. “I drove to every town in my district to personally drop off petitions”, he recounted. “Some of these people have never seen a [candidate] running for Congress.”
Simmons wasn’t alone in coming out to Westborough either. After speaking to the room, he led a panel of candidates from the surrounding New England area in a round table format.
Throughout the day, attendees were entertained by a variety of dynamic public speakers. From medical marijuana to mass incarceration reform, representatives presented the hungry convention with food-for-thought. One of the more anticipated speakers was American talk show host and agorist Adam Kokesh. Kokesh, who has identified as an anarchist and voluntaryist, explained that the average American “knows something is wrong” and is “waking up faster and faster”. Seeing this growth to be inevitable, he asked convention goers to look at what worked with them and how important it is they hone their message. In his closing remarks, Kokesh also discussed his 2020 run for the Libertarian Party nomination, where he said he would focus on a platform calling for the orderly dissolution of the federal government.
Larry Sharpe, a New York based consultant who ran just points behind Bill Weld in the race for the vice presidential nomination, was also a widely anticipated guest, and spoke at great length during the convention. Sharpe ran breakout panels concurrent to the regular to-dos of the convention agenda, showcasing various tactics and approaches to becoming a more effective campaign manager. Challenging individuals to look at the big picture and come up with new ideas of campaigning, Sharpe bounced ideas off of the audience and helped educate them on how to develop campaign strategies of their own. Towards the end of one of his sessions, Sharpe also dropped a bomb that he was considering a run for the governor of New York in 2018.
Joining Sharpe in conducting hands-on panels was the Libertarian National Committee vice chairman, Arvin Vorha. Whereas Sharpe focused on knowing how to dole out responsibilities and organize campaigns, Vorha held his popular “Who’s Driving” activist workshop, and set his sights on educating participants on how to handle media, taking control of the campaign, and becoming aware of the “misuse of the language of liberty” and the corruption of the Libertarian message.
As exciting as the day was, not all activists were united in how they should move forward with their message. Early in the morning, convention goers voted on implementing new platform planks, such as a call to remove all ethnic and racial qualifiers on census forms to combat racism, but spirited discussion allowed only one plank to be passed before the convention forced the procedural vote to be continued later in the afternoon.
Meeting in a room separate from the main convention hall, a small split delegation approved the additions of another two planks: a commitment to fighting the militarization of the police, as well as the opposition to current payroll system and the immediate pardoning of all tax violators. However, following a heated debate that divided the room in two, planks to call for the United States to leave the United Nations or to oppose mandatory vaccinations both failed. With other motions to still be discussed, but up against the clock, a vote was called to adjourn and return to the festivities- a very tense decision that once again split the rump meeting down the middle.
The Libertarians weren’t the only ones to be meeting in the DoubleTree Convention Hall that afternoon. The American Federation of Teachers, a powerful teacher’s union with ties to the establishment of No Child Left Behind, were hosting a leadership conference just down the hall. Supporters of the educator’s union and the small government loving party interacted relatively little, with AFT participants saying they found the situation to be just as amusing, but that both sides mostly kept to themselves. “It’s been friendly. There hasn’t been any attempts at recruiting from any side”, said a participant who wished to keep their name anonymous.
Even in the face of classic ideological squabbles and unusual party guests across the hall, the convention was seen as a success. Former party chair and gubernatorial candidate Dean Cook, who was in attendance, was very satisfied with the events of the day. “The convention was run a lot better than the one that I ran”, Cook mused. When pressed if a energized convention and convenient running conditions were enough to put the Massachusetts party on the map, Cook doubled down on the importance of voting your conscience, even if you don’t always win. “The sales and income tax vote failed [in Massachusetts],”, but it almost passed. It still forced the vote in the legislature to be vetoed. You can win with winning.”
Even after a full day, there were still opportunities for party activists to network and engage one another. For those who paid more into the Libertarian Party’s coffers, an intimate dinner session was had with technology and business investor, Bruce Fenton. Fenton, founder of the Bitcoin Association, spoke at length about blockchain, which he described as the “ultimate voluntaryist transaction, completely peer-to-peer, and free of a third party”. He was joined again by Sharpe, who gave one more compelling speech to support local Libertarian Party establishments and candidates.
Cris Crawford, the newly elected chairwoman, closed the festivities of the night with a huge thanks to early donors. “[You] were the pebble that started the avalanche”, Crawford said, adding that their efforts led to more effective ballot access efforts. Crawford also set fourth the manifesto of the party for the future, focusing on a policy of observation and understanding. “The best thing we can do right now is research and listen to the members [and] research what the public wants from us, [which] will help put libertarians in the best possible light.”
The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado in 1971, and is dedicated to “Minimum Government and Maximum Freedom”. More information can be found out about the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts at lpmass.org.
With only a few weeks until voting begins for the 2016 presidential primaries, Secretary of the Commonwealth Francis Galvin’s office has released the official ballot listing for the March 1st Massachusetts primaries. Four parties currently meet the definition of a “major” political party in Massachusetts and thus are allowed to hold primaries. Of these four, one, Evan Falchuk’s United Independent Party, is not contesting national elections and thus is fielding no candidates. The other three contain a slew of candidates, including a handful of lesser-known politicos that lack mainstream coverage.
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY
Former Governor of Virginia, 2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate
|DONALD J. TRUMP
Businessman, 2000 Reform Party Presidential Primary Candidate
Texas Senator, Former Texas Solicitor General
Lawyer, Former Governor of New York
2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate, Former Arkansas Governor
Kentucky Senator, Ophthalmologist
Businesswoman, 2010 Republican Nominee for California U.S. Senate
2012 Republican Party presidential primary candidate, Former Pennsylvania Senator
Governor of New Jersey, Former United States Attorney
Florida Senator, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
Businessman, Former Florida Governor
|JOHN R. KASICH
Governor of Ohio, Former Ohio Congressman
*George Pataki dropped out December 28th but failed to file the paperwork necessary to remove his name from the ballot.
With 13 names on the ballot, the Republican primary will be the most intensely contested race to come out of the night. While Donald Trump currently retains a lead in Massachusetts based on robocalling polls, the Bay State still functions as an opportunity for some of the more moderate of the Trump alternatives to stake ground in a free-for-all in the event The Donald flounders.
Marco Rubio currently sits in second place with enough support to earn him proportional delegation, followed closely by Ted Cruz. There’s also a surprise John Kasich factor, as recent polling from the neighboring state of New Hampshire show a massive jump to 20% similar to Jon Huntsman in 2012. Whether or not that will translates into momentum for him in other moderate states will depend on how the field changes following February, but there’s a very real inner-party dissatisfaction with the Trump Juggernaut and “Super Tuesday” may be the only real chance of inflicting a lasting blow.
Massachusetts is also somewhat of a touchy subject for the national Republican Party, who may feel inclined to tread carefully. Something that many voters go without knowing is that Massachusetts has a two part process for selecting both Republican and Democratic delegates. The March 1st primary will establish who gets the delegates, but the April 30th caucus will establish who gets to become the delegates.
In 2012, a coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and Ron Paul supporters mounted a strong bid against Mitt Romney’s delegate slate and swept the caucuses with a super majority. In turn, the Massachusetts Republican Party engaged the “Ronald Reagan Liberty Slate” in a legal clash which led to their being disinfranchised. This, coupled with a delegate walk-out and the RNC rules changes– seen as unpopular by many conservatives and libertarians both, left a foul taste in the mouth of a number of the 2012 Republican delegates, and these same delegates, now primarily behind Rand Paul, are sure to be out in full-force for a rematch.
With 42 delegates at stake, 27 of which will be divided proportionally, this state will surely be seen as valuable for the wing of the Republican Party chanting for a brokered convention, as well as those seeking to change the party platform.
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY
Vermont Senator, Former Vermont Congressman
Former Maryland Governor, Former Mayor of Baltimore
Former Secretary of State, Former New York Senator
|ROQUE “ROCKY” DE LA FUENTE
Businessman, 1992 Democratic Convention Delegate
The Democratic primary has had relatively little polling conducted in New England with the exception of New Hampshire. The few polls that have been conducted in Massachusetts, courtesy of Suffolk University and Overtime Politics, both show Clinton with a confident lead in the double digits. Looking at the results of the last three presidential elections, Massachusetts has traditionally sided with the “establishment” candidate as a final outcome.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton was able to parry Senator Barack Obama, and harking back to 2004, Howard Dean, an enthusiastic progressive stalwart, was able to barely lead John Kerry for a brief moment in time before his campaign crashed entering into the Massachusetts primary. Unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, who is shaping up to be the anti-establishment Democrat this cycle, he also lacks the youthfulness and excitement of both Obama and Dean.
Martin O’Malley, polling in the single digits, and businessman Roque De La Fuente, not even recognized by major polling firms, are unlikely to change their standings. If it’s any consolation, in the event of an O’Malley campaign suspension, cross-tabs show a 2nd choice preference to Sanders over Clinton. Considering the jaunty campaign organization that Sanders has been running, and running well, any additional volunteers and voters are sure to go a long way.
One thing that could impact the race in Sanders’ favor is the semi-open primary system that Massachusetts utilizes. Younger voters, first-time voters, and anti-establishment voters, the cornerstone of the Vermont senator’s constituency, are generally unenrolled voters. There’s a certain difficulty in polling such voters, as the sheer number of unenrolled voters in Massachusetts outnumbers both the Republicans and the Democrats. With that in mind, if turnout is low and unenrolled voters pull a Democratic ballot en masse, it’s realistic to believe that Sanders has the slimmest of chances. Regardless, with 59 of the 116 delegates up for grabs in Massachusetts based on proportional voting, Sanders could still walk away with a worthwhile haul.
GREEN-RAINBOW PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY
|SEDINAM KINAMO CHRISTIN MOYOWASIFZA CURRY
Green Party Activist
Physician, 2012 Green Party Presidential Nominee
|WILLIAM P. KREML
Philosopher, Professor Emeritus of the University of South Carolina
Alternative Energy Advocate, 2012 Green Party Presidential Primary Candidate
Musician, Environmental Activist
No scientific polling for the Green Party race has been conducted, but informal polling by individual green groups show a strong support for the 2012 standard bearer, Jill Stein. Stein, a Massachusetts resident, comes into the race being no stranger to the world of Bay State politics, having served the Green-Rainbow Party as a candidate for numerous offices, the most recent being their 2010 gubernatorial candidate. Her opponents, all green activists with established records of their own, lack the immediate organization and name recognition of Stein.
With the Republicans and Democrats actively engaged in contested primaries of their own, the Green-Rainbow ballot will unlikely be pulled by any unenrolled voters. With many nonpartisan progressive minded people rallying around Bernie Sanders, the race is sure to be decided purely by Green-Rainbow enrolled voters, many of whom would immediately recognize Stein. There’s little reason to see her not duplicate her almost 61 point victory from last cycle.
The Green Party awards state delegation seats based on numerous factors, including state recognition, so Massachusetts will be a valuable delegation for Stein going into the convention. In 2012, she won nine delegates of the eleven delegates in play and cinched the nomination.
UNITED INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY
Evan Falchuk’s Massachusetts specific United Independent Party has been advocating its members to temporarily change their registration for the sake of voting in other party primaries. As a result, the UIP primary ballot is a blank sheet.
Hypothetically speaking, a write-in candidate could be able to get on the general ballot via a blank primary ballot by being both the highest vote earner and earning at minimum the amount of signatures needed to originally qualify. Galvin’s office has stated that in the case of a presidential primary, the lack of a formal nominating convention would render such an attempt to “hijack a presidential primary ballot to be moot.
Evan Falchuk’s voters tend to side with anti-establishment candidates, as seen with an informal poll conducted within the UIP membership. If the mentality of this small group of 100 UIP voters is to be seen as representative of the entire party, Bernie Sanders is the most likely to benefit from the Operation Chaos style crossover being advocated by Falchuk.
As of September of 2015, the United Independent Party has claimed to have seen considerable growth with over 11,000 members in Massachusetts, although this could be reminiscent of the American Independent Party of California’s success with voters who mistakenly think they’re enrolling as independent.
One major party that’s missing this cycle around is the Libertarian Party. While Gary Johnson had an impressive showing in the 2012 cycle, breaking one million votes nationally and earning .97% in the Bay State, this doesn’t translate into automatic ballot access, nor was there any effort made by Libertarians to establish automatic ballot access going into 2014.
This however doesn’t mean the Libertarian Party has abandoned Massachusetts. Last fall, Worcester was the site of their first presidential debate, hosting four of the one dozen serious Libertarian hopefuls, and Massachusetts remains a valuable state with a split delegation that in 2012 had voted for Johnson as much as it voted for R. Lee Wrights. In a race where Gary Johnson only needed 297 delegates to win in 2012, Massachusetts’ prospective 19 delegates are a worthwhile investment.
Interestingly, failing to achieve major party status is sometimes seen as a boon to the success of the Massachusetts Libertarians. Unlike their fellow major-minor party cohorts, the Green Party and the United Independent Party, Libertarians are currently classified as a designation and subject to PAC laws, which allows them to take advantage of lower filing fees and much less stringent ballot access requirements in a state with arguably some of the harsher laws in the country. This comes with an equally hefty cost however as Libertarians lose the ability to have instant ballot access going into presidential years, as well as their names scrubbed from the quick enrollment ballots at the Registry of Motor Vehicles- something that many individuals in Massachusetts use to enroll as first time voters.
Other than the race for the presidency, the Republicans, Democrats, and Green-Rainbows will also have elections for both state and local committee seats on the ballot. In 2015 Massachusetts became the 21st state to allow online voter enrollment and Massachusetts residents have until Feb. 10 to register to vote in the March 1st elections.