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One libertarian was actually elected in the DC metropolitan area

21 Dec

John Vihstadt, a small “l” libertarian who ran as an independent in Arlington County (one of the wealthy DC suburbs with a population of over 200,000 and containing the Pentagon) was re-elected in November, the first non-Democrat on the county board in decades, with 56% of the vote.  Vihstadt had been elected only a few months previously in a special election.

Vihstadt, an attorney, was endorsed by Democrats, independents, Greens, Libertarians, and the Arlington County Young Republicans, a local Republican club dominated by supporters of Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty.

In one ad, Vihstadt is endorsed by two Democrats, a Green Party voter, a Republican, and Laura Delhomme, a Libertarian Party candidate who won 27% of the vote in an Arlington district in a 2013 run for the Virginia State Legislature.

Initially Vihstadt was going to face an additional candidate, Evan Bernick, a Libertarian Party candidate who is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago Law School.  The owner of this blog asked, actually fairly innocently, simply out of curiosity, at Mr. Bernick’s initial fundraiser, how he would distinguish himself from Vihstadt, who was not simply a libertarian leaning Republican, but a libertarianish Independent.  Bernick had a lengthy answer whose actual content was difficult for me, as a non-lawyer, to comprehend; however, he withdrew from the race shortly thereafter.

Vihstadt campaigned mainly on issues of controlling the budget, especially ending planned mass transit boondoggles.

Another new party?

14 Dec
Americans for a Free Republic
Americans for a Free Republic
Nelson Hultberg, Director

We at AFR believe the time has come to challenge the egregious Democrat-Republican monopoly of politics in America. As Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing more powerful in history than an idea whose time has come.”

The latest polls show that 42% of the voters no longer consider themselves to be a Democrat or a Republican. We believe this percentage will soon reach 50%. The people are fed up.

Read our article, Salvation of America.

It explains how to get a nationally prominent conservative 50% of the vote by going directly to the people as an Independent like Ross Perot in 1992. With 50% of the vote, there will be no dreaded Democrat win that so many conservatives use as their excuse to continue supporting the “statist” GOP.

Americans weren’t ready for this kind of challenge in 1992; they are now. It is an idea whose time has come.


It shows why working within the GOP can never stop the growth of big government. It shows how we can correct Perot’s mistakes and bring about a dramatic new coalition of conservatives, independents, libertarians, and blue-collar Democrats to stop the runaway freight train of insanity and tyranny that dominates Washington.

This will create the NATIONAL INDEPENDENT PARTY, which will force Republicans and Democrats to have to merge in order to remain politically viable. We will then have two genuine political parties: the National Independent Party representing “freedom” and the Democrat-Republican Party representing “statism.”

This is what we have planned for 2016.
Talk about us. Write about us. Spread the word.

Best regards,

Nelson Hultberg, Director
Americans for a Free Republic
P.O. Box 801213
Dallas, TX 75380


How do you handle a problem like…Independents?

25 Jan
Almost one fifth of DC voters reject the Democratic and Republican parties.  This excludes them from voting in the April Democratic primary, which decides many elections in DC way before the “general” election in November.

One solution for these people to register Libertarian and elect Libertarians.  Another, not mutually exclusive, reform would be to allow them to vote in any party’s primary.  Here is libertarian-leaning Mark Lee’s Blade op ed on the issue:

Fixing D.C. elections to let independent voters play

voting, District of Columbia, independent voters, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C.’s dilemma might best be remedied by “non-partisan” elections. All candidates would compete in a single primary open to all voters, with the top two candidates proceeding to the general election.
In D.C., independent voters don’t really get to play the game come election time.
Not only that, the current system allows the dominant Democratic Party’s primary candidates to proceed to the general election winning only a plurality of votes. It will likely happen again on April 1 in the historically determinant Democratic primary for mayor.
These are separate problems. But there may be a single solution.
Due to overwhelming Democratic registration at nearly 75 percent, winners of local elections are decided in the dominant party’s primary election. The only exception is a requirement that two of four At-Large D.C. Council seats be held by a non-majority-party. This provision is intended to prevent absolute single-party control but is both easily and commonly overridden by Democrats changing affiliation to “independent” as if changing socks.
Despite being primary participation outcasts, slightly more than 17 percent of the District’s registered voters have selected “No Party” as their political affiliation. This reduces voting eligibility to general elections, being prohibited from any party’s “closed primary” election.
The percentage of independent registrations would undoubtedly skyrocket if D.C. election rules were revised to eliminate participation restrictions. Independent voters are a fast-growing phenomenon in places with broader participation rules. In addition, nearly half of Americans now self-identify as “independents” – even if mostly in attitude while retaining a party preference – an all-time high in 25 years of Gallup polling.
Of course, both local Democratic Party officials and incumbents are not eager for any change weakening the incentive to register with the party. Why would they? There is no upside to surrendering the power of a determinant process exclusively involving party registrants or offering other parties a potential path to victory.
It’s partly understandable, in reference to the “open primary” system used in Virginia and other states where voters are not required to register by party and independents may vote in any party primary. Even those registered with a political party may vote in another party’s primary upon making a declaration they intend to support that party in the general election. There is an argument for letting political parties restrict primary voting to the party-registered. This prevents the possibility a party would have to “associate” with a winning candidate that did not adhere to particular political positions.
The rules for voting in primary elections vary by state and there are differing systems in place. And, yes, various protocols lead to multiple types of strategic mischief. In a fully “open” primary, for example, competing party members switch over to vote for candidates perceived weaker as general election opponents, especially if their own party’s primary is already sewn-up by a strong or single candidate or popular incumbent.
Neither “open” nor “semi-closed” primary systems that allow only independents to choose a party primary are perfect alternatives. Another option, determining a winner by ranking preference in “automatic run-off” primaries is also subject to strategic “gaming” by voters and introduces an unduly complex “poker game” mentality into the process.
D.C.’s dilemma might best be remedied by “non-partisan” elections. All candidates would compete in a single primary open to all voters, with the top two candidates proceeding to the general election.
One or both of the top two candidates might still win only a plurality. All voters, however, would have the opportunity to choose among all candidates, with a final selection available to voters in the general election. After all, no system is perfect.
A non-partisan system would provide for the least political disruption in a city with single party dominance. It would yield freedom from needing to register with the dominant party to attain electoral equity while also requiring candidates to compete side-by-side, as we already do for special elections.
It may be time to allow D.C. residents to register and fully participate in election outcomes without forcing affiliation with a political party.
It could be the best possible first-step election reform most appropriate for D.C.
Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter:@MarkLeeDC. Reach him at

"So you are running for office!"

26 Aug
Voters Want More New Choices

Every year fewer Americans vote for President.  In 2012, 40% of the (voting age) population did not vote, more than the percentage that voted for President Obama (30%), Mitt Romney (29%), or Libertarian Gary Johnson (1%) or any other independent or third party candidates.  Fewer people voted for Obama in 2012 than in 2008; Obama was only re-elected because even more GOP voters dropped out between 2008 and 2012.

At the same time, millions of Americans, perhaps part of that 40%, have taken to the streets, both with the Tea Party and with the Occupy movements (or have endured IRS harassment by filing to start 501c3 and c4 groups).  In the wake of the Obama administration’s continuing scandals, the President’s job disapproval ratings have risen to 52%.  (And Congress and the media are also not popular.)  A majority of Americans think Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, even though almost every government official, and certainly every administration official, has insisted that he is a traitor.  (And even some libertarian journalists and tea party politicians have back pedaled saying he did everything the wrong way and is personally reprehensible.)

As a result, tea partiers, libertarians, and other mavericks, have started challenging Republicans in primaries.  Perhaps fearing the same thing, a few Democrats have begun to criticize the NSA or Obamacare.  A true reform movement might emerge in the Democratic Party, something like the movements behind Howard Dean or Barack Obama, before they were both absorbed by the Borg.

Perhaps you’d like to step into the fray yourself in 2014.  I did it in my own little way in 2012, running for Congress (Delegate to Congress) in the nearly one party state of DC as a Libertarian, and for the first time, getting a new party enough of the vote to get it permanent ballot status.  You can now get yourself on the ballot as a Libertarian in the 2014 primaries and general election in DC without collecting 5,000 or more signatures to do so.

Some people asked me to write about my experience running for office, since it was a success of sorts, even a surprising one.  I told them the main thing I had to tell people was you must spend enough money to get the job done, and some insisted that that was a message activists actually needed to hear.  Why run an underfunded campaign that just contributes to an image that reformers, mavericks, or  libertarians (including Libertarians), have no chance of changing things.  So here it is.

Ballot Access

But in your race you may still need to go through this step.  Even if you are running in one of the two incumbent parties, you may have to collect significant numbers of signatures to get on the primary ballot.  (In special elections, for example, it’s often the case that everyone must collect thousands of signatures.)

You’ll need lots of volunteers to help you manage this and to collect the signatures, a thankless task (DC and many states schedule the signature gathering period of an election in the hottest weeks of the summer, so that petitioners must stand in parking lots and on sidewalks in 100 degree heat — yet OSHA, knowing where it’s bread is buttered, doesn’t seem to question these restrictive ballot access practices.)  It may be legal to hire petitioners, even roving teams of “professional” petitioners from other states, in your jurisdiction.  So in other words, you need money.


You will need money for lots of things.  Campaign swag — buttons, bumperstickers, T shirts.  And advertising — print, radio, online, maybe even radio or TV.  (You can design fast and dirty swag at vendors like CafePress.)

If you are running against an incumbent, he or she will be very well funded.  You can see who gives your opponent money by going to, which publicizes FEC reports in a searchable database.  You are probably going to find that your opponents is funded by Political Action Committees, corporate donors, and unions, with few individual donors.  They are being rewarded for the legislative favors and tax dollars they give to special interests.  This will be true of faux radicals, “progressives” (in name only – PINOs), and people who were civil rights or feminist activists (decades ago) and who rest on those laurels with media complicity.

You might be able to beat them by spending less money than they do, but you will need to be in the same ballpark.  If you have a lesser goal, like getting permanent ballot status for a new party (as I did), you will probably find that you need to spend something like the same number of dollars per vote as the incumbent.  In my case my incumbent, Eleanor Holmes Norton, routinely raises $400,000 every two years to run essentially unopposed in a one party state — that’s about $2 per vote.  I spent closer to $1 a vote.  Less, but still in the same order of magnitude dollars per vote.  Presidential campaigns now seem to be spending a billion dollars each to campaign in a country of 300 million (way more than $3 per vote, given that a plurality don’t vote and the Democrats and Republicans get billions more in free coverage from media corporations).  I’d suggest you find out how many voters are in your state or district (or decide how many votes you are aiming for) and come up with a plan to raise at least $1 per vote.  Start early.  Treat it the way you would to raise money to buy a house or send a child to college.  Save and raise money now.

The standard fundraising methods:

1) Self-financing.  Make and save money this year to spend on your campaign next year.  One PAC is based on the idea that “Early Money Is Like Yeast.”  Your money may be that money, that allows you to look viable enough to attract some donors.

2) Finance Committee.  It’s good to line up a group who will give or get, or pledge to give or get, money, months (or years) ahead of your campaign.

3) Online Giving.  There are vendors like Transaxt or Piryx that provide a way for people to give you money online, with the vendor sending 94-97% of the donation on to your campaign checking account a few days later.  This is more advance work you need to do:  set up an account and designate a bank; identify your treasurer, who will file reports with the Federal Election Commission, Clerk of Congress or local and state agencies; get a taxpayer ID number for the campaign.  Currently you can file electronically with the FEC if you spend less than $50,000.  Some agencies, like the Clerk of the Congress, make you list all assets and income; local agencies may make you swear you are current on tax filings.

4) Fundraisers.  Identify supporters with palatial homes or find a fun event space, and throw a party.  Charge an entry fee, and then have someone who is good at it pitch people for additional donations.  Give everyone lost of alcohol  — it makes people give more money.  (This is also why you need campaign swag.  You want your donors and your campaign committee members to feel ownership of your campaign.  And they do and your campaign also seems more viable if you have buttons, stickers and yard signs to give them.)

5) Direct Mail.  If you have the budget you can mail both donor and voter prospects a bumpersticker.  All your direct mail should lead people back to your website, especially donations links.  Longer letters have been found to raise more money.  You can find names of likely donors at, by searching for people in relevant zip codes who have donated to campaigns (e.g. Ron Paul, Gary Johnson) with similar positions to yours.  Supposedly the FEC believes it is illegal to use its data in this way, and yet there it is sitting on the net.  You may need to cross check with or local property tax records to find the current address of donors.

Resource Allocation/Time Management

Basic economics tell us you can’t do everything — you don’t have the time or money.  EMILY’s List (“Early Money is Like Yeast”) tells us you want to target people you know will want to vote, volunteer, and above all DONATE to you EARLY.  So you need to target.

To target direct mail you can rent mailing lists from groups with views similar to your own, or use  You can also get voter lists segregated by party affiliation from your local board of elections.

For internet targeting, vendors will be willing to help you.  The companies that sell ad space on sites like will sell you an ad that only appears in zip codes and cities where you are running.  Facebook and other social media allow you to target ads by age, gender, location, and people who have an interest in specific topics (NSA, debt, IRS, Edward Snowden).

For door to door canvassing you could use voter registration lists segregated by party.  As a maverick you may want to appeal to independents or the more independent voters in all parties.  You should look at election results from recent elections and see where candidates or issues (e.g. term limits, decriminalization, tax limitations) in line with your views got the most votes.  In my DC race I received 6% of the vote, but I got 18% of the vote from Delegate Norton’s immediate neighbors on Capitol Hill.  Based on earlier years we had assumed Dupont Circle and adjacent hipster neighborhoods were where we had the most libertarian voters and had hung lots of street signs there and fewer on the Hill.  Next time we will give them more equal coverage.  You should make sure you base knows about and is excited about your campaign.

You will probably have to do some triage, especially with events.  You will find yourself being invited to community forums on the same night.  I went to some and was invited to others, in part because Greens and progressive Democrats wanted to present a unified challenge to the incumbent.  (Delegate Norton was so well funded and confident she doesn’t speak to community groups, though she was caught doing some inebriated tweeting during one of the Presidential debates.  My joke at the time was that her social media maven said she needed a Tumblr and she didn’t understand what he meant.)  You may see that you are speaking to the same 40 political junkies at each event.  If they aren’t supporters who donate and volunteer time, and if there is no media coverage, you are better off dialing for dollars, canvassing neighborhoods, or hanging streets signs.


Though some issues are pervasive in all races — taxes, exploding debt, runaway spending, corruption, invasions of privacy — you will want to identify important issues in your race overlooked by the incumbent and the established parties or factions.  Three areas I think people should explore in 2014 are 1) the luxurious self-rewarding spending by the political class, 2) illegal surveillance and data collection by government agencies, and 3) election tampering by incumbents and their supporters.  Are your local and state or Congressional politicians hiring relatives or going on expensive junkets?  Do they have friends or relatives who are well paid lobbyists?  Are local and state agencies cooperating with the IRS, NSA, SEC to invade citizens’ privacy?  Does your jurisdiction have any laws preventing invasions of privacy or regulating the use of drones?  Additionally school choice and failing urban schools are the soft underbelly of the Democratic Party coalition, overlooked by many in the GOP.

There are many good sources of information on local and states issues:  the Franklin Centerthe Reason Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, or the Cato Institute.

Even if you don’t win

You should have fun, meet people, and build a network.  You may get a new party on the ballot, or help a group of activists take over your city, county or state Republican or Democratic Party, or get people elected to committees and conventions.  It’s a long game, even though our late stage disaster statism seems not far from collapse.  Each small step is on the road to eventual victory.