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Government and Politics

National Libertarians gather in Columbus
They claim big growth in membership and visionary ideas

Karen Kasler
Most of the statewide Libertarians were knocked off the ballot in Ohio. But Kevin Knedler collected enough signatures for his run for Secretary of State.
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Ohio is still hoping to host at least one of the two major party nominating conventions in 2016. But Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports one party is already in Ohio, hoping to get a jump-start on both of them.

LISTEN: National Libertarians gather in Columbus

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“It is the first national political convention in Columbus.”

Kevin Knedler is the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Ohio, and the party’s candidate for Secretary of State. He says more than 600 people registered for the Libertarian Party’s 2014 convention in Columbus, where they’ll hang out, network and attend sessions on setting up websites, following federal regulations, using social media and organizing on college campuses.

Charlie Earl is welcoming the delegates, but not as the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s candidate for governor, since he was disqualified for the ballot in March. But Earl says not being a candidate isn’t important here.

“The whole issue is: Is the state of Ohio, through its elected representatives, gonna give people choices and voices, whether it’s Charlie Earl or anybody else. The Constitution Party is not on because of their gamesmanship.”

Earl is still hoping a court ruling will put him back in the governor’s race. When asked whether the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s struggles to get onto the ballot mirror problems around the country, Knedler acknowledged he was frustrated in hearing about how easy it is for parties to get on the ballot in states such as Mississippi and Florida.

“I heard these things and I asked myself, if these states seem to be able to manage multiple parties on the ballot, what is it with Ohio that we can’t seem to manage more than two?”

A caucus of one

Among the attendees are candidates from across the country and the state. That includes Greg Norris, who’s running for state representative in the Findlay area, in the very Republican district now represented by Robert Sprague. He it’s a long shot that he’ll get elected. 
And if he did, what would he be able to do?

“I’m a caucus of one. I could be in a broom closet,” he acknowledged. He says says he’d “probably be a thorn in everybody’s side. Honestly, I’ll caucus on both sides.” 

National platforms, small government, big freedoms

The delegates in Columbus will also decide on the party’s national platform and will elect their national committee members. Among those up for re-election is Libertarian Party chair Geoffrey Neale. He says those who view Libertarians as outsiders and losers don’t know that they’ve been ahead of the major parties on gay rights, marijuana legalization and other issues. 

“We seem like outcasts and strange-thinking people because we’re visionary. We’re like the abolitionists in the 1800s saying we’ve got to end slavery. We’re like the suffragettes in 1870 saying women should be able to vote. We’re the visionaries of where we believe that the world is going.”

The Libertarian Party claims it’s the only nationally organized party to see double-digit membership increases in the last two years, with 11 percent more registered Libertarians now than in 2012. Only 30 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to register with a party affiliation, and the total number of registered Libertarians in the U.S. numbers more than 368,000.


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