By Windy McKinney
Issues such as gun rights, medical marijuana legalization and excessive taxation have galvanized liberty-minded folks across the mountains into getting politically active, speaking up, and defending their own rights and the rights of others.
One particular affiliate, Henderson County, has set the pace for county affiliates across Western North Carolina. The Libertarian Party of Henderson County regularly attends gun shows and marijuana legalization rallies.
Credited with the revival of the local Libertarian Party in 2011, Henderson County Libertarian chair, nurse, and former soldier Shelby Mood ran for a state House seat in District 117 in 2014, bringing attention to the issues mentioned above -- gun rights, excessive taxation, and the damage caused by the state's attitude toward marijuana use.
This year, he says that the affiliate is “going to focus our efforts on education hosting more classes like we did with the Fair Tax.” They are also planning to elect new officers during their convention in March. Their meetings, once held in a coffee shop in Hendersonville, now require a bigger venue, and thus are held every second Sunday of the month, at the Best Western in Hendersonville, 155 Sugarloaf Rd.
Likewise, the Libertarian Party of Haywood County has focused on outreach, forming coalitions with like-minded groups on those same issues, actively attending rallies, gun shows, Heritage Life Skills events and festivals across the county.
The affiliate ran Dr. Windy McKinney as its first candidate for county commissioner in 2014. Her campaign focused on the core Libertarian values of individual freedom and personal responsibility, holding elected officials accountable, and limiting government.
In 2014, the affiliate elected chairwoman Jessica Dunlap who has led the party into an educative role, holding monthly discussions on such things as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
Helping to bring attention to the unconstitutional language of the county's Emergency Management Ordinance, the Libertarian Party of Haywood County has been an important part of the county commissioners' move to re-write the ordinance, in favor of a policy which supports the Bill of Rights, rather than suspends it.
This affiliate's meetings are held every second Tuesday. The next meeting is March 10 at 7 p.m. at Organic Beans in Maggie Valley. Ken Fortenberry, candidate for the Libertarian nomination for governor in 2016, will be the guest speaker.
Burke County, whose capital Morganton is often considered the gateway to western NC, also put up candidates in the 2014 election. Ginny Godfrey and Richard Evey ran for county commissioner as Libertarians, and Jonathan Baird ran for the Soil and Water Commission (a non-partisan race) where he received 29.6 percent of the vote and won one of the two seats that were open.
According to Baird, “Burke county was the only county this election where a registered Libertarian won an election. That is no small feat for us.” We look forward to more excitement from this county in the 2015 and 2016 election years.
Our fledgling affiliate, Jackson County, has just come onto the scene in 2015. Under the steady guidance of Jacqui Nowlin-Rowe, this affiliate had its first meeting in January, as well as a preliminary meeting to organize students at WCU in early February.
The Libertarian Party of Jackson County now has a permanent venue for its meetings, at the Village at Forest Hills in Cullowhee. The next meeting is Feb. 17 when discussion will focus on the LPNC platform. The next WCU student organizational meeting will be on March 3, at 7 p.m. in the Rogers Room on campus.
The organization of an affiliate in Macon County is firmly set for the spring of 2015, where retired citizen John Martin ran for county commissioner there in 2014, and may run again in 2016. Watch this space for more exciting things coming out of Macon County as this year unfolds.
Over the course of 2015, plans to establish affiliates in all of our western counties including Transylvania, Graham, and Cherokee counties coming on board, as well as the revival of the Buncombe County affiliate, which has proven difficult in years past.
Anyone wishing to get involved in the organization of Western North Carolina county affiliates should contact Windy McKinney at [email protected].