1. What called you to volunteer for the LPNC?
So, I started out as a peace Democrat working for George McGovern in 1971. But in 1976, I was unhappy with Jimmy Carter and voted for Eugene McCarthy, And by 1980, I was so disenchanted with the Democrats’ fiscal profligacy and divisive victimization pandering that I voted for John Anderson. (He turned out to be the last Presidential candidate I supported financially for the next three decades). The 1984 Democratic national convention—they mandated delegate allocations for seemingly every variety of marginalized minority to engineer “diversity”—was the final straw and I changed my registration to R and voted for Ronald Reagan.
Of course, Reagan turned out to be a hugely disappointing budget buster, and then we got “read my lips: no new taxes” from the first George Bush, which also turned sour. I was set to vote for Ross Perot in 1992 until he quit the race; ended up sticking with Bush. And Bob Dole in 1996. And, with trepidation, the second George Bush in 2000. Then 9/11 happened, and Dick Cheney lost his mind: we invaded Afghanistan (“graveyard of empires”) and to compound that folly, Iraq for what turned out to be fraudulent reasons with no coherent strategy beyond, evidently, pumping HAL stock. And we doubled down on spying on our own citizenry and bootlessly hassling them at airports.
I gave up on the Rs and registered independent.
I’d gotten married in 1980, added kids to the family in 1985-87-90, and moved to NC along with a NY-based software/services company I co-founded in 1992, all of which limited the bandwidth I could devote to politics. But then in 2007—with the youngest a senior in HS and thus a bit more disposable time available to me—I got a call from the wife’s older brother (a dedicated Democrat). “Brad!” he exclaimed, “you gotta turn on the Republican candidates debate!” “Ralph,” says I, “why are you even watching the GOP candidates debate? It’s only May and the election isn’t until next year!” “There’s this guy on the stage who’s blowing the other candidates’ minds,” he persisted. So I took his advice and soon was treated to a replay of the famous sequence wherein Ron Paul explains the concept of “blowback” to Rudy Giuliani.
All I had known about Dr. Paul up until that day was that he was a Texas Republican Congressman and likely the best baseball player who never made the majors ever to serve in the House. But it was love at first sight, and I became a financial supporter of his 2008 campaign. And then in 2011-12, contributed both money and phone-banking time. Then, when the GOP would not even allow Dr. Paul time to speak at their 2012 convention (despite him having the second-most delegates of any candidate), it was a pretty natural transition to slide over to the Gary Johnson campaign. Gov. Johnson had started out running for the 2012 GOP nomination with a similar platform to Dr. Paul, but frozen out of the debates after the first one, had shifted gears to pursue and win the Libertarian nomination. I was pretty active in that 2012 campaign, even pinch-hitting for their NC campaign manager, Jason Melehani, for an Election Day TV appearance.
During the course of that campaign, I learned about the NAP and the Nolan Chart (which I first saw at the LPNC booth at the State Fair), and realized I had always been libertarian, at least since reading “Atlas Shrugged” in college. (TBH, I flamed out about 20 pages into “The Speech.” Maybe that’s why it took me so long to complete the journey! LOL). So once again I changed my voter registration, this time to Libertarian. And Jason turned me on to the Wake County Libertarian Party. I attended my first meeting at the now defunct (deservedly) Gourmet Factory in January 2013. And then my second-ever party meeting was their annual county convention in a rented classroom at NC State…and somehow, improbably, I came away from that meeting having been elected as treasurer. To this day, not quite sure how that transpired, but likely the main impetus was their desperation in the face of the imminent relocation of their incumbent treasurer to California, and a dearth of other volunteers. :-)
2. What recent development in the LPNC has you the most excited?
The pivot towards paying attention to municipal and county races.
At first glance, it’s hard to understand why so much more public attention is paid to Federal elections than local elections. Sure, once every few years the Federal government does something that impacts our lives: involvement in a foreign war that significantly increases the national debt, creation of an agency whose purpose is to make air travel more inconvenient, a court decision extending or limiting civil rights. But many more decisions are made by local governments every week that impact our daily lives with respect to education, transportation, health care, small business regulation, recreation, water supply, zoning and housing, and many more. It seems irrational that so much more attention is paid to the Presidential election and candidates than to the local mayoral election… and that turnout for national elections dwarfs that for local elections.
From our perspective, the case for doing the rational thing here is overwhelming. First, focusing on local government is congruent with the Libertarian preference for eschewing concentrations of power. Electing Libertarians to local office would likely increase the capability and willingness of county and municipal governments to resist state and Federal government encroachments on local decision-making.
Secondly, it is way easier to be competitive in local elections than in state or national elections. You need way less money and way fewer votes. In North Carolina, there are always a few local races where no candidate files to run (so if the LPNC could recruit someone, it would be an automatic win!), and there are always several more where the number of registered Libertarians in the pertinent election district is a significant fraction of—and sometimes even exceeds—the likely number of votes needed to win. Generally, those opportunities are in smaller counties…but WakeLP ran candidates for Water & Soil in 2022—Brian Lewis got 52k votes, an all-time record for any Libertarian candidate in any election in Wake County, although he did not win—and 2006—Joy Elliott won with 40k votes, then an all-time record for the county—and CumberlandLP ran Christina Aragues for S&W in 2022 and she set an all-time record for that county with 36k votes…and was only 66 votes shy of winning.
And last but not least, becoming active in local government affords us the opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy of Libertarian approaches to governance and normalize our presence at the table. Case in point: when TJ Rohr was elected to the first of his five city council terms in Lenoir (Caldwell), he was viewed with suspicion by the other councilors… but by his third term, his work ethic and principled teamwork had earned him enough respect that they appointed him mayor pro ten (to cover for the elected mayor when necessary).
3. What do you see as the biggest need for the LPNC right now?
Fundraising. If we are ever to develop the capacity to effectively compete politically in NC, we need to up our game to the point where we can engage professional services in order to build an experienced cadre that can deliver consistent quality in critical areas such as marketing, lobbying, recruiting and training volunteers and candidates, campaign support, I/T, and, of course, fundraising itself.
Even without professional help, we achieved much better results fundraising from individuals in the past than we are getting now:
We got lazy in the 2010s when the party was benefitting from the income tax checkoff to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year—the chart only shows funds raised from individuals and so does not include those dollars—and since the GOP took over the NCGA in 2011 and cut that off (because it was benefitting the Ds more than the Rs), we have never recovered. But having done it before, we know that it’s possible to up our game here.
4. What do you want to say to those reading this who are thinking about volunteering to get them to go for it?
Think local! There are lots of opportunities to spread the gospel that don’t require engagement with the national LP or running for office or even canvassing door-to-door or making phone calls. Every city and town and county in the state has a bevy of citizen advisory boards that attend to such things as development plans, local health care, transportation options, land use and zoning, water supply, libraries, energy, arts grants, and many more. Many of these boards have openings any resident can apply for (even if you are not registered to vote). Find one that looks potentially interesting and attend a meeting or two (virtually all are open and most are live-streamed).
It would be great for us and all our fellow citizens to have a Libertarian perspective at the table when these boards meet. “Hey, maybe instead of paying town staff overtime to manage that weekend event, we can find a private company willing to do that…if we allow them to run concessions, they might figure the profits would be great enough to run the event for us at a bargain rate, or even for free.” But even folks who are shy about speaking up can still gather intelligence, not only about what the board is doing but who is who in the local power structure. That sort of insight is invaluable to anyone considering running for local office… your advice could make the difference for a Libertarian candidate!
And if you are contemplating running for office yourself, a stint on a board or two will not only afford you a free education as to where the bodies are buried in the local political scene but give you the opportunity to make yourself known to the movers and shakers you would be working with if you won election.
Not gonna lie…parts of these meetings are deadly boring. But collectively, that’s an investment of time we need to make to ensure that when we do run candidates in competitive local races, they know what they are talking about on the campaign trail…and are well-prepared to do the job if they are elected.
5. What are your biggest goals for the next year?
With respect to the LPNC, I am focused on helping Timothy Conard’s I/T team, generally with CRM and infrastructure support plus a few specific projects such as co-managing the State Fair team, serving as treasurer for one of our gubernatorial candidates, helping with credentialing for the LPNC convention, and launching a intranet website exclusively for LPNC members. I expect to be reducing my state party workload to focus on Wake County in 2024.
6. What is something about you that most people wouldn’t know (“fun fact”)?
My first job after graduating college was with Simulations Publications, Inc. (“SPI”) in New York. This was 1975, so pretty much pre-computer gaming; they were all paper-based (I would say “board games” except the role-playing games did not usually have boards). They published two bi-monthly magazines, “Strategy & Tactics” and “Ares.” Each issue came with a game insert: historical for S&T and fantasy/sf for Ares. Among the games I worked on were “Punic Wars,” “Frederick the Great,” “Lützen,” “Drive on Stalingrad,” “Cobra,” “Spies,” “Battlefleet: Mars,” and the licensed product games “War of the Rings” and “Dragonslayer.”
7. What other roles do you hold in the party, state or affiliate?
My only other official role is providing I/T support for WakeLP. I did serve as WakeLP treasurer for eight years.
My company, Intelledgement, LLC, coordinate a team of service providers who support WakeLP candidates (campaign financial reporting, headshot photography, business cards and name tags, website content and hosting, branded campaign e-mail services, door-hanger and yard sign design and production).