by: Rob Yates, LPNC Communications Director
Last week my bid for mayor of Charlotte, NC ended on election day. While I fell short in my candidacy, I don’t consider the effort a failure. I got to meet some great people, and I learned a lot. I want to share a bit of that here, and hopefully someone will find it helpful or illuminating, and be motivated to run as well.
I know many people have run before me in NC (respect), so I suspect some of this will be familiar fare. Even so, we need people to run and continue running, so I am hoping that my insight will further that objective.
The first thing to think about when considering what a successful campaign looks like is how important it is to have money. I ran under the $1000 limit, but just the filing fee ate up half of that on day one. Then you need a website, cards, flyers, banners, yard signs, potential media buys on radio, tv, or social, and that’s just the starter pack. You need money to hold events, you need money for tabling, you need money to hold fundraisers to raise more money.
You need money for mailers, money for volunteers, money for phone banking, money for text messages… Sometimes, you need money to rent an airplane to take a jab at your opponent. I’m not making that up, either.
In Charlotte's hotly contested District 6, Democrat Stephanie Hand challenged Republican incumbent Tariq Bokhari, ultimately losing by 352 votes, which is nearly identical to the 357-vote margin of victory for Bokhari over Hand in 2022. How much were those five votes worth? Nearly a million dollars, by several estimates. Counting money spent directly by each campaign and the money from outside groups and State parties, total expenditure on a section of the city with a population around 120,000 with only 23,044 votes cast for the city council seat was a staggering $750,000, apparently the most expensive municipal race in North Carolina history.
One of Bokhari’s expenses was $5,700 on a private plane to pull a banner over the district on election day that read “Want the plane truth? Vote Bokhari.” in reference to claims Hand had previously made that she had run an airport. All of this for a job that pays around $40,000 a year.
Granted, this is an extreme example, but its not as far out there as it might seem at first glance. North Carolina had one of the most expensive Senate races in history last year. Billions are poured into campaigns at every level. Special interests do not like taking chances on who gets elected, and they use their deep pockets to secure their candidates. Competing with this requires money.
The next thing that really jumped out at me during this election cycle was how frustrated people are with the current state of affairs. Granted, we have not quite yet hit the inflection point where a critical mass abandons their “teams” and casts votes outside the uniparty, but we are getting close. The dissatisfaction with the current state of things was palpable, and people are starting to question the system.
I connected with people from the entire political spectrum and then some. Connecting with people, one-on-one, instead of leading with partisan politics, really showed me how exasperated people are. Inflation is hurting family budgets, and they are asking why government is raising taxes to fund failing schools or militarize police departments when violent crime is increasing. Political affiliations mattered less when people are hurting and they see things failing around them.
Most encouraging, though, is that I saw Libertarian messaging work, in real time. We face substantial hurdles in getting our message out more broadly, without a doubt. But the message itself works.
A lot of people didn’t know what a Libertarian was. I told them, “It’s simple. Don’t hurt people, don’t take their stuff. Everything builds from that.” That’s an easy message to convey.
When people inquired further, we discussed decentralization, self-ownership, government accountability, and the deliberate nature of polarization by uniparty politicians. No one disagreed. Some still have hope for the party where they came up, and I’m sympathetic. It’s hard to realize that you have been sold a massive lie by your anointed leaders your entire life. It’s even harder to stop seeing the other side as an enemy and embrace different ideas while rejecting partisanship. I’m confident we’ll get there.
Finally, I learned that we can win. It’s a long road, though. We need candidates who relish the rigors of campaigning, we need money to support them, and we need to get our message out consistently, targeted properly, and unapologetically but with empathy. The other two parties don’t see people as human, they see people as votes, and they turn people against each other to get those votes. We need to do the opposite. We need to show people we are the pro-human party, and that we want to win them over so they vote for us, not against someone else.