Wake County LP Chair
In a year when the number of registered Libertarians has reached record highs in North Carolina, and coming off another incredibly successful election day for Wake, the Tarheel caught up with Travis Groo, who chairs the Wake LP, which has been at the forefront of getting candidates on ballots, running competitive campaigns, and growing the number of registered Libertarians.
We asked Travis, who has been featured in North Carolina media in a nod to Wake LP's success (Libertarians enter most state legislative races in Wake County | Raleigh News and Observer), about who he is, what motivates him, and how he and the members of his affiliate have been able to see consistent improvement in the returns on their activism.
Tarheel: Travis, before we get into Wake LP's well-oiled machine, tell us a little about yourself. Are you from NC originally? What issues are you passionate about? And when did you realize you were Libertarian, and why?
Travis Groo: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, I really appreciate it. I was born and raised in Wylie, Texas, which is just northeast of Dallas. I moved to Florida when I was 15 and finished out high school and college there. I graduated from the University of West Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts/Advertising. After college I moved to Atlanta, GA, and settled there for about 12 years. It's where both of my amazing kids were born.
Atlanta was a great place to live, but the public schools where we were living were not so great. The kids were homeschooled until we moved to North Carolina. I'm settled in here now and so happy that I met my most amazing, coolest, goofiest, and prettiest fiancé in the world. I actually met her at a Wake LP meetup during the pandemic when most of everything was shutdown by government. It was the best thing that's ever happened to me, and during a really weird time in history. This is now my home and where I've decided to plant my roots.
The issues that I am most passionate about are some of the same issues we've been running on in Wake County. I'm huge on school choice and giving parents the full control over their kids' education. Allowing choice in education opens paths to academic success. The right learning environment prepares students for new challenges. It allows students to find a place to excel. It rewards innovative, engaged teachers. It rewards students for their hard work and effort.
I'm also passionate about criminal justice reform, freeing up the healthcare industry, and freeing up people's ability to make a living without government interference. Certificate of Need (CON) laws should be abolished. The John Locke Foundation states that, "The most straightforward and direct effect of CON is that it makes it more expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to open or expand a health care facility and to acquire health care equipment." It's time to free up North Carolina from strict government regulations that stifle competition and makes prices higher. Bureaucrats have a stronghold on the free market and the healthcare system.
I realized that I was a Libertarian when I read the platform and it all made so much sense. The rest is history.
Tarheel: That's an interesting backstory. When did you know that you wanted to be more active, and what made you decide you wanted to Chair an affiliate?
Groo: Soon after registering as a Libertarian during the Trump/Clinton presidential campaign, and we all remember the mess that was, I received a call from both David Ulmer, former Chair of the Libertarian Party of Wake County, and Brad Hessel, all things Libertarian. They invited me to a Wake LP meetup, which is where I made first contact.
I started getting involved with charity and outreach events, and I knew I had found my people. David asked me if I'd be interested in running for public office. With a little arm twisting, I agreed to it. I ran for House District 11 in 2018 and it was a great experience. After that I was elected as Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Wake County. I learned so much and became even more involved. Then I ran for Senate District 17 in 2020. I stayed active and I was elected as Chair, and here I am today. Lots has happened in between, and all of it has been a great learning experience.
Tarheel: Have you held any other positions in the LPNC? How is affiliate Chair different?
Groo: The only non-elected position I've held within the LPNC is Chair of the Convention Committee two years in a row. Chair of an affiliate is different because when something goes wrong or the public perception is off, everyone looks at you. Since you're the face of the party as Chair, when things go great people congratulate you, but when things go bad, they want answers and solutions and look to you. There's a huge amount of responsibility in being the face of any organization. Unless you've been there, done that, it's very hard to explain.
Tarheel: OK, on to the important stuff! How is Wake able to drive registration numbers and have so many quality candidates, especially in an area of NC that's not necessarily known for being Libertarian friendly?
Groo: "The proliferation of Libertarian candidates is an attempt to raise the party's profile and encourage Libertarians elsewhere in the state to do the same," I said in an interview. "This has to do with Wake County [Libertarians] being very focused on elections. We're trying to set an example for other affiliates to follow... we want to keep getting bigger and we expect to be bigger in two years."
Basically, we've been focused, driven, and committed to running quality candidates to give voters an option other than the duoply. It's taken years of hard work and a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that nobody sees. We have a pretty incredible team here in Wake, and I'm so thankful to be a part of it. Without the team effort we wouldn't be able to do this. It takes all of us to get things done the right way. I trust my team and I trust the people around me. I trust the folks that have been around a lot longer than I have too!
Tarheel: What are the biggest challenges you face, and how have you been able to overcome them?
Groo: I think I speak for all of us when I say one of the biggest challenges I face is finding volunteers to do the work. We always need principled Libertarians canvassing, tabling, promoting, and spreading the message of liberty. I truly believe volunteerism is at the core of what being a Libertarian means. The more we volunteer and help our neighbors, communities, friends, and family, the less people feel the need to rely on government handouts and bailouts. If we own ourselves and we are self-governed, we shouldn't need an intrusive government telling us how to live our lives or spend our money.
We certainly don't need another governor telling us what we can consume or who we can love. It's just weird to think that we keep electing people to tell us how to live our lives, when that should be left up to us to decide, the people, and the self-governed. Just don't hurt people, or take their stuff, it's not complicated.
We overcome these challenges by staying persistent and sticking with our principles. Our values guide us, and, if we truly believe in them, the challenges we face don't seem as paralyzing. I'd say to anyone reading, stay the course no matter how hard it may seem. Hard work always pays off.
Tarheel: What is next for Wake LP, and for you?
Groo: What's next for Wake LP is more of the same: recruiting, building, developing, and encouraging others. For me, [editor's note: Travis paused a long time, and smiled here] I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but I've got a few things in the works. Regardless, I will be active in the party and try to encourage as many of us as possible to keep working hard and stay involved as much as possible. We're all busy and have lives outside of this party, but please do what you can.
Tarheel: Thank you for your time, and for all you do. One final question, what advice would you give other affiliates just getting started to be able to replicate your success?
Groo: My advice is for all affiliates across the state to meet weekly. This creates consistency that is needed. Even if it's super small at first, keep going and keep meeting and it will grow. Have a special guest speaker every once in a while and boost your Facebook events so folks outside of your circle are reached. Promote the events and share them as much as possible. Finally, run quality candidates in your county, city, and towns. Give voters a better option. Surround yourself with greatness!