Libertarian Party of Arkansas officials say it’s the fastest-growing party in the state.
AMP reached out to LPAR Secretary William Brackeen, an Arkansas State University graduate who was the party’s 2014 candidate for justice of the peace in Pulaski County, to find out more about how the party is faring in the 2016 election.
1. LPAR is actually running two fewer candidates for statewide, congressional and state legislative positions this year.
The Libertarian Party of Arkansas has 17 candidates this year versus 19 in 2014. But, that’s because there were races for governor, attorney general and other statewide offices in 2014, and the party ran candidates for all seven of those offices.
“We have more congressional candidates than the Democratic Party does,” Brackeen said. “We have candidates running for state Senate; we have candidates running for the state House of Representatives; and, we have at least one candidate running for sheriff. We have several candidates running for justice of the peace, and we’ve also got at least one constable.”
2. The LPAR has won two offices in Arkansas.
Both were for constable. One candidate, Jacob Faught in Benton County, still holds that position; the other was Frank Gilbert in Grant County, who was the party’s candidate for governor in 2014 and is running for the U.S. Senate this year.
Brackeen said Gilbert “is the only person in the history of Arkansas who has been elected as a Republican, an Independent and a Libertarian.”
LPAR candidates running for U.S. House include Mark West (district 1), Chris Hayes (district 2) and Kerry Hicks (district 4). Nathan LaFrance had to withdraw from his candidacy for district 3. On Jan. 23, LPAR is holding a special nominating convention to choose another candidate for the race.
3. LPAR policies focus on individual rights and personal responsibility.
“The Libertarian Party has two primary focuses that drive all of our policies,” Brackeen said.
“We believe in individual rights and personal responsibility. We believe that all rights come with responsibilities, and those two things go hand in hand. The second thing is called the Non-Aggression Principle, and, in a nutshell, the Non-Aggression Principle states that we believe that the initiation of force by one party against another is never justified, except in the case of self-defense. And that doesn’t matter if the initiating entity is an individual or the government, or a corporation.”
4. LPAR opposes most taxes.
“Because if you don’t pay them,” he said, “they come and they lock you in a cage or some other punishment. In our view, the only legitimate actions of the state are to protect people’s lives, rights and property. Taxing people to build a new swimming center is not really under that purview.”
At the same time, LPAR’s position on rights and responsibilities means they oppose regulation of so-called “victimless” crimes like drugs and gambling.
“If you want to go across the river and go gamble until you’re deeply in debt, that’s your problem,” Brackeen said. He calls the prosecution of these offenses “just moneymakers for the state and for various municipalities.”
5. This is the third straight election cycle LPAR has been on the statewide ballot as a party.
They’ve had to get the signatures of 10,000 registered Arkansas voters each time to do so.
They would gain permanent ballot access if either their presidential or gubernatorial candidates were to get 3 percent of the vote, and Brackeen feels they’re getting closer — in 2014, Gilbert received 1.92 percent of the vote. This was despite being denied a spot on the podium at some of the more widely watched debates.
“We run candidates, and we appear in debates, to drive the conversation in a more libertarian direction,” Brackeen said. “There are issues where we agree with the Republicans; there are issues where we agree with the Democrats. Our presence gets those ideas out in the public’s mind, and they also are going to require the two big parties to respond to us.”