I am honored to have been given permission by Dr. George Phillies to post a full chapter from his excellent book, “Funding Liberty” , right here on Last Free Voice. I will be posting Chapter 17, “Arizona, Land of the Two Libertarian Parties”, in multiple entries. This is part four. Part one is here. Part two is here. Part three is here.
Dr. Phillies has a doctorate in Physics from MIT, and is a Professor of Physics and Game Design at the prestigious Worcester Polytechnic University. A longtime Libertarian activist, Dr. Phillies is currently the Chairman of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party, and was a popular candidate for the Libertarian Presidential nomination for 2008 where his concession speech – pointing out that the enemy is outside the Libertarian Party – has been hailed as one of the greatest moments (and most inspiring speeches) of the 2008 Libertarian Convention.
A link to purchase this book, as well as to purchase other books by Dr. George Phillies, is at the bottom of this entry.
The Incoming Train Wreck
In 1999 it was already obvious that to a fair number of people that the split between the two Arizona Libertarian Parties might well cause problems with ballot access in Arizona. Phoenix group members attending the Summer 1999 LNC meeting specifically raised the issue. LNC member and Arizona resident John Buttrick raised it again at the November LNC meeting. In December 1999, Libertarian Bob Hunt raised the issue to a wider Libertarian audience via email lists. In Spring 2000, ballot access expert Richard Winger yet again raised this issue with the Libertarian body politic. No action was taken by any group, during the statutory petitioning period, to put a national candidate on the ballot in Arizona as an independent.
Prior to the National Convention I sent a memo to a variety of Libertarian lists, pointing out the issues and the alternatives—none of which looked very promising at the time. That memo, which had nothing to do with my campaign for National Chair, came after a bit of discussion on the Presidential nomination issue. Here’s what I reported in early Summer 2000:
“In Arizona, there appear to be only two points at which being the state- recognized party actually has material consequences:
1) The major party is given the list of registered voters.
(2) The major party appoints Presidential Electors and determines whose name will appear on the election Ballot. There are also points where being the state-recognized Party has political significance but does not inhibit freedom of action.
The first point affects how people run for office in Arizona. The second point matters for the rest of us. The core issue is that the Phoenix group agrees that the LNC has chosen the Tucson group as its affiliate. This means, in the Phoenix group’s opinion, that the Tucson group has the privilege and duty of getting the LNC’s Presidential candidate on the ballot.
I will again avoid names, but it’s even money that the candidate we choose in Anaheim will not be the Arizona Party’s choice. If the choices differ, the LPUS Presidential candidate will not be on the ballot in a simple way in all 50 states.
How can Libertarians outside of Arizona get around this? I now list alternatives. I’m not saying which one I support. I’m not saying each one is a good idea.
We have several choices of action here as ways of dealing with the issue. I first note several solutions which would work if they succeeded, but which are not obviously likely to succeed.
1) Nominate a mutually acceptable candidate. This requires that there is a mutually acceptable candidate.
2) Put our candidate on the Arizona ballot by petition. This requires nine and a half thousand signatures (reports Richard Winger) due by June 14. [June 29 was the date under the pre-1999 law.] Winger noted this option on the lpus lists several weeks ago. Almost no one bought into it. Given available time, the logistics approach the impossible. Also, the petition must name the candidate. We can’t, e.g., petition for Hess and then try to substitute Gorman or Browne after the convention.
I am reasonably certain that no current Presidential candidate has the resources to do his own petitioning. If the LNC runs a drive for one of our candidates, that drive must be done in advance of the convention, and must specify the candidate by name. A candidate with ballot access in Arizona would have a real leg up on getting the nomination, a leg up courtesy of the LNC. I report with absolute certainty that such an action by the LNC would have very severe internal repercussions within the Libertarian Party. (I have no evidence that anyone is trying to do this, and it is probably too late now.)
3) Sue the Arizona group. Make them run our candidate. My good legal sources say this approach will fail badly, either in the State Courts or the Federal Courts. Also, this approach will permanently poison relations between LPUS and the Phoenix group.
4) Post convention, the Libertarian National Committee could announce that it had reconsidered. For example, it could decide that the Bylaws require removals to be for cause, and it did not have adequate cause to strip the Phoenix group of affiliation. If the Phoenix group accepted re-affiliation, our candidate would go on the ballot. However, my sources on the National Committee say that current LNC members will not vote for this approach. If you want to try this, at Anaheim you need to replace a majority of the National Committee.
There are also paths that do not solve the problem in 2000, but could solve the problem by 2004.
5) Ignore it. Hope the issue goes away. It’s worked for other parties. Richard Winger has listed major-party examples in the 20th century where this approach was followed. A State Party did not run the national candidate in one election. They did in the next. If enough personalities turn over on both sides, many things become possible.
6) Get ballot access for the group the LNC recognizes. This approach requires a modest change of name for the Tucson group—not a problem; Al Gore’s party is not the “Democratic” in one state—and registering a large number of people into that party.
7) Start from the beginning. Get state recognition under some name for a third Libertarian group, one that does not presently exist, does not have a long list of feuds, does not allow for some period the principals of the first two groups to serve as its statewide officers, and which has as a membership condition for those principals that they may not resort to litigation against any of the (now three) Libertarian groups in Arizona.
Finally, there’s a chance to beat up on a government agency through the court system:
8) Sue Arizona. Insist we are Constitutionally entitled to be able to petition for ballot status for our candidate after our National Convention, which is not unreasonably late in the year. This approach, says my good legal sources, is reasonably promising. [[GP: Indeed, this is what we did, and it eventually worked.]]
I’m not sure that’s all the choices that exist, but it’s all the ones I’ve heard.