Colorado Libertarians elect new leadership

Aim to revamp their image

By Lucy McFadden
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Colorado’s Libertarian Party, long considered a political stepchild by the major political parties in the state, is trying to revamp its image — and it doesn’t stop with the addition of four new leaders elected a week ago. Former Libertarian Party legislative director David K. Williams, the new state chairman, plans to build the party and recruit unaffiliated voters frustrated with the current Republican or Democratic platforms. He also wants to hammer down and strengthen the vision of the Libertarians.

David Williams

One way to do this, Williams contends, is by riding the heels of the recent Tea Party movement, which encompasses citizens who are upset with President Obama’s economic agenda and bailout plan. Different free-market advocacy groups like FreedomWorks, dontGO, Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity have provided some structure and support for the movement so far, but the Tea Party movement began totally organically, Williams asserts.

On tax day this year, April 15, a nationwide protest staged local Tax Day Tea Parties across the country to publicize their complaints of irresponsible government spending. Williams spoke at Denver’s Tea Party on the steps of the Capitol building.

“If you just looked at the signs, they were all home made; the Tea Party was completely organic and funded independently,” Williams said. He added that the Libertarian Party hopes to tap into that kind of sentiment at the gatherings. “A lot of people at these rallies would be interested. Not all of them, but the point is we are getting more people aware of what we stand for. The Tea Party was a gathering of people with similar interests.”

The Libertarians have also gained popularity through Liberty on the Rocks, a social networking organization “that seeks to unite liberty-minded individuals, regardless of political
affiliation, who desire limited government, free markets and individual rights.” Groups like these, Williams says, make it easier to recruit more members.

Williams is a co-founder of the Gadsden Society, which promotes the same ideology as the Libertarian Party and Tea Party movement, but it is a statewide “nonpartisan, non profit public advocacy group, fighting for the preservation and expansion of individual liberty throughout Colorado.”

The Libertarian Party is often referred to as the alternative to the two major parties. Williams says this is a result of neither party representing limited government or individual liberty. “The state party’s growth in the past year has been tremendous and we are ready to take in everyone else who believes freedom is more important, and far more productive, than government.” His goal is to have a qualified Libertarian candidate on every Colorado ballot in 2010.

Another strategy, according to Williams, is for Libertarians to increase their presence in Colorado and become more legitimate in the eyes of Colorado voters. Currently, the party registration totals about 12,000. Williams is aiming for 20,000 registered Libertarians for 2010. He claims that the party grew by 50 percent this year. “People are looking for another party this year since both parties are so entrenched in big government.”

Williams also wants to raise the bar in media coverage and social networking in order to communicate more effectively to the public and promote Libertarian candidates for local leadership. If Libertarians infiltrate all levels of government (from school boards to city councils), the ethos and goals of the party will be more effectively established, and the party will be more legitimate, Williams thinks.

Another concern for Williams is the age-old critique that the Libertarian Party can be a spoiler in elections, often taking votes away from other main stream candidates, usually Republicans. Williams’s predecessor, Travis Nicks, disputes the claim, however, maintaining that every vote must be earned.

Williams agrees.

The Libertarian Party is not taking Republican votes, the twosome contends, because Republicans aren’t earning them. “Sometimes we are stereotyped way ‘right,’ but we aren’t. We are the individual versus the government, so we could be attacked from either the ‘right’ or the ‘left,’” said Williams.

Several other members of the Colorado Libertarian Party were elected to leadership positions at their state convention in Highlands Ranch on May 16. Justin Longo, formerly the Independence Institute’s web monkey, is now the legislative director. Deni Cates is fulfilling the position of fundraising director, which has been vacant for over two years. Kate Melvin is the new media director, and Debbie Schum is the new Western Slope outreach coordinator.