|BY GREG MARKLEY|
Ballot access means not “crashing the gates” but being a factor in state elections. Libertarians often vote with the GOP, but now they can proudly pull the level for candidates in their own party. Although close races between Democrats and Republicans are rare in Lee County and other Alabama places, it can happen. Libertarians might pull enough votes from one side to decide the winner.
“Those two parties have been a very strong duopoly for a long time,” said John Sophocleus, a professor who has taught at Auburn University, Auburn-Montgomery and Clemson University and has led the movement to reinstate ballot access. “The Libertarian Party in Alabama is on the ballot for the first time since 2002 and fielding candidates for most state constitutional offices, state legislature positions and state senate seats.”
A popular quip asks “How are Libertarians and National Socialists similar? Answer: They both follow Austrian economics.” The National Socialists in Germany were led by Adolf Hitler while Libertarians follow Austrian economists such as Friedrich Hayek. Ludwig von Mises Institute for Austrian Economics (Mises Institute) is a Libertarian nonprofit “think tank” based here in Auburn.
Libertarians discourage intervention in free markets and the private lives of citizens. They support civil liberty and say human beings possess free will. The 50-year-old Libertarian Party (LP) has almost 700,000 members. In the 2002 Alabama governor’s race, Republican Bob Riley won with 49.2% over Don Siegelman, a Democrat with 49% . But Sophocleus, a Libertarian, had 1.7%, without that total, there would be a pulse-pounding ending.
Charles Temm, a retired Army sergeant first class in Airborne and Light Infantry, is the party’s candidate for Alabama House District 38. He boosts the program: “We want to end the grocery tax, lower state income tax and advance the Second Amendment sanctuary movement.” He feels the county needs infrastructure upgrades, notably rural road improvements.
“There was no particular moment or event that led me to become a Libertarian,” recalled Frank Dillman, the party’s candidate for Macon County Commission, District 4. “I never found the Republicans and Democrats home and voted all over the spectrum. Comparing my votes on statewide amendments in 2016 against the yellow sheets and talking heads, I realized I was more Libertarian than I thought and joined my first political party in 2017.”
Dillman has challenges recruiting for the Libertarian Party because Alabama (and only five other states) has Straight Ticket Voting (STV). And that is his biggest opponent. But he explained: “There is finally an awakening in Macon County.” He is working with several others for more responsible and accountable government.
“I am more optimistic with this campaign for county commission than my previous three,” he said.
Having been a “Doc” for 10 years, including in Vietnam as a 19-year-old medic, Dillman understands public service. He is a frequent visitor to government offices in his county and commission meetings. As a private citizen, he developed a website for Macon County, as well as getting it a Facebook page. He was responsible for moving morning work sessions to evenings; that allowed daytime workers to not miss what county officials were doing.
Sophocleus, perhaps the biggest organizer for the Lee County Libertarians, is running for the U.S. Senate 20 years after he was a candidate for governor. As an economist and a citizen, he will vote against any legislation that involves a deficit in the national budget.
His platform for the Senate is derived directly from Alabama’s State Constitution, Sect. 35: “That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizens in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.”
He said he supports the state adopting Initiative and Referendum (I&R), which would enable citizens greater access to state government by use of their ballot.
“Citizens in 26 states have enabled this right, sadly not so in Alabama,” Sophocleus reflected. “As a federal candidate, I support Alabamians’ right to submit statutes and constitutional Amendments and being able to vote up or down the Alabama statutes, such as the gas tax, on Alabama general ballots.”
The Libertarian Party’s presence in Lee County and the state is now set for progress as ballot access has been largely resolved. Many voters will be delighted to see another party up there with The Big Duo (Republicans and Democrats). They will be surprised to see Libertarians’ names, as just a few years ago none were there. It provides voters with a welcome third option.
Greg Markley moved to Lee County in 1996. He has a master’s in education from AUM and a master’s in history from Auburn University. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to The Observer since 2011. He writes on politics, education and books. email@example.com.