Held on the campus on UCO last night, the candidates for the libertarian governor nomination were able to tell attendees something about themselves and their positions. Further, this event gives a little more legitimacy to the infant Oklahoma Libertarian Party; approximately fifty people were in attendance, which is not unreasonable given that this event was only announced a few days before. Sponsored by the American Democracy Project at UCO, the idea of legitimacy is reinforced because a debate of the republican candidates will be hosted by the ADP in a similar manner, on January 31.
There are three candidates: Chris Powell, Rex Lawhorn, and Joe Exotic. Overall, Chris Powell and Rex Lawhorn differ only when it comes to style, and their positions hold closely to the libertarian platform. Both of them are long time libertarians with experience and previous political success. At the moment, deciding between the two would be a very difficult thing, especially at this moment.
These candidates are very strong compared to all the republican contenders: it’s very clear at this moment that the Republican nomination will be more of a popularity contest, rather than an election of substance. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. Either way, the Libertarian party is going to nominate a candidate that can offer substance against the likes of Todd Lamb or Construction Cornett.
Then of course, there is the elephant in the room (aptly enough): Joe Exotic. His eccentricity is fun to watch and fun to write about, but we must remember that he is a serious candidate for the nomination and ought to be treated as such by the party organization. One has to wonder, though, if the decision to close the primaries to independent voters was partly based on Mr. Exotic’s campaign. If the libertarians were to get together and nominate Joe Exotic, well, that’s one thing – but if a sufficient number of independents went and voted for him in the primary as some sort of joke, that could cause serious problems. Perhaps Mr. Exotic realizes this full well; he expressed to me personally his anger over the shutting out of thousands of independents from the libertarian primary.
It cannot be denied that while his candidacy ought to be taken seriously, it isn’t going to be by most libertarian voters. This is not only due to his story and style; some of his positions do not hold so closely to the libertarian platform. Indeed, the most obvious is his plan to provide free healthcare to Oklahoma citizens, funded by marijuana taxes.
The issues discussed were relatively basic: education, healthcare, and the Oklahoma budget. Their arguments and positions were reasonable and not unexpected from libertarians, all being a heavy focus on free market solutions, “direct primary care” for insurance, and the necessity for the diversification of the Oklahoma economy, given the inevitability of the continued fall in the price of oil.
For those interested, the full debate can be viewed here: