By Jennifer Floyd
August 16, 2015. Springfield, IL (ONN) The Libertarian Party of Illinois State Convention was held this past weekend and was full of all the freedom-loving enthusiasm you would expect to encounter at such a gathering. Watchdog groups telling tales of how they thwarted local corruption, Party leaders giving motivational speeches, candidates making their announcements heard loud and clear, and of course the kind of fun that only happens when like minds gather together in common cause.
Chris Michel, Claire Ball, & William J. Kelly. Just 3 of the Illinois Libertarians’ 2016 election candidates. Image courtesy of the DuPage County Libertarian Party.
Illinois state convention
Friday night opened with State Party Chair Lex Green and Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark holding a laid back Q and A with guests. Mr. Sarwark has an impressive record, previously serving as the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Maryland and the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, where he played a key role in recruiting the state’s 42 Libertarian candidates in 2014. Mr. Green has served in multiple roles in the state party, and was the gubernatorial candidate in 2010 and a mayoral candidate in his hometown of Bloomington in 2013.
Saturday began with business; the state organizing committee meeting and then the annual business meeting where all attending party members had the opportunity to vote on various items such as choosing representatives for the national convention and changes to the bylaws. Unlike many larger parties, any active member of the Libertarian Party has a voice, and a vote, on every issue.
There was also the “Who’s Driving?” workshop, hosted by Crystal Jurczynski to help candidates hone their interview skills with real-time feedback from audience members. Candidates also had the opportunity to present at the convention and announce why they were running.
2016 Libertarian candidates
There are currently four Libertarians who are seeking nomination in 2016 for various offices. Two are seasoned campaigners running for state office and two for local offices. Claire Ball, fresh from her campaign for College of DuPage Trustee, announced her candidacy for Illinois Comptroller in the special election to replace Judy Barr Topinka. Chris Michel declared his candidacy for US Senate, discussing his observations as the 2014 Libertarian Secretary of State candidate and his slogan, “fix it with freedom.”
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On the local level for 2016 are Christopher Hicks and Scott Schluter. Mr. Hicks is running as a Libertarian for the 95th Representative District which covers Montgomery and parts of Macoupin and Christian Counties. Mr. Schluter is seeking election as a Libertarian for the Illinois House of Representatives 117th District which includes Williams and Franklin Counties. Both candidates were outspoken in their ideas and stressed the way to ensure equal opportunities is to protect the rights of the smallest of minorities - the individual.
Also appearing was former Republican candidate for Illinois Comptroller William J. Kelly, who announced on Friday at the state capitol his plans for “exploring a race for US Senate against Mark Kirk” though he made no specific references to running for the Libertarian nomination in March. Mr. Kelly also did not mention this intention at the convention.
The guest speakers at the Libertarian Party of Illinois State Convention included current activists and founding members. The Edgar County Watchdogs, well known in DuPage County for exposing the corruption at the College of DuPage, revealed how their efforts have directly led to the resignation or removal of 128 public officials who abused their privilege and their plans to add many more to that list.
Don and Jan Stover, pivotal members of the beginnings of the libertarian movement in Illinois, spoke of their publication, ‘The Owl Creek Gazette’ and their podcast, ‘Creekside with Don and Jan’, which seeks to find common cause in libertarian beliefs and self-reliance. The pair have a large and diverse following emanating from their hometown of Greenville, IL.
Jacob Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center and author of ‘Libertarianism Today’ spoke on, “The Prospects for Liberty in Illinois.” He discussed current and past projects by the Center to help ensure the rights of citizens in Illinois. One of his key topics was pointing out how the current election finance restrictions meant to level the playing field in fact make it harder for small parties to participate and favor independently wealthy candidates.
The theme of this year’s convention was ‘We’ve Always Been There’, highlighting the Libertarian philosophies which are just now being recognized by the mainstream. In keeping with the theme, lifetime member Fran Holt delivered an impassioned speech on her role as a ‘founding mother’ of both her local chapter and the state party. She spoke of the trials and difficulties the Party has faced, and overcome, and closed with a heart-felt, “keep on keeping on!”
The Saturday night banquet also featured the annual awards presentation. The awards, named for notable Libertarians and historical freedom fighters, are a way to give back to those members of the Party who go above and beyond for the cause of liberty in Illinois. This year’s recipients were:
Libertarian Party National Chair
Closing the convention with his keynote presentation, Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark showed the charisma and dedication which earned him his title. He described the uphill battle which all of the smaller parties face with the words, “the audacity of hopelessness.” The term, he explained, means that when a group has nothing to lose, they have everything to gain. He spoke of the struggles Libertarians face in all the states and how the issues the Party has championed for so long are finally being recognized.
When asked why he travels the country at his own expense since his position in the Party is an unpaid, volunteer post, he showed a picture of his three children. Mr. Sarwark stated, “I do this for them because my children need to grow up in a country that’s better than the country I grew up in. And their children need to grow up in a country that’s better than the one they grew up in.”
The next Libertarian Party of Illinois State Convention will begin on March 16th, 2016 in Springfield. At that convention, Party members will vote on candidates for nomination and plan for the upcoming Presidential election. Also, delegates will be chosen for the Libertarian Party national convention which will be held on May 27th, 2016 in Orlando FL. More information can be found at the state website, LPIllinois.org and the national website LP.org.
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