October 29, 2012

Somerset County Libertarians building grass roots effort toward official recognition

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- It’s a Tuesday night at Tim Hortons. Carol Piasecki and Donn Chamberlain are sharing a cup of coffee and getting ready for a meeting of the Somerset County Libertarians.


Maine voters by the numbers

Unenrolled: 337,535
In Maine, those choosing not to identify with a party. Unenrolled voters are not eligible to vote in party primaries, caucuses and conventions, but can vote in other elections. Candidates who are unenrolled can run for office if they collect a required number of petition signatures.

Maine also recognizes several political parties:

Democratic: 297,445
One of the country’s two major political parties that has traditionally promoted a socially liberal and progressive platform and nominated President Barack Obama for re-election.

Republican: 258,463

The other of the country’s two major political parties whose platform is largely based on fiscal and social conservatism and nominated Mitt Romney for president.

Green Independent: 32,315
The Maine Green Independent Party is the oldest state Green Party in the country. It received ballot status in 1998 after achieving 6.6 percent of the vote in the 1998 gubernatorial election. It supports the basic tenets of the national Green Party movement, which include grassroots democracy and an emphasis on environmental and economic stability. It nominated Jill Stein for president.

Americans Elect: 58
A nonpartisan nonprofit organization that received an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals to hold an online presidential primary. However, because of the failure of any candidate to reach a required level of national support it is not fielding a presidential candidate in this year’s election.

Source: Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions

About once a month, a small group of grassroots organizers led by the two co-organizers meets at the Tim Hortons on U.S. Route 201 to talk about their hopes for the libertarian party in the upcoming presidential election.


“Hopefully after the election we can have a recognized county group,” said Chamberlain, 41, a mustached man in a blue T-shirt. “We’re meeting at Tim Hortons now because we don’t have any money.”


The libertarian party isn’t officially recognized in Maine. Its candidate for U.S. Senate, Andrew Ian Dodge, is running on the independent ticket, along with presidential candidate Gary Johnson. If Johnson gets 5 percent of the vote statewide, the party could earn state recognition. That would mean that county organizations such as this one would have a better chance to get their platform public, including appearing on future ballots at the state and local level.


“If we get that 5 percent we can run people as libertarians,” said Piasecki, 33. “When you see that word ‘Libertarian’ on the ballot next to a name, it makes a difference.”


Both Chamberlain and Piasecki are ex-Republicans and former Ron Paul supporters who left the party after last spring’s state Republican  convention, when party Chairman Charlie Webster said that libertarians are not members of the Republican Party, they said. Together they are the co-organizers of the Somerset County Libertarians, a grassroots movement to get the libertarian party established in the state. Around 30 people have joined the group’s Facebook page. Chamberlain said about 10 to 15 people come to the monthly meetings.


Dodge, who is also a former Republican, said he thinks the number of libertarians in Maine is growing for a few reasons.


“A lot of people who aren’t libertarian, when you explain the issues and viewpoints to them realize that it is a party they can identify with,” he said.


He said that, for instance, libertarians’ support same-sex marriage and because it is a particularly talked about issue this year, it has helped draw attention to their platform.


He also said he thinks many people in Maine are liberal-minded and are not afraid to join a third party, even if the chance of a candidate winning is less.


Dodge is optimistic about Johnson and the libertarians’ chances.


“I would be very surprised if Johnson didn’t get the 5 percent,” he said.


Dodge said he thinks the libertarian party could take votes away from Republican candidates, but Webster disagrees.


“I would be surprised if Johnson got 3,000 or 4,000 votes statewide,” he said.


According to the Maine’s Secretary of State, independent Ralph Nader got 10,636 votes statewide in 2008, but Webster said the stakes are higher in this year’s race.


“This is a critical election and people aren’t willing to take a chance letting Obama stay in office,” he said.


He said that most people, even if they don’t agree 100 percent with a major party, will join either Democrats or Republicans based on whose views most closely align with their own.  He also said that most people he knows who were Ron Paul supporters are now campaigning for Romney.


Webster said that one of the major things that has separated libertarians from Republicans is their different view on government restrictions.


“Most Republicans believe in some restrictions on things like legalizing drugs,” he said. “They tend to believe that some regulation is necessary.”


(Continued on page 2)

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