HISTORY OF THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF HAWAII
THE NATIONAL LIBERTARIAN PARTY
The Libertarian Party was formed in the home of David Nolan on 11 December 1971, after several months of debate among members of the Committee to Form a Libertarian Party, founded July 17th. This group included John Hospers, Edward Crane, Manual Klausner, Murray Rothbard, R.A. Childs, Theodora Nathan, and Jim Dean. Prompted in part by price controls implemented by President Richard Nixon, the Libertarian Party viewed the dominant Republican and Democratic parties as having diverged from what they viewed as the libertarian principles of the American founding fathers.
THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF HAWAII
In 1995 The Libertarian Party of Hawaii held its convention in the Garden Lanai room of the Ala Moana Hotel. There were over fifty people in attendance including tables set up for various interest groups such as the polyamory folks, the sex workers’ rights movement, gun rights, and others. Presidential candidate Harry Browne was the featured speaker. He was the LP presidential candidate in both 1996 and 2000.
Hawaii party members were divided over the elections for party officers. A dissident faction led by Dick Rowland and became concerned with the role played by Chair Blaise Harris in the party. In a close vote the “Imua” team took over with Mr. Rowland becoming the new chair, and Roger Taylor the vice chair. Unfortunately, Blaise and his team left the party following the convention. They felt the new team leaned too much towards the GOP.
Within a week an organizational meeting was held at the home of Ken Schoolland in Aina Hina. The new Imua group put the increase of membership as a principal goal. The database was increased by combining the national and Hawaii membership lists names. The party would move forward from there. Roger Taylor accepted the task of finding candidates for the 1996 election.
By 1996 there were four Libertarians running. This included two on Oahu and two on the Big Island. Tracy Ryan agreed to be an active candidate in either a house or senate campaign in the Makiki area. She eventually ran for the 12th Senate District against incumbent Democrat Carol Fukunaga. Sean Porter came forward and ran a race in the Waikiki state house district against incumbent Republican Galen Fox and Democratic challenger Pam Ferguson-Brey. Sam Slom choose to run as a Republican rather than as a Libertarian for the state senate seat then held by Democrat Donna Ikeda. In Hawaii County marijuana rights activists Roger Christie and Aaron Anderson ran. In the end only Slom, who had run under the GOP banner, won his election. Ryan got 31% of the votes cast, which was the best percentage in the United States among Libertarian Party legislative candidates that year. [After the election the State Office of Elections sent notice that the Libertarian Party of Hawaii had failed to qualify for ballot access. The five elections that had been granted to the party after the last effort led by Dale Pratt in the 1980’s had run out. Unfortunately no plan had been put in place to avoid this by running more candidates in the 1996 races. The party now faced having to qualify in 3 consecutive elections to remain on the ballot.
The 1997 signature drive was a monumental task that required hiring mainland professionals to help alongside local volunteers. At that time the law mandated that a petition with the signatures of 1% of the number of voters registered in the prior election. Voters who signed were also required to submit their social security numbers on the form. To achieve the 1% threshold (of almost 7000) many thousand more signatures had to be collected since many signers were unregistered, or filled in the form in an incomplete or illegible manner. Most of the party’s resources that had been planned to move forward in 1997 were, instead, used up on ballot access.
The 1997 State Convention was held at the Dole Cannery. It included two mainland speakers, Libertarian activist Bumper Hornberger, and separation of school and state advocate, Marshall Fritz. Unlike the prior convention there was no contested election as Dick Rowland stepped aside to allow Vice Chair Roger Taylor to become Chair. Tracy Ryan became the new Vice Chair. Ballot access was the priority. Monthly meetings at Columbia Inn on Kapiolani Blvd, which had been going on for some time, were to be continued.One possible solution to doing the signature drive again in 1999 was to qualify by getting votes in the general election. At issue was whether the three elections to qualify for ballot access had to be by the same method or if a party could mix and match with some years by signature drive and others by vote totals. The Green Party had gotten this settled through a court challenge that said they could do various methods. This meant the 1998 election would be critical to avoid another 7000 signature drive in 1999.
Under the law that existed in 1998 a party could qualify by receiving 10% of the vote total in a statewide election or in either of the two US House district races or in half of all the State House races, or in the six State Senate races with the lowest vote. Looking at the complexities it was decided that the easiest threshold would be in the State Senate races. Roger Taylor turned his attention to finding candidates for these races. Tracy Ryan worked on putting together campaigns for the prospective candidates. By the 1998 filing deadline the LP had a record 15 party members on the ballot. They included Jeff Mallan for US Senate, Noreen Chun for US House district II, George Peabody for Governor, Larry Bartley for Lt. Governor, State Senate candidates Mike Dyer, Darrell Gardner, Bob Grayson, Li Zhao, and Mike Powell, and State House candidates Jim O’Keefe, Aaron Anderson, Guy Monohan, and Glenn Elliott. In addition LP member Alan Matsuda ran for a non-partisan board of Education seat and Dr. John Corboy choose to follow Sam Slom’s lead and run as Republican in his State Senate race. None of these folks won their elections although there were some interesting results. Guy Monohan campaigned his heart out with little to show for it on Election Day. Aaron Anderson in the receptive Puna area of the Big Island did very well although not well enough to unseat incumbent Democrat Bob Herkes.
The inability by party leadership to convince Dr. Corboy to run as Libertarian had far reaching consequences. He was drawn to the idea that he could win as a Republican. He spent a lot of money on his campaign on the advice of Republicans, but lost anyway. For the LP it meant not having his votes included in its total for ballot access qualification. After all was said and done and the math on ballot access races was added up the LP fell about 30 vote short. Another signature drive would be needed.One of the candidates in 1998 had been newcomer Mike Powell. He and his wife Cindy had offices in Kakaako which could be used by the party. Soon the LPH had moved its office from a small storage area on King Street to the more spacious 625 Keawe St. Executive Committee meetings and other events were held there for the next few years.
In 1999 Vice Chair Ryan took the lead in pushing legislation that would eliminate or at least simplify ballot access. The Office of Elections favored reforms. This gave the legislation a good chance of passing. Ms. Ryan was able to enlist the support of the Senate Judiciary Co-Chairs, Matt Matsunaga and Avery Chumbley. So things looked good. The original draft submitted to the committee would have allowed a political party access to the ballot if it had fifty members. There would be no need for signature drives, vote totals, etc. Unfortunately, The League of Women Voters, stepped in to protest making ballot access too easy. They feared an increase in three way elections in which the majority would not get its way. A compromise bill favored by the House reduced the signature qualification from 1 % to .1 % was passed along with recommended simplification of the percentage tests for votes in the state legislative races. So 1999 was to be another signature drive year, but with only 10% as many names needed as previously in 1997.
Another leadership change occurred at the 1999 convention with Tracy Ryan becoming Chair, and Cindy Powell Vice Chair. Noreen Chun took charge of efforts at party building through Operation Politically Homeless. This was an ongoing effort to use the World’s Smallest Political Quiz at public events to attract Libertarian prospects. Roger continued to help as a volunteer, including working on the Libertarian TV shows for Olelo and organizing the annual Tea Party protests each April 15th.
Dave Hudson & Tracy Ryan
2000 National Convention
Anaheim - Ca
In 2000 the Libertarian Party could not find enough State Senate candidates to achieve ballot access. A broad selection of candidates from the party did appear on the ballot that year. They included Jeff Mallan for US Senate, Jerry Murphy for US Congress district I, Larry Duquesne for US Congress district II, Aaron Anders for State House and Wade Thode for State Senate. The party had two members in non-partisan races. They were Jim Keefe for Mayor of Hawaii County and Dale Pratt for Hawaii County Council. In addition Harry Browne for President and Art Oliver for Vice President were on Hawaii’s ballot.
Hawaii had sent an unusually large delegation to the National Libertarian Convention in Anaheim that year where Browne received the nomination on the first ballot. Dave Hudson, Tracy Ryan, Aaron Anderson, and Karen Feitz all were there for the LPH.
The 2000 strategy was to put efforts into Aaron Anderson’s campaign. He had been the party’s best vote getter in 1998 and it was hoped with more money and effort he could achieve victory. Unfortunately both funding goals and vote totals fell well short of what was hoped for.
Also of interest that year was Dick Rowland’s late entry into a race to fill the vacated City Council seat held by Mufi Hanneman. Dick had a lot going for him, but the lack of time and funding to get up and running were too much to overcome.
The year closed with the unexpected resignation of Tracy Ryan as Chair to address personal commitments. Cindy Powell stepped in as acting chair with a new chair to be selected at the 2001 convention. With the closing of Columbia Inn meetings were moved to the Physicians Cafeteria at Straub Hospital where party Treasurer Dr. John Spangler had offices. The discussions turned toward platform committees, vision statements, five year plans, and other topics.
The 2001 convention of The Libertarian Party of Hawaii was held at the Unitarian Church in Nuuanu. Roger Taylor became Chair for the second time with George Berish as Vice Chair. Noreen continued her efforts at political outreach by planning a September “Liberty Bash”. This was a picnic held in Kailua.
The 2001 signature drive got off to a slow start, but steady progress was made. Tracy Ryan enlisted the help of her friend Christina Marsh to gather signatures over the summer. They got almost a third of the total completed. Long time Libertarian Jean Frissell went out on her own day after day and got another third. Unfortunately not much else was done until very close to the February 2002 deadline. This was to create a problem.
Near the end of 2001 the State had initiated its “van cam” program to issue automated speeding tickets. This had been in the planning stages since 1997. The original pilot bill was passed in that session with the only opposition coming from testimony by the Libertarian Party. This program would allow a private company to issue speeding tickets by a system using vans and computers to calculate speeds and read license plates. Tickets would be mailed to the owners, not the drivers. The fundamental problem was in the conflict of interest it created since the private company operating the equipment would be paid by way of a commission on the ticket revenue generated. This created a financial motive to ticket everyone driving just one mile per hour over the posted limit. The angry reaction of Hawaii’s drivers should have been predictable as was described in Libertarian testimony. Now at the end of 2001 all the problems predicted by the Libertarian Party were coming to pass.
Wade Thode & David Steele
The Libertarian Party had been handed a once in a generation issue to jump on. Resources to put together public events where the LP held the microphone could have generated great publicity and helped find hundreds or even thousands of supporters for the party. Instead the delayed efforts to finish the signature drive had to take priority. Advocates watched as Republicans, the ACLU, and others took on the van cam fight and happily took credit for the ultimate termination of this hated program.
Moving into 2002 LPH candidates did what they could to remind people of the Libertarian efforts fighting the van cams, but little came of it. The program had ended and voters did not remember seeing how much the LP had done to end it.
Controversy arose in the question of who would represent the LPH in the 2002 Governor’s race. George Peabody had been the LP candidate in 1998 and was interested in running again. However, a number of party leaders had grown to dislike Mr. Peabody’s abrasive style and did not want him speaking for the party. Former Chair Tracy Ryan agreed to run for this race and to attempt to win the LPH primary against Peobody. Ryan defeated Peabody in a close primary. Unfortunately, she was shut out of the televised debates in the fall and finished fourth among six candidates. In another contested LPH primary Jeff Mallan defeated Larry Duquesne for US House district II. Other candidates that year included Jim Bracken for US House district I, Ken Vaughan for Lt Governor, and two state legislative candidates, Pat Boswell in the Senate and Aaron Anderson in the House.
Dick Rowland, Cindy Marlin, Artie Agin, Noreen Chun
Blaisdell, circa 2001
Noreen Chun organized another September Liberty Bash, this time in Waianae. However, much of the energy that had been put in by volunteers over the past few years was running down and there were fewer new people coming in. The signature drives, monthly events, community booths, and campaigns, were being put forward by too few volunteers to avoid some burnout. Although not evident at the time, a period of slow down was approaching.
In September of 2003 Tracy Ryan agreed to become Chair for the second time. John Orendt was the new Vice Chair. Mary Dixon became the principal volunteer and arranged for monthly meetings. With three successful signature drives the party was now given five elections on the ballot. This would carry it through 2012. Thoughts turned to trying to hold on to the party regulars who were not contributing time or money.
The 2004 election had fewer Libertarians running with just one candidate for State House, Dennis Triglia. He sought the 4th district seat that Aaron Anderson had run in several times. Elyssa Young and Jeff Mallan represented the party in the Federal races. Young was interesting in that she was an active sex worker with an internet site. Despite that fact she was largely ignored by media. This was likely due to the media bias against the sex workers rights movement as well has the media policy of ignoring the Libertarian Party. She did appear in an Olelo broadcast debate with Congressman Neil Abercrombie. The usually debate savvy Mr. Abercrombie seemed a bit confused on how to deal with such an untraditional candidate.
The Libertarian Party’s national ticket headed by Michael Badnarik for President drew few votes or interest in Hawaii. There was some controversy within the party over his nomination that was won over two better funded and better known candidates. The issue was whether the party should nominate the most pure libertarian or the candidate most likely to succeed. Two other party members ran in non-partisan Hawaii County races. Aaron Anderson ran for Hawaii Council district 5, and Roger Christie for Big Island Mayor. Triglia, an openly gay man, discussed gay rights in his campaign, but ran as a true fiscal conservative.
The 2005 convention was held in June at the Ala Moana Hotel. Ozell Daniel, a friend of Elyssa Young’s, spoke about his plans to run for governor in 2006. Rudy Rummel gave the keynote speech.
Gary Johnson visited Hawaii that year and spoke at a breakfast put on by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He also appeared before the Rotary Club and at a Small Business Hawaii breakfast. Johnson was then known as the former Republican Governor of New Mexico who had stood in opposition to the war on drugs. In 2012 he become the Libertarian candidate for President of the United States.
Later in the fall of 2005 Roger Christie filed impeachment papers against members of the Hawaii County Council for illegally allowing the Federal anti-marijuana program “Operation Green Harvest” to continue for years in Hawaii County. This was part of a long campaign by Roger and ally Aaron Anderson to put forward the libertarian ideals of personal freedom and government limitation.
The National Party voted to eliminate dues in 2005 breaking the long time joint dues plan that the Hawaii LP had enjoyed with them since 1996. Since then the Hawaii party has billed its own dues to members. A couple of years later the National LP reversed itself. Since then the Libertarians have had two separate membership systems.
Dennis Triglia (left), Aaron Anderson (right)
Bill of Rights Day, 2001 - Pahoa
2002 Convention - Oahu
Jim Keefe, Dave Hudson, Larry Bartley
December 15, 2001 - Pahoa
Much of the work begun in 2005 became the focus again in 2006 including the fight on the Big Island against the anti-marijuana crusade. On Oahu the focus was on Ozell Daniel’s campaign for governor. Ozell was another interesting candidate. He was a black man who had been convicted and served time for a felony and now expressed himself as a standup comic. Ozell brought some new energy and outlook to the LPH. Typically the press stood by its long standing position of arbitrarily ignoring the libertarian movement and its issues. Reporting on a horrible proposal to bring “Weed and Seed” to the Puna district of the Big Island, the media simply praised the idea with nothing written about the large opposition organized by Aaron Anderson.
The 2006 convention featured Judge James Gray of California. Gray gained notoriety years before by being the first sitting judge to publicly criticize the war on drugs. After books and campaigns (as first a Republican and later a Libertarian) he had become a celebrity in the anti-drug war efforts nationally. Judge Gray spent several days in Hawaii and talked at several forums including the LPH convention that was held in June at the Ala Moana Hotel.
In addition to Ozell the Libertarian Party candidates for 2006 included Li Zhao for Lt. Governor, Jeff Mallan for US Senate, and Aaron Anderson running again for the 4th State House district on the Big Island.
The 2007 convention was held at the Church of the Crossroads in October near the end of a very slow year for the party. Much of the interest at this point was coming from Ron Paul supporters who wanted him to secure the Republican nomination for president in 2008. By October discussion in the LPH itself had devolved around whether to continue as a political party running candidates or simply become an organization that strove to educate voters.
At the convention long time Chair Tracy Ryan insisted on stepping down. Li Zhao agreed to be chair and an executive committee was formed to continue to operate the party. Several Ron Paul supporters from the Liberty Caucus of the Republican Party attended and there was talk of better coordination between the two efforts. Newcomer Kaui Amsterdam expressed an interest in running for Congress.
Bob Barr won the Libertarian Party nomination for president at the National Convention in Denver in 2008 after several ballots and a lot of controversy. Barr had been a conservative Republican congressman. He was responsible for passing anti-gay marriage legislation at the Federal level. He did admit this had been a mistake and also reversed his support for Federal drug laws, but many libertarians remained skeptical. The party seemed to have veered to the right. The Barr/Root ticket did not fare well in the election. They finished a distant fourth behind independent candidate Ralph Nader. In Hawaii they did finish ahead of the Green and Constitution Party, however. Hawaii only had two other candidates on the ballot. Jeff Mallan ran for the US House district II, and Li Zhao ran for the US House district I after defeating Kaui Anderson in a primary.
One great victory was achieved in 2008 with the vote by Big Island residents to make marijuana enforcement the lowest police priority. This effort spearheaded by Roger Christie and Aaron Anderson, along with allies from across the political spectrum passed with 35,000 votes for the measure and only 25,000 against. It wasn’t even close. Still the Hawaii County Police announced their intention to ignore the vote of the people they worked for and to continue enforcement as before. This may have also marked the beginning of a series law enforcement efforts to get Roger Christie out of the way.
It should be noted that several years before, flimsy charges had been leveled against Aaron Anderson. He had ordered sterile hemp seed from a USDA approved source and was arrested when some drug sniffing dog identified cannabis in the box when it came into the airport in Hilo. At trial the state assistant prosecutor stated that if Mr. Anderson would simply stop his political activities they would drop the charges. After failing to convict him they were hit by a lawsuit for violating Mr. Anderson’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment. They ultimately settled out of court. Soon it would be Roger Christie’s turn to face a politically motivated prosecution.
In 2009 Li Zhao turned over the Chair’s position to her husband Ken Schoolland. Former Chair Roger Taylor became Executive Director and took over the newsletter. The Schoollands started a new monthly event at their home called the “Foolish Things Salon”. This began to draw a varied group of liberty minded people, students, and conservatives. Party business largely lapsed with no dues collected or official meetings.
In 2010 the party choose to stay out of the Governor’s race in deference to John Carroll, a Republican friend of the liberty movement who wanted to run. LP candidates that year included Jeff Mallan for US Senate, Pat Brock for US House district II, and Fred Fogel for a state house seat in Hawaii County. Fred self-financed his campaign and refused to accept monetary support to ensure his absolute independence from influence. His high moral standards weren’t enough to defeat a popular incumbent however.
In May of 2010 law enforcement raided the THC ministry of Roger Christie in Hilo and found some marijuana. Since the ministry had operated at the same site for years promoting the religious and medical use of marijuana that should hardly have been surprising. However, it was used as an excuse for a further raid in July in which Roger, his fiancée Share, and a number of other church supporters were arrested. In addition to seizing some more weed, several thousand dollars in cash was (as the government euphemistically called it) “recovered”.
Roger believed he would be allowed to defend himself in court against the various Federal charges that had been levied against him. He felt his religious defense would meet the constitutional standard guaranteed in the First Amendment. Whether it would or not was not to be the question. It soon became obvious that no one in the Federal Court System intended to allow his constitutional rights. This began with the denial of bail. The prosecutors argued that Christie presented a danger to the community. The court denied him bail since they had found marijuana a second time after their original May 2010 search indicating to the judge that “he didn’t get the message”.
Meanwhile the Libertarian Party slowly moved along. In 2011 it was decided that it was time for a convention and new leadership. Roger Taylor had moved to the mainland and no one was operating the party. No dues had been collected and no donations solicited for several years. At the 2011 convention held in the spring Jim Henshaw was elected Chair and Tracy Ryan Vice Chair. Fundraising began and the party started to recover.
Delays continued in setting the date for Roger Christie’s trial. By the end of 2011 he had been held in Federal detention for 18 months without bail or a trial date despite being a first time non-violent offender. More attention statewide began to be paid to this issue. By the end of 2012 it was 30 months of incarceration. Few doubted that a jury of local people, who were presented with all the evidence, would acquit this man. But the court ensured that Roger would never get his right to argue his religious defense before a jury.
The 2012 election was the last one granted to the LPH for ballot access. Candidate selection in 2012 again proved frustrating. With four people considering candidacy the party ended up with just one, Fred Fogel, who ran again for the state house, plus the national presidential team.
Three Hawaii delegates had attended the exciting National Convention that took place in Las Vegas in May. Gary Johnson now sought the LP nomination. Several others sought it as well, but Lee Wrights of Texas was the clear alternative. Lee attended the LPH convention with former LP presidential candidate Mary Ruwart in 2011 as the main featured speakers. The issues broke down to Lee’s more core libertarian values versus Johnson’s national appeal and strong candidacy. There was also a backlash against the rightward drift of the party by nominating Bob Barr four years prior. Johnson’s commitment was clear enough and he won the nomination on the first ballot. His chosen nominee for running mate, James Gray was nominated for Vice President. With little going on locally the Hawaii party campaigned harder for the Johnson/Grey ticket than they had for previous presidential teams.
The big news in the liberty movement in 2012 was the Ron Paul campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Many, both in and out of the Libertarian Party, could foresee wonderful benefits to having Congressman Paul go up against Barak Obama in the fall and perhaps become the new president. Ron Paul brought countless new people into the political arena in the cause of liberty, limited government, and the Constitution. However, as newcomers many of them could not see the handwriting when it appeared on the wall. Once the Romney delegate count reached a certain level, stopping his nomination would be almost impossible. A fight went on all summer by Paul’s advocates to change that result culminating in the slap in the face they received at the Republican National convention in September. A large number of these folks probably did vote for Johnson in the general election, but it proved very difficult to gather up the pieces and move things forward. Some success was achieved on Maui with several Ron Paul people becoming involved in a new county organization that started having meetings.
After the election the Hawaii party, as predicted, lost its ballot status and would have to do a signature drive to restore it for the 2014 election. This business, along with the fight to help Roger Christie, would dominate 2013. The fight for Roger’s rights began with a State Senate Resolution introduced by Hawaii State Senators Sam Slom and Russell Ruderman calling on the President to review the matter of violations of Christie’s constitutional rights by Federal prosecutors here. This ran into the objection of Senate Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee and stopped there.
Jim Henshaw moved to Texas early in the year leaving Tracy Ryan in charge of the party. Ms. Ryan formally accepted the position of Chair at the convention held in the spring. Larry Bartley became the new Vice Chair.
In June of 2013 Aaron Anderson hosted a Roger Christie rally at his farm in Puna. The LPH underwrote the costs of this which ultimately raised over $1000 and gathered signatures from attendees. Roger was still hopeful of having his day in court and being able to present his religious defense. Ultimately this was not to be. The final denial of his constitutional rights came in the fall when the court ruled he could not make his defense in Federal court. This convinced him to accept a plea. Since then, more delays have occurred awaiting the final disposition of his case. The prosecutors weren’t satisfied with taking his money, and four years of his life, with denying him his constitutional rights to a speedy trial, to bail, and to defending himself before a jury of his peers. No, they also wanted to seize his condo in Hilo.
Candidates began to come forward in the fall 2013, including radio talk show host Jeff Davis for Governor, and Anthony Higa for a state house seat in Honolulu. Several meetings took place in Hilo and Keeau on the Big Island with the promise of leading to a Hawaii County organization that could operate autonomously. The ballot access drive was successfully completed at the beginning of 2014 and hopes arose to run enough candidates to avoid another petition drive in 2015.
Unitarian Church 2012