The Libertarian Party (http://www.LP.org) is heading for the November elections with an eye toward removing selected congressional drug warriors from office. The electoral campaign grew out of a year-long strategic planning process last year and reflects the party's decision to make drug policy its strategic focus this year. The move is part of a medium-term LP strategy "to achieve the repeal of drug prohibition at the federal level by 2010," according to a copy of the plan's Executive Summary provided to DRCNet.
The party has targeted five legislative drug warriors this year: Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX) and Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). But that could change, according to the LP's drug strategy. The party will monitor another dozen races this fall to see if other opportunities for attack present themselves.
LP national Political Director Ron Crickenberger told DRCNet the five were selected for three reasons. "The first thing was to target the worst drug warriors in Congress," said Crickenberger. "Everyone votes for bad drug bills, so we looked at who sponsored and cosponsored the most egregious bills, who the instigators are. Second, we looked for races that were closely competitive, where a relatively small number of votes could throw the race on way or the other," he said. "Finally, we looked for districts where we have historically had good Libertarian turnout, more votes than the margin of victory for the winning candidate."
Bob Barr, the man who blocked the Washington, DC, medical marijuana vote from being counted and then prevented it from being implemented, is public enemy number one for the Libertarians. Describing Barr as a "cancerous tumor in the body politic" and "the equivalent of the anti-Christ" for the medical marijuana movement, the LP's drug strategy is heavily focused on shooting Barr's candidacy down in flames.
To get Barr, however, the party needs to work fast. Unlike the LP's other targets, the key election for Barr is the Republican primary, set for August 20. Because of congressional redistricting, Barr finds himself up against incumbent Republican Rep. John Linder in the primary. In the heavily Republican district, the Republican primary winner is almost guaranteed election.
And although the LP isn't running a candidate in the Republican primary, it is fielding a candidate for Barr's district in the November general election. Carole Ann Rand, a grandmotherly businesswoman and long-time Libertarian -- she became the first woman to run for governor of Georgia, garnering 37,000 votes in 1990 -- is running on traditional Libertarian themes such as free enterprise and civil liberties, but heavily emphasizing Barr's drug war record.
"I am also running because one of the incumbent congressmen seeking the new 7th District seat is particularly out of touch," wrote Rand on her campaign site (http://www.randforcongress.com). "While terrorists around the globe plot more attacks against our country, Bob Barr's most pressing priority has been to send armies of armed agents to arrest critically ill medical marijuana patients. 73% of Americans believe that doctors and patients should make the decision about what drugs should be prescribed to treat their life threatening diseases, not politicians. Yet Bob Barr thinks it is his job to trample the wishes of the people, and he has done everything he can to overturn the legal will of voters in initiative after initiative and in after state. In the year before 9/11 we arrested 735,000 marijuana smokers and only 2 international terrorists. That is an appalling misdirection of our precious law enforcement resources. Government's first priority should be protecting all of us from foreign attack. Instead Bob Barr sends the government against the weakest among us -- patients with critical or painful diseases who just want a little relief from their symptoms."
The Rand candidacy also provides the LP with a platform for a hard-hitting advertising campaign. Although the ads will tout Rand, they will really be anti-Barr attack ads, said Crickenberger. "The entire campaign is oriented toward taking out Bob Barr," said Crickenberger. "We are now filming commercials that will be asking questions like "Why does Bob Barr want to throw MS patients in jail?" Crickenberger said.
Crickenberger is guardedly optimistic that the plan will work. "We've been privy to some of Rep. Lindner's polling, and we're seeing a slight lead for Lindner. The pundits are calling it a dead heat," he said. "This is a district that has historically polled 6% to 9% for Libertarians. We think the margin of victory will be smaller than that, and we can use the spoiler effect to great impact," he said.
The party is putting its money where its mouth is. The Libertarian National Committee has approved expenditures of more than $300,000 for this year's effort and plans on spending up to campaign limits in each of the races it has targeted. "We can make direct donations of $5,000 to a candidate and spend another $36,000 in coordinated expenditures for a House race," said Crickenberger. "That means we can spend $41,000 against Barr, and we will."
While the August 20 Georgia primary will be a key early test of the party's spoiler strategy, the LP's broader drug strategy has other, more locally-oriented planks as well:
That focus was reflected in the party's annual national convention, held in Indianapolis over the 4th of July holiday, Crickenberger said. "Sheriff Bill Masters from Colorado was our keynote speaker, Gov. Johnson also addressed the convention, and we had many, many drug war panels," he said.
The Libertarians are rolling out of Indianapolis with a powerful head of steam, and they have their eyes firmly fixed on making drug warriors pay the ultimate political price at the ballot box. As they note in their drug strategy, "For there to be real drug policy reform, many of our current elected officials must change the way they vote on drug policy, and a large number of new officials must be put in office. There is no other way."