Winners Tell All! What it’s like to be elected as a Libertarian

Wendy Hewitt, Bob Karwin and Kalish Morrow speak out about winning, challenges and the future of libertarianism in California

Peter Moulds, LPC, February 2021

Last November, California led the country in electing Libertarians for office. Although California has the largest population of any state, our achievement of six elected Libertarians is well beyond the expected statistical results. What are we doing right? What are the winning candidates doing right? What is working in our campaigns? The Beacon spoke to three of these newly elected office holders to find out more of what it’s like to win an election and what they can pass along.

Wendy Hewitt (Calimesa, CA) is now a City Councilwoman. “My campaign staff and I were surprised to hear so frequently, ‘Oh, you’re not a Republican or a Democratic? Then yes I’ll consider you.’ I couldn’t believe the pent up demand for a candidate from a party other than the Duopoly. I think this is a great bellwether for other Libertarians to jump in, run and get elected!”

“For us to grow the party, we’re going to have to dramatically grow the number of elected Libertarians,” Hewitt said. I encourage all Libertarians to get involved in elections. There’s only one way to find out if you like politics and that’s to get started. Running for office isn’t for everyone, so try volunteering on a campaign as a canvasser or another role that fits your skill set.”

When asked what the Party could do to accelerate election wins, Hewitt suggested developing three groups of campaign volunteers, one in each of the LPC areas. With minimal retraining, experienced canvassers can handle a number of campaigns during each election.

Hewitt added that once she started participating in city council meetings in Calimesa, she learned very quickly one must be willing to compromise in a political office. “In an eminent domain issue confronting the city, I felt my libertarian values rear up and I started to dig my heels in. After further consideration, I could see Calimesa’s need for the road improvements and state grant money, it became clear to me that eminent domain has its place. Neither of the two properties under consideration for eminent domain action had any improvements on them so were the owners going to suffer? No. Sometimes bending one’s ideological beliefs gets to addressing the greater good more effectively.”

“I’d like to thank the LPC’s Candidate Support Committee for providing my campaign with its initial funding,” Said Hewitt. “Without that monetary baseline, I might not have followed through and wouldn’t be where I am today.”

“Menifee has over 100,000 citizens, with about 15,000 registered voters in my district.  My election to City Council shows that Libertarians can win in bigger districts. We need to continue this trend!” Karwin said. “My advice to Libertarians who want to run for office is to build a network and resume in your community. Getting elected is very much about letting the voters know about your interest and experience in public service. They want to know you are for real, not just trying to “get into office.” 

“Voters responded favorably to me as a candidate partly because of my previous volunteer work in the community and for my service as a member of the city planning commission. Positive comments about me have spread over the last few years because they have seen my track record of dedication to the community – ‘brand name recognition.’…Bring out those strengths as part of your campaign strategy and during canvassing.”

“I live in a very Republican city,” said Karwin. During the campaign, my staff and I had to be very mindful of how we answered the ever-present question, ‘Are you a Republican?’ The selection of our words was critical. Those Republicans that have some understanding of libertarianism or the Libertarian Party think we are opposed to the government; it was my job to let them know that I’m not here to blow things up, but instead, to be the ‘adult in the room’ and a tie breaker between the two established voices. Some level of government is necessary. Getting the endorsement of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was a key defensive move for me to show voters that I support the government where it is needed.That made a huge impact on registered Republican voters.”

Karwin suggested finding a mentor or two to lead you down a more successful path. “The greatest support I received was from Libertarian Jeff Hewett who was elected to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. My calls with him were invaluable for insights into politics. I’ll never forget him saying, ‘You can do this as a Libertarian, Bob!’ Lori Stone was my campaign consultant who sagely guided me through the electoral process and pitfalls.

Karwin added that he’s looking forward to using his city council office as a platform for espousing libertarian ideals and pragmatism. “The two-party system is beginning to crack, so now is the time to run for office or support a Libertarian Party campaign not next year,” Karwin said.

Kalish Morrow of the Hanford City Council received over 42 percent of the vote in November. 

“Although it was a nonpartisan election, I ran against an incumbent Republican in a very red district,” Morrow said. “I was fortunate that she had fallen out of touch with the constituents and did no door-knocking in this election. My campaign staff and I used this as an offensive tool and we pounded the streets. From park clean ups, to neighborhood car cruises, to an aerial banner pulled by a small plane, we connected directly with the voters in their neighborhoods.”

Having been on the council for over 90 days now, Morrow advises any would-be Libertarian candidate to “pick her battles.” Being self-aware and keenly aware of other’s motivations and interests will help speed you through the quagmire to faster and more beneficial compromises for the public. 

“Know ahead of time whether your position on issues is going to receive support or resistance,” said Morrow. Perhaps her greatest personal success since being  in office is redirecting $400,000 for city park play equipment from only one park to several parks in Hanford. Previous council members had, in her mind, unfairly appropriated the funds to one park when many of the parks in Hanford needed improvements to their play equipment. “All the taxpayers of Hanford got more bang for their buck.”

“I owe a lot to my campaign manager, Brent Olsen,” Morrow said. “Brent worked full time behind the scenes to defeat the incumbent Republican. Campaign manager recruitment for LPC candidates is going to be important going forward. We need to run more winning campaigns and they must be more professionally run.”

Morrow believes the Libertarian Party will find greater success if we focus on down-ticket, nonpartisan offices for our candidates. She also believes in focusing on special elections because they make it easier for small parties to get attention. At one percent, the Jorgensen/Cohen Presidential ticket didn’t fare well, but perhaps provides our party with some visibility and an increase in public awareness. So far, it’s proven too difficult for Libertarians to win governor, senate or congressional seats.

“We need to create a culture of winning, not losing! I say get involved in elections, but for local, nonpartisan offices,” concluded Morrow.

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