On September 6th, 2016, the Libertarian Party of Chicago held its monthly meeting for September at Will’s Northwoods Inn on Racine Avenue at 7 PM CST. This ATPR editor attended the meeting, albeit I was 30 minutes late.
When I arrived, David Earl Williams III, a write-in candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 9th congressional district -who became the first congressional candidate in Illinois to endorse Gary Johnson for president on September 1st- was wrapping up his speech. At the conclusion of Williams’ remarks, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Chicago, Justin Tucker, made a motion for the LP Chicago to formally endorse Williams in his bid. The motion passed unanimously. Therefore, at approximately 7:35 PM CST, Williams secured an endorsement that he believes is the most meaningful one he has received to date. Williams has attended several LP Chicago meetings in the past and will be an official member of the city, state and national Libertarian Parties as soon as his current write-in campaign concludes after the polls close on November 8th.
In total, there were 17 people in attendance at the meeting, including this editor. While Williams was the only candidate in present, Libertarian Party activists talked about the election campaign, especially the efforts in support of Gary Johnson. Kevin Kauzlaric, the state director for Illinois for Johnson/Weld, gave a report on the ongoing efforts of the state campaign. Kauzlaric said that over 2,000 Illinoisans are signed up as volunteers through the Johnson/Weld campaign website; furthermore, he said that 300 are signed up for door-to-door canvassing, 120 people are signed up to phone bank for the LP ticket (for which a software tool is provided and a script is given) and 55 people are signed up to write letters to the editor – which can be effective because, as Kauzlaric added, newspaper readers are statistically more likely to get out and vote than those who do not read hardcopy publications. Kauzlaric said that 5 letters to the editor have been published in Illinois newspapers or their websites, including one in the Chicago Tribune earlier that day. Kauzlaric mentioned that in August, the Johnson campaign opened its state headquarters in Chicago, and this means that “TeamGov” has a leg up on Donald Trump’s campaign in the Windy City, as the Manhattan billionaire has not yet opened a brick-and-mortar office in the America’s third largest city and it remains unclear if the real estate mogul intends to do so at any point.
The Johnson/Weld ticket is currently polling at 12% in Illinois according to The Washiongton Post, and Kauzlaric added that 62% of Americans want to see Johnson in the presidential debates, showing that the demand for a third, Libertarian voice in what will likely be the most viewed presidential debates in history is higher than ever.
Ron Shultis, the Libertarian Party of Illinois’ legislative director, then discussed the importance of Illinois becoming an established party – should this happen, it would make ballot access for the Libertarian Party of Illinois significantly easier. To earn established party status, one of the LP’s statewide candidates, Claire Ball (running for comptroller), Kent McMillen (running for U.S. Senate) or alternatively the LP presidential ticket would have to earn at least 5% of the vote in the state. As an established party, the Libertarian Party of Illinois would be in the position to appoint party committeemen at the precinct, ward, township and other government subdivision levels (Shultis mentioned that Illinois has more political jurisdictions than any other state – more than 8,000, per Wikipedia). Shultis emphasized the importance of filling these positions with principled Libertarians: he said that after the Green Party of Illinois became an established party in 2006 due to Rich Whitney’s 10% showing for governor, the Greens weren’t prepared for the task of filling committeeman positions and Democrats essentially “took over” many of them and “helped” cause the party to decline back to its minor party status after 2010 elections. Tucker interjected and mentioned that a precinct committeeman could be responsible for as little as one square mile of populated territory, but also added that committeemen would be official representatives of the state party. However, he and Shultis said that not all committeeman positions would need to be filled, and brought up that even the duopoly parties do not have all of their committeeman positions filled.
Shultis also brought up a recent effort by voters, supported by the Illinois LP, to create an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would establish the nonpartisan creation of independent political maps – that is, to create legislative and congressional districts that are fair and not gerrymandered- to avoid providing an advantage to any political party. Shultis said that the Ilinois Supreme Court recently struck down the citizen’s effort to place the proposed Independent Maps Amendment on the general election ballot in November in a 4-3 ruling; however, the grassroots activists are actively attempting to get the state’s highest judicial body to reconsider its decision.
Later in the evening, Tucker brought up that the LP Chicago is considering organizing a “movie night” for Oliver Ston’es biographical thriller “Snowden,” which is set to be released in theaters on September 16th. Tucker said that a previous movie night organized by the city’s LP for the film “Hillary’s America” enjoyed a fair attendance. He also said that he would like the party to organize more outreach to LGBT, polyamorous and fetishist communities, among others.
Several audience members asked questions of the LP Chicago leaders and Johnson campaign staffers. One of those who had an inquiry was seated next to this editor. A Democrat until this election cycle, this newly minted Johnson supporter asked about local campaign efforts in his area, the south suburbs of Chicago. Kauzlaric responded by essentially saying that more grassroots volunteers are needed to expand the campaign’s outreach to other Chicagoland areas and down state as well, and that even just ten hours a week of volunteering provides a tremendous difference for the statewide campaign efforts.
Once the business agenda for the meeting was finished, the meeting was adjourned and many attendees stayed to socialize afterwards. Gary Johnson bumper stickers were made available at no cost to the attendees, as were campaign cards and yard signs for the two Illinois statewide Libertarian candidates on the ballot, Claire Ball and Kent McMillen. Williams also distributed his campaign literature and discussed various issues with all of the attendees who approached him. Williams told this editor that he was very excited to receive the Libertarian Party of Chicago’s endorsement and that he looked forward to working with the citywide LP – as well as the statewide LP – in the months to come, especially once he announces his formal membership in the party immediately after the November 8th election. Williams, who voted for Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential election, told the attendees that he is planning to “crash” a September 25th candidate forum for 9th and 10th congressional district candidates sponsored by Jewish organizations in Deerfield that declined to invite him and distribute his literature outside of the event to raise awareness for his uphill write-in campaign. Williams plans to continue actively canvassing his district and has several volunteers helping him in this literature distribution effort; the only veteran running for Congress in Illinois’ 9th district also plans to send out at least 10,000 pieces of direct mail to his district’s registered voters in mid-October.
The Libertarian Party of Chicago’s next event will be held on September 10th at the Illinois for Gary Johnson Victory Center. From the LP Chicago Meetup group’s event description:
Join us at the Gary Johnson Victory Center (2305 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) for a day of fun and volunteer outreach. We have a generous donor providing pizza and such from Papa Ray’s.
We’ll open the doors at 2 PM, where the people can sign up to volunteer or pick up materials or learn how to donate for the September 10th money bomb.
At 3 PM, we will be cheering on #TeamGov as we livestream the #LetGaryDebate Rally from New York.
Until 6 PM, we’ll continue making phone calls, answering questions and further building the team here in Illinois. If you want to help, bring your cell phone or laptop if you can. The reception here in the Land of Lincoln has been overwhelmingly positive and we need more volunteers to help us keep up with all those who want to get involved in his campaign.
More information about the Libertarian Party of Chicago can be found at LPChicago.org. Meanwhile, Wiliams’ campaign website can be found at DewforCongress.com, and his website includes a page providing information on how to cast a valid write-in vote.