The Libertarian Party of Colorado held its annual convention last weekend, March 24-26 2017, at the Westin hotel in Westminster Colorado.
Events began on Friday with a mixer, and concluded after business on Sunday. The event included many speakers from around the country, and resulted in many changes to the makeup of the party’s leadership.
The convention kicked off with a casino night, which included the live music of Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts, a local band that plays rock and country music. Former presidential candidate Austin Petersen gave a speech highlighting his favorite moments from the campaign, and received a welcoming response from those in attendance.
Saturday featured speakers that talked about subjects ranging from over-regulation of businesses, sex work, how to run effective campaigns, ending the drug war, civil asset forfeiture, and many others.
Brian Rogers, from CNN’s Emmy-nominated series “High Profits,” spoke about the harm or over-regulation of businesses. Former candidate for State House of Representatives, Susan Kochevar, told her story about how the city tried to have her drive-in movie theater, the 88 Drive- in, shut down. Former Attorney General candidate for the Libertarian Party, David K. Williams, also spoke about civil asset forfeiture.
Other speakers included Sarah Stewart, speaking about decriminalization of sex work; Cecil Ince, another former presidential candidate, who talked about the relationship between immigration and religion; and Ron Gowins, whose experience with methadone clinics informed his talk on the harms of the drug war.
One of the most popular seminars was the debate on alternative voting methods, moderated by former presidential candidate and Colorado native, Steve Kerbel. The panel was made up of one team arguing in support of Approval Voting, including Frank Atwood, Blake Huber, and Alex Winkler. Another team argued for Ranked Choice Voting, featuring Christopher Billman, League of Women Voters member Celeste Landry, and current State Representative for House District 11, Jonathan Singer, whose actions were instrumental in the passing of Amendment 64. Both teams stressed that either option is preferable to the existing system of Plurality Voting, and share the common goal of overall election reform.
Over a hundred people attended the banquet on Saturday, and dozens of extra tickets were sold to the post-dinner panel discussion. The roundtable-style talk was moderated by former Libertarian candidate for Governor, Matthew Hess, and centered around what it would theoretically take to create an actual Libertarian city in practice.
Steve Kerbel, Austin Petersen, Vice-Chair of the national Libertarian Party, Arvin Vohra, and current Nebraska Senator, Laura Ebke. Laura Ebke gained national attention last year when she switched her party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian while in office, making her the second to do so after John Moore of Nevada. She intends to run for re-election as a Libertarian.
The party also accomplished a good deal of business during its meetings on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, business centered mostly around voting on proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws. Most of the proposed changes passed, including an amendment that would allow the party to opt out of allowing those unaffiliated with the Libertarian Party to vote in their primaries. This is in response to the law that appeared on the ballot in Colorado last year to make the Primary process open instead of closed, but gives minor parties the option to opt out.
Platform changes were proposed on Sunday, the most notable of which, perhaps, was the addition of a plank regarding legislative “safety clauses.” Safety clauses are added at the end of most bills that pass through the legislature in Colorado, and they prevent Colorado voters from making future changes to the bill by deeming the bill too sensitive and too much of an emergency. It has been abused by legislators, and the Libertarian Party of Colorado has now taken a position in opposition to this practice.
The biggest changes of all occurred with the election of Board officers. Eight positions were up for election/re-election, and every spot was filled. Nearly all of the positions were elected in a bid from more than one candidate, which is uncommon for LPCO. The former Vice Chair, Wayne Harlos, became the party’s new chairman, and the former Campaigns Director, Richard Longstreth, moved into the role of Vice Chair.
To fill the role of Campaigns, former House Representative candidate Kim Tavendale was elected. The role of Regions Director went to former Marine Corps Combat Engineer, Daniel Lutz. Libertarian Party veterans Kevin Gulbranson and Steve Gallant became Outreach Director and Membership Director, respectively. Caryn Ann Harlos was re-elected as Communications Director, and convention committee member Eric Mulder stepped up to be Fundraising Director. Mulder had successfully received a $320 bid during the auction of an historic party document during Saturday night’s banquet.
The new Colorado Board is being called a “powerhouse,” being a healthy mix of new and veteran Libertarians, spanning the spectrum of Libertarian ideology. Wayne Harlos has a plan for making this the most successful Board the party has had in years. He says, “We will run it like a business with each member having a business plan with reports due each month so that we are all accountable to each other.”
The goals of the new board involve continuing to grow party registration, creating a greater and more effective presence in the legislature, expanding its network of Libertarian-owned and Liberty-friendly businesses and organizations, cultivating a pool of volunteers for ever department on the Board, and finding qualified candidates for every local and Congressional race in 2018.