Larry Sharpe lost his bid for election to the office of New York State governor last year, earning only 95,000 votes compared to the more three million votes that secured a victory for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But Sharpe, a Libertarian, didn’t walk away from his campaign entirely empty handed.
In order for a political party to qualify for automatic ballot access in New York, a gubernatorial candidate needs to obtain 50,000 votes in a general election. Sharpe received nearly double that, earning his party a place on the ballot. Undeterred by his loss, Sharpe is still on the road, speaking to residents about the future and the principles of the Libertarian Party, how its philosophies can improve life for New Yorkers and what the party will be doing now that it has achieved ballot access.
Last Sunday, Sharpe addressed a crowd at Gratwick Hose Fire Co. in North Tonawanda and took a few minutes to speak with the Niagara Gazette.
Q: After a long campaign season, you’re back on the road. What keeps you out and about?
SHARPE: Lots of reasons. For most third parties, it’s some guy or gal who goes, “I’ve got the great idea and people are going to love me,” and they go and they run and they don’t get support. They don’t realize they’re fighting a monster, which is the two-party system. They can’t fight the monster, they then lose. They then get pissed off and annoyed, hate the world and go “I’m out of here, I hate parties” and you never see them again. That’s the norm. That’s been the norm for the Libertarian Party for literally 40 years. That’s not who I am. I knew this was the long game.
I’m still out here running around because, if you supported the Republican, through either money or time or energy, you literally threw your money in the garbage. He didn’t win, his ideas have been ignored, they weren’t real anyway, he’s still not doing anything. The Republican Party is broken...But if you voted for me, and supported me, I’m still here. I’m still out talking about things...I’m still growing this movement. But more importantly, the ideas I talked about are now being used.
If you notice here in Western New York, they’re starting to use noncompliance to deal with the SAFE Act. That was exactly what I talked about. I talked about leasing naming rights to bridges and tunnels to raise money to have non-taxpayer revenue. They’re looking in D.C. and Florida right now at both of those. The ideas that I was talking about are now popping up, so it was an investment.
Q: The Libertarian Party earned ballot access this year because of your campaign so how does that change the way the LP is going about running candidates?
SHARPE: There’s still fusion (voting), which means right now, we have tons of Democrats, Republicans, who all of a sudden are our best friends. We’re new BFFs, and the reason they know that is – we’re not a puppet party...They know we’re an actual party with actual activists and my campaign proved that we can organize. (The Libertarian Party is) now officially in 42 out of 62 counties, we were in 18 before the campaign.
Now we have to think about are we going to cross-endorse, which was not really a big deal for us, we didn’t have a line. It’s hard for us to decide yes or no, because we don’t have enough bodies to fill all the lines...but we also don’t want to sell out. We’re not a puppet party. We’re not going away. People think we are. We’re not. Prior to the election, there were less than 10,000 people registered as other/Libertarian. Now there are that many plus 10,000 actual Libertarians.
Q: What is the party’s goals?
SHARPE: The Libertarian Party is the only party that will allow you to be as conservative or as liberal as you want to be, as long as you don’t force your views on others. We are the only way to heal New York, we’re the only way to heal the nation because we don’t require any conversion. We just want you to be you and to let others be them.
Q: What does the Libertarian Party have to offer for Western New Yorkers?
SHARPE: There are several things. They focus around the little guy. Let me go to the small business owner, or the new business owner. Everyone will be behind simplifying the tax code so that the small guy doesn’t get hammered with fees and fines.
No. 2, reducing licensing requirements but retaining standards, so allowing people to function without licensing, but they don’t get a state stamp. So the state (would say) if you want to be someone who braids hair, the state believes you should have these credentials. If you don’t have these credentials, we’re not going to give you a stamp, but go ahead and braid hair. So do you care if your hair braider has a state stamp or not? If you do, you only go to (one with a state stamp), if you don’t, you go wherever you want...so allowing people to make money with their own goods and services.
If you decide you want to do your business only within New York state, (you’d be) immune from all federal regulatory bodies. That’s already happening in Wyoming. We copied that. Move this now to farmers, same idea. You want to be a farmer? You want to sell only within New York state? Immune from all federal regulatory bodies. Not just that, treat farmers like a small business. What does that mean? Insurance rates, worker’s comp rates...allowing them to get small business loans, changing zoning rules to allow a farmer to have a farm, plus have a retail and/or wholesale and/or manufacturing plant all on their same (property).
The last piece is the education system. Localizing education and making it where it’s only K through 10, not K through 12. Now you have a couple of issues. Do you think college is right for you? No worries, go to prep school. If you don’t, go to trade school. Encourage the trades. The average tradesman in New York state is over 50. That’s a problem. It should be around 30-something, that should be the average.
We are all about the idea of home rule, which means counties should be counties. Niagara County is not Queens. Erie County is not Suffolk County. And guess what, I don’t know what’s right for Niagara County, but you don’t know what’s right for Queens either, so we’re even. So how about I let you be you, you let me be me...and we’re all happy together. This is what I offer to Western New York and neither of the major parties offer it.
Q: What’s next for you? Are there any more campaigns in your future?
SHARPE: I’m probably not going to run in 2020. I just don’t think I can do it financially, physically, family-wise. I did a year and a half without taking a salary. But 2022, I’m looking to run again probably (for governor). If someone else steps up, I will happily support someone else, but I will consider it.
For more information on Larry Sharpe, visit www.larrysharpe.com or find him on Facebook by searching “Larry Sharpe, Libertarian.”