Q&A: Libertarian Party candidate for governor lays out how he'd fix New York state

Connor Hoffman/StaffZach McClanahan, left, and Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian Party candidate for New York state governor, met with local voters at Tom’s Diner in Lockport late last week.

Though their candidate got only a small portion of the vote during the 2018 gubernatorial race, the Libertarian Party did win one victory in New York. 

To qualify for automatic ballot access in future elections, a political party needs to receive 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial race. And Libertarian Larry Sharpe earned almost double what he needed to secure that access. That gave Libertarians and local supporters the proverbial nod to start organizing chapters of the party in their communities. 

When asked to describe the principles of the Libertarian Party, chairman of the newly formed Niagara County Libertarian Party Charlie Flynn said they believe in "less government, more liberty – in a nutshell." 

"Government shouldn't be telling you that you can smoke tobacco, but you can't smoke marijuana," he said. "The government shouldn't be telling women that they can't do this or that with their body. Even though we have things that protect us, protections by the Constitution, there still are a lot of things that the government does here that it shouldn't be doing." 

When it comes to local issues, Flynn said high taxes and overpaid public officials, particularly in school districts, are examples of issues the Libertarian Party would hope to address. 

In the past, local Libertarian chapters haven't functioned as formal political parties, that's a recent development stemming from the Sharpe campaign, who was also a Libertarian candidate for vice president in 2016, but lost the nomination to former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. 

Though Sharpe only received about 95,000 votes (compared with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's election-winning 3.6 million votes), it was enough to help the party gain some legitimacy.  

"(The Libertarian Party) just gained ballot status (in New York) in November with Larry Sharpe," Flynn said. "That catapulted the Libertarian line not only to ballot status but also to the sixth position, because he actually finished fourth. But because of fusion (voting), which is on its way out, he finished sixth because Cuomo and Molinaro had the other minor lines."

Prior to gaining ballot access, Flynn explained that New Yorkers had LPNY.org, "a corporation owned by dues-paying members," which had chapters across the state. Now, they're in the process of transitioning those chapters into formal political parties. 

The Niagara County Libertarians have had a series of meetings since the start of 2019 and have assembled a list of officers which includes Flynn, Kathleen Ligammari as secretary, Nick Phelps and Francis Law as first and second vice presidents respectively, and Brian Owczarzak as treasurer. 

"We have now the first Libertarian candidate to be running for office in Niagara County – Nick Phelps," Flynn said. Phelps is running for city clerk/treasurer in North Tonawanda, challenging the recently appointed incumbent Matt Parish, an Independent. 

However, Flynn also said that the party will not be making any endorsements until after the primary season. 

As the debate over fusion voting, the practice of multiple parties endorsing a single candidate, continues in Albany, Flynn said his party will likely have to endorse candidates who aren't Libertarians if there are no Libertarians running. But said he hopes that fusion voting comes to an end.

"You have parties like the Independence Party and the Conservative Party that are nothing more than a tail of the Republican Party," he said. "You have the Green Party, which has a national organization and an infrastructure, and they don't want Democrats or Republicans on their line. I feel the same way." 

For more information or to get involved with the Niagara County Libertarian Party, visit them on Facebook at "Niagara County Libertarian Chapter." 

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