Libertarian National Convention Comes To Columbus This Weekend

Libertarians expects 600 delegates and 30 speakers at the convention that runs through Sunday at the downtown Hyatt Regency.(Photo: Karen Kasler, Ohio Public Radio)
Libertarians expects 600 delegates and 30 speakers at the convention that runs through Sunday at the downtown Hyatt Regency.(Photo: Karen Kasler, Ohio Public Radio)

Cleveland is a finalist for the Republican National Convention in 2016, and Cleveland and Columbus are also among the six cities under consideration for the Democrats’ presidential convention.

But Libertarians are hoping to get a jump-start on both of them with the Libertarian National Convention in downtown Columbus this weekend.

“It is the first national political convention in Columbus,” says Kevin Knedler, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Ohio and the party’s candidate for Secretary of State.

He says more than 600 people are registered for the Libertarian Party’s 2014 convention in Columbus, where they’ll hang out, network and attend sessions on setting up websites, following federal regulations, using social media and organizing on college campuses.

Charlie Earl will welcome the delegates, but not as the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s candidate for governor, since he was disqualified for the ballot in March. But Earl says not being a candidate isn’t important here.

The whole issue is the state of Ohio, through its elected representatives, gonna give people choices and voices, whether it’s Charlie Earl or anybody else. The Constitution Party is not on because of their gamesmanship.

Earl is still hoping a court ruling will put him back in the governor’s race. When asked whether the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s struggles to get onto the ballot mirror problems around the country, Knedler admitted he was frustrated in hearing about how easy it is for parties to get on the ballot in states such as Mississippi and Florida.

“I heard these things and I asked myself, if these states seem to be able to manage multiple parties on the ballot, what is it with Ohio that we can’t seem to manage more than two?”

Among the attendees are candidates from across the country and the state. That includes Greg Norris, who’s running for state representative in the Findlay area, in the very Republican district now represented by Robert Sprague. He admits it’s a long shot that he’d get elected.

Kasler: “What would you be able to do?”
Norris: “I’m a caucus of one. I could be in a broom closet.”
Kasler: “What would you be able to do, then?”
Norris: “Probably be a thorn in everybody’s side. Honestly, I’ll caucus on both sides.”

The delegates will also decide on the party’s national platform and will elect their national committee members. Among those up for re-election is Libertarian Party chair Geoffrey Neale. He says those who view Libertarians as outsiders and losers don’t know that they’ve been ahead of the major parties on gay rights, marijuana legalization and other issues.

“We seem like outcasts and strange-thinking people because we’re visionary. We’re like the abolitionists in the 1800s saying we’ve got to end slavery. We’re like the suffragettes in 1870 saying women should be able to vote. We’re the visionaries of where we believe that the world is going.”

The Libertarian Party claims it’s the only nationally organized party to see double-digit membership increases in the last two years, with 11% more registered Libertarians now than in 2012.

But only 30 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to register with a party affiliation, and the total of registered Libertarians in the US numbers more than 368,000.

  • Linda D.

    This is not the first time Columbus has hosted a national political convention. The Prohibition Party held its national convention three times in Columbus:
    In 1872, 1908, and 1924.

  • Starchild

    The Libertarian Party convention is interesting. It is much less scripted and rehearsed than the establishment party conventions. How elections and such are going to turn out is not a foregone conclusion. This convention also gave a taste of the growing international libertarian movement, with visiting speakers from Russia and England representing Libertarian parties in those countries, and a video shown to delegates from the Libertarian Party in South Africa.