Las Vegas Mercury  
  Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016, 01:16:18 AM


Michael Badnarik at a fundraiser Sunday in Las Vegas.

Thursday, September 09, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Remember freedom? Libertarian presidential candidate stumps in Las Vegas

By Vince Keenan

Nostalgic Reagan-era Republicans may be one of Michael Badnarik's best assets--and President Bush's biggest handicaps--in tight election states like Nevada, based on some mutterings at a recent fundraiser.

"We're getting to the point in the world where we're losing our superpower status," Carl Falletta of Las Vegas lamented during the cocktails segment of a Libertarian Party dinner Sunday to fill Badnarik's presidential campaign coffers.

Falletta has been a registered Republican since the presidency of the late Ronald Reagan, a conservative who cut taxes, sliced domestic programs and backed military spending. Those days are gone, says Falletta, who is seriously considering defecting on Election Day.

He may very well vote for Badnarik, a 50-year-old computer programmer and constitutional scholar from Austin, Texas. The candidate argues that Republican Bush has grown the federal government by 7.5 percent annually, surpassing the yearly 2.5 percent increase under Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Badnarik says if he were at the helm, "the federal government would be decreasing by significant percentages." He also vows to veto bills that would infringe on people's constitutional rights. "Most of what the government does is unconstitutional and I find that unconscionable," Badnarik told about 30 supporters at Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens restaurant. "They used to be whittling them away, now they're tearing down our rights."

With 5,490 registered voters statewide, the Libertarian Party will likely need all the help it can get on Election Day. The party garnered 0.54 percent of the Nevada vote, or 3,311 votes, in the last presidential election, when Harry Browne was the nominee. Most support came from Clark County, where 1,962 votes in Browne's favor were cast, followed by Washoe County, where the total was 690, according to state election records.

In this campaign, Libertarians say they are trying to court the political outskirts of the two major parties, and it's working, they claim. "During my campaign I have had both Republicans and Democrats complaining that they are disenchanted with the status quo," Badnarik says.

Party members say liberals and conservatives alike find Libertarian stances more appealing than the largely similar planks presented by the two top contenders: Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

"Berry or Kush--whatever. I get them mixed up," quipped Jim Duensing, a Libertarian candidate running against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Badnarik, who is on the ballot in 43 states, including Nevada, and is seeking to gain access in the remainder, says voters are starved for change and the success of his campaign hinges largely on getting the word out. "Selling the Libertarian message is like selling ice water in hell," he said.

His campaign seeks to amass another $4.5 million so it would have $5 million to buy publicity and boost poll ratings. He said if voter approval hits 15 percent, that grants him a spot in the presidential debate Oct. 13 at Arizona State University. He feels confident he will achieve that goal, and thereby "change the course of American history."

"We've gone from 1 1/2 percent to 8 percent and I still got a month before the debate," said Badnarik, citing a handful of recent polls. "If we continue to get the word out, there's no reason why we can't get 15 percent."

The Libertarian platform incorporates the fiscal responsibility and regard for constitutional rights that Republicans once possessed, along with pro-civil liberties positions prized by Democrats, said Tom Hurst, a Libertarian running against Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. "I think it takes the best of both parties," said Hurst, a 46-year-old physics lecturer at UNLV.

Badnarik is talking up gun rights, as well as halting deficit spending and easing government regulation to help lower health care costs and create jobs, stances typically appealing to conservatives. But he says his ideas also appeal to liberals. For example, his platform opposes any government say in same-sex unions, in contrast to Bush and Kerry. And his noninterventionist foreign policy plank opposes the war in Iraq and any other type of unprovoked military involvement.

"There are many liberals who recognize that the war in Iraq was a mistake and it's a mistake for us to stay there," Badnarik says.

Some conservatives feel similarly. "George Bush has been a major disappointment--got us into two unnecessary wars to start with, and young men like you get knocked off all the time," says Lawrence Whyte, 63, of Las Vegas.

Although Whyte remains a registered Republican to support conservatives during primaries, he votes Libertarian in general elections, a tradition he started after Reagan's presidency. "It was a gradual process over years and years of disillusionment," he explains.

His wife, April, has abandoned the GOP altogether. She says she cringes to think of being affiliated with either major party, saying neither shows fiscal restraint. "They don't understand the word `cut,'" the 62-year-old says.

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