Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Libertarian Party of Chicago Vets Illinois Governor Candidates

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Candidate Bios
3. Education and the Budget
4. Drugs, Gangs, Courts, and Jobs
5. Jon Stewart
6. Kash Jackson and Matt Scaro
7. Conclusion

1. Introduction
     On the evening of Tuesday, March 7th, the Libertarian Party (L.P.) of Chicago held a gubernatorial candidates' forum and media event as part of a chapter meeting, at Will's Northwoods Inn at 3030 N. Racine Avenue. In attendance were the three candidates for the state L.P.'s nomination for governor, in the race to unseat incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner in 2018. The meeting, attended by about three dozen people, was called to order at 7:15 P.M. by Justin Tucker, chair of the L.P.'s Chicago chapter.
     Each candidate was given five minutes to make opening statements, which were followed by questions from guests and press. The first candidate to speak was retired Navy veteran Kash Jackson of Antioch, whose favorite founding fathers are Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. He was followed by two-time local candidate and professional wrestler, and current automobile dealer, Jon Stewart of Deerfield, whose favorite president is Teddy Roosevelt. Finally, the audience was addressed by entrepreneur Matthew C. Scaro of Chicago, whose favorite constitutional amendment is the First Amendment.
     Other attendees of the event included 2016 state comptroller candidate Claire Ball, and two-time congressional candidate David Earl Williams III, who towards the end of the evening announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. Williams read guests his seven-point plan to reduce gang violence in Chicago, which involved legalizing marijuana and concealed-carry, expanding school choice, giving former gang members a second chance through military and job opportunities, establishing economic freedom zones, repealing the estate tax, and abolishing civil asset forfeiture.

2. Candidate Bios

      Kash Jackson, a former Republican who is originally from rural Louisiana, told the L.P. he never imagined he would run for Governor of Illinois. He described himself as a family man who can relate to ordinary struggling people, and explained how his twenty years of service in the U.S. Navy taught him leadership skills. A fond traveler, Jackson recently trekked 3,000 miles across the country to spread awareness about family courts issues, as part of his Restoring Freedom Movement. He also told Tuesday night's audience that he circumnavigated the globe by circling the Arctic Ocean.
     Jon Stewart, a native Illinoisan who ran for the 11th District Illinois House seat and the 10th District U.S. House seat in the late 1990s, told guests that politics is about changing people's lives. He cites his experience in political campaigns, his track record of getting media attention, and his personal wealth and fundraising potential as assets that will help him build a successful campaign. Stewart said he joined the Libertarian Party in 2011; he was a Republican for at least 15 years prior to joining the L.P..
     Matthew C. Scaro (pronounced “SCAR-oh”) a traveler and self-employed entrepreneur who lives in Chicago, told the crowd that he wanted to run a principled, honest, optimistic campaign. He added that although he is not wealthy, he can relate to average citizens because he is one. His interest in finance showed when he focused on state budget reform during the event, calling it “the single largest issue facing the state”. Scaro recommended abolishing taxes on small businesses, as well as the income tax and the estate tax, also noted that he enjoys discussing the Federal Reserve and Austrian economics.

3. Education and the Budget

      The candidates addressed the need for budgetary and education reform. On education, Stewart suggested making investments in charter schools, and Scaro criticized Common Core, while Jackson focused on teachers and pensions. Neither of the candidates went so far as to endorse abolishing public schools altogether, and all three agreed that the state is in the midst of a serious budget crisis.
     Matt Scaro said when it comes to schools, we're not getting what our municipal property taxes pay for, and that he'll work with Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Emanuel to fix education. Kash Jackson said the best way forward on schools is to have an open, honest dialogue with voters and teachers, saying that “good teachers” won't let our property taxes go “through the roof”. Jackson also explained that there are over 9,000 state administrators who receive pensions on top of six-figure salaries.
     Jon Stewart expressed desire to end the state Democratic Party's control of the state legislature, and resolve and reforming teachers' pensions, saying he plans on meeting with a teachers' union representative soon to discuss the issue. Stewart drew attention to recent increases in the cost of attending private schools, and even more significant increases in costs of attending private schools.
On budgetary issues, Kash Jackson said we need to hold our elected officials accountable, mentioning Governor Rauner's office in particular. He said the working people of Illinois are ready for budget reform, and that voters and candidates need “third- and fourth-party” solutions.
     Matt Scaro said he'd propose a balanced budget, and demand information on every single line-item on it. He also said budgets aren't partisan or political; they should simply balance, and balance now. He added that reducing debt is essential, and called the pension system a liability. Scaro also said reducing debt rather than increasing it is essential. Scaro noted that the stake is not bankrupt, but it is insolvent.
Jon Stewart said neither one of the two major parties has a solution to Illinois's $13 billion in unpaid bills and $139 billion in unfunded pension obligations. Stewart emphasized that his fundraising potential puts him in a unique position to go to Springfield without buckling to special interests, nor to the orders of party leaders.

4. Drugs, Gangs, Courts, and Jobs

     All three candidates addressed drugs, gang-related crime, judicial corruption, family law reform, and jobs as an integrated issue. Each candidate stressed the importance of decriminalizing drugs, while reforming family courts to keep families together. The goal is to build more cohesive communities that will become safe enough to begin attracting jobs, increasing economic prosperity for residents. But there's no way that can happen until we stop enforcing prohibition of guns and drugs, and shift the focus of law enforcement onto apprehending people suspected of committing violent crimes like murder, rape, and theft (and we all know what theft is another word for).
     Each candidate advocated legalizing marijuana to bring revenue and tourism into the state. Stewart seemed the most enthusiastic about the idea, advocating “full, utter, and complete legalization”. He added that cannabis should be sold in gift shops and casinos throughout the state, including downtown Chicago. Stewart was the only one of the three candidates who went as far as to specifically recommend taxing marijuana sales, although Scaro and Jackson hinted at it when they mentioned the revenue that it would bring in.
     Kash Jackson described being in Seattle when Washington State legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and said pot smokers are “no threat to anyone”. Observing the effects of Washington's and Colorado's legalization, Jackson commented that ending arrests and prosecutions of cannabis users and other non-violent offenders would save taxpayers millions of dollars.
     Jon Stewart described the drug epidemic as an issue close to his heart, noting that his family-owned car dealership hires recovering drug addicts and homeless people. He also said that lack of jobs increases drug use, and suggested after-school and community programs for at-risk youth as solutions. Stewart also said the National Guard should be called in to do something about the “holocaust” that's happening on the West Side of Chicago.
     Expressing a desire to “eliminate red tape” on the issue of marijuana, Matt Scaro advocated full legalization of the plant in Illinois. He added that the fact that drugs are illegal is what allows the black-market drug trade to flourish, and said drug policy should focus on giving people entrepreneurial opportunities instead of encaging people who haven't harmed anyone.
     Additionally, each candidate explained, in his own way, how the drug and gang problems facing our communities are the result of too many households lacking fathers. Scaro noted that the social safety net incentivizes single-parent homes, while Stewart said bringing in jobs could help solve the problem. Kash Jackson, who has made family courts reform one of the central issues of his campaign, noted that state Social Security taxes give an incentive for judges to take custody of children, separating kids from parents.
     The candidates also weighed in on judicial corruption. Jackson said the public entrusts judges with the responsibility to uphold the laws that maintain our society. He described judges who break the law as traitors and felons, and recommended hard labor in jail for public servants who take advantage of judicial immunity to routinely violate our rights. Jackson additionally criticized state concealed-carry regulations.
     Stewart and Scaro both said they would incarcerate judges who break the law; with Scaro recommending addressing the root cause of the problem. Jon Stewart said our family court system is broken, we need to hold judges accountable, and nobody is above the law. Stewart said he supported a measure that would make minute-by-minute information about judges' meetings available on the internet for public viewing.

5. Jon Stewart

     Each candidate was asked to weigh-in on what their candidacy for the Illinois Libertarian Party's gubernatorial nomination brings to the table. Jon Stewart listed name recognition as an asset. “The Illustrious Jonnie Stewart”, as he was known during his professional wrestling days, was once invited to speak at a charter school in Utah because organizers thought he was the eponymous comedian and former host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
     Stewart also said attracting media attention is the only chance the party has to “break through”, and noted that he has experience doing that, having appeared on radio and in print media. Stewart has also appeared on M.S.N.B.C., as well as FOX News's The o'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes. He plans to play up the “former pro wrestler angle”, which he says will resonate with the media.
     Stewart said that knowing automobile dealers will give him a fundraising advantage, and reiterated that this will insulate him from pressure from partyarchs and rent-seeking cronies. Stewart backed Donald Trump over Gary Johnson in 2016, saying that ordinary voters admire Trump's ability to resist special interests by self-funding. Stewart says he admires that about Trump too, saying that he thought Rauner was like Trump in that respect, but he's running for governor because Bruce Rauner disappointed him.
     During questions from the audience, Stewart addressed suggestions that he has never voted for a Libertarian Party candidate. He did not name names, but he did say he couldn't support the former New Mexico governor's presidential bid because he “couldn't support a guy who didn't know about the holocaust in Aleppo”. Stewart was referring to a fall 2016 installment of M.S.N.B.C.'s Morning Joe, in which Johnson asked “and what is Aleppo?” in response to a question about what to do about I.S.I.S. in the northwest Syrian city.
     To the surprise of attendees, Stewart also alleged that Gary Johnson “intimated oral sex on-camera”. Stewart was probably talking about a television appearance in which Johnson made a joke about “biting his tongue”. While being filmed talking to a female M.S.N.B.C. reporter Gary Johnson stuck his tongue out, bit down on it, and said (while still biting his tongue) that he could win a debate with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, even if he bit his tongue throughout the entire debate. The L.P.'s presidential nominee made no mention of sex during the interview whatsoever.
     During the Chicago L.P.'s event, Stewart called Bruce Rauner and Mark Kirk “friends” of his. In the interest of full disclosure, the L.P.'s vice-presidential nominee, Bill Weld, praised Kirk last year. That issue aside, hiring Kellyanne Conway to advise one of his campaigns in the late 1990s, and then supporting Trump over Johnson in 2016 as a five-year L.P. member, will not help him ingratiate himself to never-Trump Libertarians. Stewart's criticism of the L.P.'s nominee and his support of G.O.P. leaders might serve as baggage that could make it difficult for him to win the support of state L.P. delegates dissatisfied with Republicans.
     Although Mr. Stewart may have charisma and money on his side, his media accomplishments are somewhat dated, and party members might need some reassurance from Stewart on immigration policy and a few other issues that set Trump and Libertarians apart.

6. Kash Jackson and Matt Scaro

     As Matt Scaro noted, he doesn't have money on his side. However, he plans to draw on his experience running a door-to-door business, which he said equipped him to “get people out there” to “send messages”. It's worthwhile to note that Scaro is the only one of the three candidates who did not mention having a past Republican streak, although he didn't comment on his past political affiliations during the event. Scaro says breaking the 5% threshold in the gubernatorial election (which would prompt public funding of the L.P.) would be “the icing on the cake”, because he's “in it to win it” with a plurality of the vote.
     If Mr. Scaro is as ready to serve the people of Illinois as he says he is, then he should be able to retain his enthusiasm after weaning himself off of his sometimes noticeable reliance on written notes. If he can do that, and show that he's just as knowledgeable as Jon Stewart on the budget numbers (or more), then Scaro should be able to convince the party that he'll be worth the effort on fundraising.
     Libertarians believe that we're born free, and that our liberties are inherent in us. Things we can do without harming others are natural rights; rights that come from our humanity, or from “nature and nature's god”. This means Libertarians will want to hear a candidate say freedom of speech is the natural result of being born human, that government cannot and must not take it away from us, and that the inclusion of speech in the Bill of Rights in no way authorizes the federal government to legislate upon it.
     Kash Jackson arguably defended natural rights better than Matt Scaro did. In praising the First Amendment, Scaro said government “allows us” to have freedom of speech. It's difficult to tell, solely from this statement, exactly what Scaro's thoughts on natural rights are, but it couldn't hurt Scaro to explain to the L.P. where he thinks rights come from, and what he thinks about the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
     Kash Jackson, on the other hand, told the L.P. that public roads can interfere with natural freedoms. The comment seemed a little bit off-topic when Jackson said it, but as the public realizes that the newly adopted Safe Roads Amendment secures road construction contracts for years into the future, Jackson's transportation concerns will be proven valid, and Libertarians' oft-lampooned “hatred of roads” will slowly prove to be much more than just crazy talk. Additionally, although funding concerns surround Scaro, there do not appear to be such concerns about Kash Jackson's campaign.
     On social issues, Jackson said “I don't oppose” same-sex marriage, and said government should get out of marriage; this is a position most Libertarians can get behind. However, the fact that the party is split on the issue of abortion (perhaps 50-50, or two pro-choice members per pro-life member), a pro-life candidate might be something a liability. On the other hand, Jackson only briefly mentioned abortion, and no other candidate addressed the issue, so it wouldn't be appropriate to speculate on what Jackson meant when he described himself as “pro-life”. Of course, talking to the party about his views on the specifics of abortion policy would help the L.P. figure out whether Jackson equally values the right to life and the freedom to choose.
     On Tuesday night, Kash Jackson managed to allay fears that he is over-reliant, or perhaps even somewhat bitter about his own experiences, on his central issue of family courts reform. During a question about the heroin epidemic, he pivoted to the issue family courts unexpectedly, but he saved grace by explaining that kids whose families have been broken apart by courts are more likely to try drugs. Matt Scaro's and Jon Stewart's comments on those topics neither disputed nor detracted from Jackson's points; they only reinforced them.
     If Mr. Jackson - a veteran who traveled from coast-to-coast to talk to Americans about family courts reform, and stopped at Standing Rock on the way - could possibly make it any clearer that he's dedicated to the issue for everyone's sake and not just his own (and it's tough to say whether he can), then he'll get the support he needs. That is, as long as he continues to provide logistical assistance to local L.P. chapters, and puts a little effort into improving his ability to think on his feet, and into making sure he gets as much time to speak as the other candidates.

7. Conclusion

     All in all, we have three fine candidates, each with his own set of ideas, strategies, strengths, and weaknesses, and each of them a believer in entrepreneurial values. Two are self-employed, two are fathers, and two are former Republicans. And for the most part, not only are Stewart, Jackson, and Scaro the relatable, ordinary people they say they are; they are also the kind of receptive candidates we need to build public trust in the party.
     As long as Stewart delivers on his promise to “continue the friendship with my opponents”, and Scaro delivers on his similar promise to earn confidence without resorting to mudslinging, then the 2018 Illinois governor's race will be an amicable discussion of policy and strategy, rather than one mired in the controversial partisan politics which have regrettably spread from Chicago to the rest of the nation over the last fifty years.
     Even if we believe the election results show that pragmatism helped the Libertarian Party in 2016, we have no need to risk putting pragmatism over principle at a time when the L.P. is the fastest-growing political party in the nation. Choosing a candidate who supports the right principles and proposals would make for easy phone-banking, and turn fundraising into its own reward. After all, our pragmatic presidential ticket in 2016 may have broken party records with 3.25% of the popular vote, but we don't know whether Johnson and Weld got 3% because of their apparent pragmatism or in spite of it.
     The Libertarian Party is determined to choose the candidate who strikes a balance that optimizes viability and firm grounding in libertarian principles. If this race can be about ideas that save people's lives, not controversy and inanity, then Illinois Libertarian Party members can make an informed, educated, focused decision about who will be their nominee in the race for the governor's seat, and we can send someone to Springfield who will shake-up politics-as-usual. Only then will Illinoisans have a chance at seeing liberty in our lifetimes.

For More Information, Please See the Following Links:

Video from the Livestream of the Event

Libertarian Party of Chicago's Announcement of the Event

Information About Jon “Jonnie” Alan Stewart

Information About Matthew C. Scaro

Information About Grayson “Kash” Jackson

Written on March 7th and 8th, 2017
Edited March 8th to add details about the candidates' names

1 comment:

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