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RDR talks to Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Chris Powell

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Chris Powell, a Libertarian, is running for governor of Oklahoma.
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EDMOND, Okla. -- With less than two months to go until Oklahoma’s gubernatorial election, the spotlight is mostly set on Republican candidate Kevin Stitt and Democrat Drew Edmondson.

Some Oklahomans may be skeptical of voting this cycle because neither of the candidates really espouse what they believe in or think they will really turn things around for Oklahoma.

After 8 years of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin in office, one could fully understand the lack of hope that the people of Oklahoma have in their choices.

If you are one of those people, there is hope. A third option is being overlooked, as evidenced by his exclusion by The Oklahoman from their upcoming gubernatorial debate. That candidate is Libertarian Party nominee Chris Powell.

This is the first time in our state’s history that the Libertarian Party will have a candidate in Oklahoma’s largest statewide race.

Chris is a former 911 dispatcher that is now working for the Oklahoma City Police Department in their Evidence Management Unit. He is also a veteran of the Gulf War, having served from 1989 to 1995 in the Marine Corps.

We talked to Chris recently about why he is running for Governor, discussed the importance of political labels, the proper role of government, tax reform, education, subsidy programs, and his plans for a new direction for Oklahoma.

Why run for Governor? Isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing?

I’ve previously been a candidate for state legislature, city council, and county office.  Now I’m running for statewide executive office.  After this I just need to try for Congress and then school board and then I can quit. 

Why run as a Libertarian as opposed to running as a Republican, Democrat or even an Independent?

My goal is to promote individual liberty.  None of those other labels stand for what I believe in, and the label matters in the long term.  Something that we see with Independents is that they can sometimes have success (the same is true with alternative parties that have a meaningless label, like ‘Reform’ or ‘American’) but whatever they might accomplish lives and dies with them. 

It’s not seen as clearly with individuals inside the two establishment parties, but the same thing applies.  A libertarian Republican (or neo-con, or progressive or whatever) may move policy their way while in office, but once they are gone then their impact goes with them. 

The cause of liberty is antithetical to the establishment parties, organizations that exist solely to increase their own power and influence.  A libertarian may win a battle here and there as a member of one of those other parties, but the war will always be lost.  In the long run we either build a party that can effectively promote liberty and stay true to the cause, or we inevitably face statism and ruin.

A commonly held libertarian position is regarding the non-aggression principle.  What is your understanding of this principle and what is your opinion on it?

The non-aggression principle is encapsulated in what most of us learned on the playground, to not be the one to start a fight.  Implicit in that childhood rule is the understanding that it’s the first physical act, and if someone else starts then responding in kind, defending one’s self, is perfectly fair and just.  Teachers never think that's so, but only because they have neither time nor energy to hold court and determine the facts.  It remains true that the person who starts the aggression is in the wrong, regardless of all else.  Unfortunately, in today's modern world it is exceedingly difficult to live without aggressing in some manner, unwittingly or unwillingly. 

Our goal as libertarians is to move human culture towards making it possible to live without aggressing against others, then to make it popular to do so, then to make it universal.  Three easy steps, we should be done by the end of next week.

What do you feel is the proper role of the state government and the proper role of the Governor?

Government’s role ought to be to protect the rights of the governed. 

The Governor’s role is to both be the chief executive of state government and to work for the interests of all the people of the state by serving as an arbiter between competing persons and factions within the Legislature as well as within all state agencies.

If you were to get elected as Governor, what would be your first act? Briefly explain what the first day of your administration would look like.

In my view it would be important to set the tone by getting my hands dirty, metaphorically speaking. I’d immediately begin touring offices of state agencies and talking to lower-level employees about what they do and what they think could make their agencies run better, and this would be done without prior announcement of where I would go, removing the opportunity to build Potemkin villages in my honor.  We’ve had a Governor who has been asleep at the switch for eight years. It’s time for someone who is willing to get to the bottom of things to get in there and do so.

Do you support any sort of tax reform in Oklahoma? Is so, what would you suggest?

In the present climate I do not think it possible to achieve tax reductions, but it may be possible to create greater tax equality.  There has been much discussion of the Gross Production Tax. 

With HB1010XX it became more equitable, but it remains the case that there is a tax advantage for new wells versus existing wells.  A company should not drill a well, or erect a wind turbine, or build a solar array or dig a coal mine, because of tax favoritism.  These things should be done because they make economic sense, or not at all.  I am very interested seeking a taxation policy for all forms of energy production that is equitable across the board, as well as eliminating any other special interest tax breaks that can be removed.

What is your position regarding the war on drugs?

Drug prohibition is a failed policy that should be ended.  In today’s political climate it will be a necessity to treat addiction as a public health problem, but as we move away from criminalization of intoxicants we will find that legal substances will be far less problematic for a variety of reasons and, like alcoholics, gambling addicts, and others, the problems of individuals who are hooked on something legal pale in comparison to those who must deal with black markets and the threat of incarceration.

Do you support the right of an individual to cultivate, distribute, and/or use marijuana and/or other narcotics for whatever purpose they desire? 

I agree with Larry Sharpe (Libertarian candidate for Governor of New York) that marijuana ought to be regulated about as much as onions are.

What would you do, if anything, to address the government subsidy programs in Oklahoma?

Entitlement programs are killing the federal budget, but states have a limited amount of control over them.  We can do some things to root out waste and fraud, but that will have a limited effect. The biggest thing we can do, in my opinion, is refrain from throwing up roadblocks when people who are receiving entitlements try to better themselves. 

In the short term perhaps, a few dollars are saved when a person receiving disability has their benefit cut because they got a part-time job, but in the long-term people are incentivized to never try to better their situation.  When we trap people into never getting off welfare programs, we harm them, and we harm ourselves. 

To the extent that we can redesign some of these programs so that they don’t kick back down anyone who moves towards standing on their own two feet, we need to do so.

What type of changes, if any, would you propose to reform the education system in Oklahoma? 

In regard to education I am for increasing local control to the greatest extent possible. 

Restructuring funding so that more of it is local and less is dependent upon appropriation from the Legislature will be a benefit. Eliminating Tax Increment Finance districts would be a big step in the right direction.  Getting rid of the provisions of HB1017 that put testing and curriculum at the state level would mean empowering local districts to put education plans in place that are tailored specifically for their students and it would put decision-making within reach of parents and teachers.  We make teachers get a great deal of education, then put them in a classroom with strings attached to everything they do.  Either stop requiring all of that specialized training or let them teach.  I’m for the latter.

What is your position on asset forfeiture laws?

Civil asset forfeiture in the absence of a conviction should be ended.

What are the 3 biggest problems in Oklahoma and what is your plan to tackle those problems (if these problems have not already been addressed above)?

Education has been addressed. 

Criminal justice reform is a must, as we have the highest incarceration rate in the nation.  SQ 780 should be made retroactive, drug courts and other diversion programs and alternatives to prison need to be properly funded and expanded, and sentencing reform is a must. 

The state budget is a fiasco.  We have nearly half a billion dollars in programs that are openly identified as incentives, but we can’t fund core services. And we have state agencies that can simply misplace millions of dollars.  We must aggressively attack corporate welfare and we must have a Governor that will not wait until the money is missing before taking an interest in how state agencies are operating.

Why should the people of Oklahoma vote for you over your opponents Kevin Stitt and Drew Edmondson?

Drew Edmondson is a career politician, is calling for tax hikes for a bloated and mismanaged state government, and as Attorney General for 16 years he presided over the creation of our mass incarceration crisis. 

Kevin Stitt is a multi-millionaire CEO who never even bothered to vote in a gubernatorial primary until he was a candidate in one.  Mr. Stitt is every bit as much out of touch with the lives of regular Oklahomans as Mr. Edmondson is, and he lacks understanding of how state government operates, believing that he can operate like a CEO, giving orders to subordinates and painting rosy pictures for the media.  Mr. Edmondson knows entirely too well how to operate the levers of power, whereas Mr. Stitt can’t even find the control panel. 

I joined the Libertarian Party in 2000 and since that time have served as state chair and as in other capacities as a party official.  I’ve been on a ballot six times, never receiving less than a double-digit percentage (most Libertarian candidates never get out of single digits).  In 2016 my 89,000 votes in Oklahoma County beat LP presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s statewide total.  I’ve requested legislation that has been passed into law.  I’ve been a party in a lawsuit that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.  And I’ve been published on the editorial page of the state’s largest newspaper.  I’ve got a pretty good idea how the sausage factory operates. 

Unlike Mr. Stitt, I’ll be ready to go as Governor from day one, but unlike Mr. Edmondson I am in the political world but not of it.  And of course, I am not a member of either of the two establishment parties who have created the mess we have now, and unlike my opponents I am committed to empowering people over politics. 

I represent what we desperately need; a new direction for Oklahoma.

Chris Powell has been endorsed by the following individuals:

Norma Sapp – Director, Oklahoma NORML

Frank Grove – President, Drug Reform Network of Oklahoma

Tim Gillespie – Founder, OK2A

Ken Young – Chair, Oklahoma Cosmetology Board

Former Chairs of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party: Tina Kelly, Tom Laurent, Robert Murphy,

Steve Galpin, Frank Robinson, Jimmy Cook, and Angela O’Dell.

You can learn more about Chris Powell and his campaign for Governor at his website:

http://www.powellforgovernor.com/

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About the Author

Steve Long
Steve Long is a freelance writer that moved to Oklahoma from Seattle, Washington in 2010. He...
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