Over the weekend I received a phone call from a friend in Texas suggesting I look into Libertarian Congressional candidate Bob Smither. Smither is running for District 22 in the southern Houston area. Thanks to Tom DeLay’s fortuitous resignation, there is no Republican on the ballot. Democrat Nick Lampson, Smither, and a GOP write-in campaign are the only choices that voters will be faced with on election day. Is this the big break the Libertarian Party needs to win a seat in Congress?
The LP’s prospects for winning a major political race are usually dimmed by two factors:
1. Races are either heavily dominated by one of the major parties or the races are competitive. In either case, getting enough voters to defect to a third party is extremely unlikely.
2. LP candidates are often dogmatists and crackpots who, even if a realistic opportunity presented itself, lack leadership potential.
There is no Republican on the ballot and the write-in campaign will likely be divided among several candidates and garner little support. I don’t know what Lampson’s chances are in District 22, but the area is traditionally Republican. This leaves the door open for Smither if he can run a credible campaign.
Fortunately, everything I’ve heard about Smither puts him firmly in the reasonable Libertarian camp. He has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Houston and taught there as an adjunct professor for fourteen years. He incorporated his own business and now works as an independent consultant. He also has considerable name recognition in the area because his young daughter Laura was tragically abducted and murdered there in 1997. In response, his family set up the Laura Recovery Center, a non-profit organization that fosters cooperation between law enforcement and the community in preventing abductions and finding lost children. My friend, a Republican who leans strongly libertarian, spoke with Smither and was left with a very favorable impression of the man. He has a WordPress weblog.
Smither has promised to vote for a Republican leadership in the House, but his libertarian credentials are solid. This is his take on the War on Drugs:
We don’t need to “fix” the insane and inhumane federal war on drugs, we need to admit defeat and kill it. The drug war causes our neighborhoods and our borders to be overrun with thugs that profit from the artificially high costs of illicit drugs, encourages us to meddle in the affairs of other countries, corrupts our police and courts, imprisons honest Americans that simply want relief from pain, and costs the country some $50,000,000,000 (50 Billion dollars) a year.
The federal war on drugs crowds our jails with citizens who have harmed no one but themselves, causing us to release violent offenders to prey again on us and on our children.
We need to let the citizens of each state decide what to do about this problem without the interference of out-of-control federal prosecuters. Leaving it to the states has some advantages. First, this is a Constitutional approach to the problem, and second, we will all benefit from the 50 experiments that citizens in our 50 states will develop. I know that the American people can find a solution to this problem, and I will bet that when we do, it will look nothing like the current federal war on drugs.
On foreign policy:
Our government now routinely interferes in the affairs of other countries, from bribing them to do our bidding in the federal drug war to invading those countries that have governments we disagree with, or whose resources we covet. I am ashamed of these actions of my government, taken in my name.
I believe it is time to replace all federal taxation with a single, broad based, retail sales tax on all new goods and services.
Such a tax, known as the Fair Tax, would reduce the costs of our goods, making them more competitive in the world market. The Fair Tax would bring jobs back to our country, abolish the IRS, and proposes to repeal the 16th amendment so that income taxes cannot be collected.
With the Fair Tax, for the first time in our history the less fortunate among us, living at or below the poverty level, would not be taxed.
Perhaps the best effect of the Fair Tax will be to make April 15th just another spring day! Just imagine.
On school choice:
Each family has clear ideas about what it thinks is important in the education of their children, but the one size fits all structure of government schools simply cannot accommodate every family’s choices… Rich as we are as a nation, we all operate with limited resources. When the government schools take a huge bite out of our family budgets, we are no longer able to support a free market in education. We are all poorer for the choices that we are missing.
FEMA spearheaded what amounted to a full frontal attack on American volunteerism and community spirit. Government agents, acting under FEMA’s direction, systematically hampered, slowed, and outright blocked private efforts to help those hurt by the storm.
On the Constitution:
I have seen my country fundamentally change over my lifetime. The problems that we face today include out of control federal spending, loss of our rights in the name of national security, a shameful, wasteful federal tax system that no one can comprehend, and others. Many of our problems as a nation are caused by the central government ignoring the wisdom and the bounds of our Constitution.
The Constitution delegates few powers to the central government. The Founders wisely restricted the central government from many areas of our lives, knowing that needed services would be provided by the free market, or by local and state governments. They realized that the essence of government is force, and that by keeping the exercise of that force closer to the people that it affected that it could be better controlled.
If you are tired of voting for smaller government, only to see the size and scope of the central government continue to grow outside of its Constitutional limits, vote for someone with Constitutional Integrity. Vote Smither for Congress!
On the proper role of government:
The proper role of government in a civil society is limited to protecting the rights of citizens, such as the right to own private property, the right to keep what you work for, the right to express your opinion, and the right to raise your family as you wish.
Prosperity and human dignity can only develop in a society where individuals and groups are free to work together voluntarily. This is the society that libertarians are working to create.
This sounds like a rare and exciting opportunity for libertarians to get a reasonable spokesman on the floor of the House, someone to keep Ron Paul company on his solitary nay votes. Smither hasn’t received much publicity yet so it’s too early to tell what his prospects are, but chances like this don’t come around often. His campaign is worth checking out and publicizing, especially in the Houston area. His campaign site is here, his weblog here. Donate here. For additional campaign analysis, consider this post by a Houston GOP consultant arguing that Smither is the most viable choice for Republicans to get behind in District 22.
Anyone have further information on the race or Bob Smither? Let me know.
[Update 5/17/06: Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr has endorsed [.pdf] Smither:
“With the departure of Tom DeLay, it is important to do everything we can to ensure the 22d District continues to be represented by a conservative. Bob Smither is that conservative. Bob is a genuine fiscal conservative with a firm desire to see a return to constitutionally-limited government as intended by our Founding Fathers. Write-in campaigns rarely succeed, and that is also why I ask that you join me in supporting Bob Smither as the only candidate who can defeat the liberal Nick Lampson.”]