Montana Libertarians hit Butte for two-day convention

May 17–Montana Libertarians, including many of the 21 candidates running for office in the state this year, will gather in Butte on Friday and Saturday to discuss plans and elect delegates to the party’s national convention.

It’s the first time in Montana that Libertarians have met in person to elect national delegates, and the two-day gathering at the Copper King Hotel and Convention Center will feature speakers, dinner, and music.

Libertarians favor smaller government, lower taxes, and more personal and economic freedoms, among other things. They are the third-largest political party in the U.S. but have no congressional seats and only a handful of state legislative seats — none currently in Montana.

Francis Wendt, chairman of the Montana Libertarian Party, says that could change, especially as the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. gets wider and society becomes more polarized.

“When you look at the 2016 presidential primaries, only 30 percent of the country voted for Hillary Clinton and only 30 percent voted for Trump,” Wendt said. “That leaves a good 40-percent chunk in the middle.”

Wendt said Libertarians in Montana have stepped up to face challenges brought on by the unexpected death of longtime party chair and champion Mike Fellows of Missoula.

Fellows, 59, was killed in car crash near Potomac in September 2016. He had run for numerous offices since 1996, including Montana’sU.S. House seat, a legislative seat, and the Montana Supreme Court — none of them successful.

Fellows, who chaired the state party and was on the board of the Libertarian National Committee, once wrote on his website that “government is simply force with a little mob rule thrown in.”

This year, Rick Breckenridge is running as a Libertarian for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jon Tester, and Elinor Swanson is the party’s candidate for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat now held by Republican Greg Gianforte.

Libertarian Roger Roots is running for clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, Wendt said, and the party’s other 18 candidates are running for Montana legislative seats.

They include Wendt himself, who is a candidate in Senate District 32 in Gallatin County.

The party has existed in Montana since 1982 but has never won a seat in the Legislature, Wendt said. He hopes that will change this year.

“It takes a little bit of stubbornness,” he said.

The keynote speaker at the convention in Butte will be Laura Ebke, a Nebraska lawmaker who abandoned the Republican Party to become one of the few Libertarian state legislators in the U.S.

She switched parties in 2016, citing concerns over demands by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts for more “platform Republicans,” according to The Associated Press.

She is now running as a declared Libertarian candidate and, if she wins, will become the party’s first woman elected to a state Legislature.

This article provided by NewsEdge.