Oklahoma Libertarian Party
|Oklahoma Libertarian Party|
- 1 Oklahoma Caucus
- 2 Primaries
- 3 Lawsuits
- 4 Tattooing
- 5 Tobacco Tax
- 6 Ballot Access
- 7 Officeholders
- 8 Past Officials and Staff
- 9 Elections
- 10 Size and Influence
- 11 External Links
- 12 References
The opening session of the 1973 Libertarian National Convention was a discussion of how to use issues to generate public support. Stephen Browne, fresh off of getting 21% of the vote running for city council in Norman, OK, experienced some frustration with the audience's lack of interest in the nuts and bolts of retail campaigning. During the proceedings Browne, Tom and Mary Laurent and others of the Oklahoma delegation announced that they were going to go caucus, a phrase which in reality meant they were going to go to a second location and smoke marijuana. This rapidly became known as the Oklahoma Caucus which then evolved into a regular, if informal, event at national conventions where various esteemed Libertarians of the Sooner State would lead discussion of LP history and issues with all who cared to attend. The Oklahoma Caucus was last held as recently as 2002, hosted that year by Robert Murphy.
The OKLP has been very active in seeking to use the state's primary system to draw attention to the party. When achieving ballot access for the first time in 1980, the party had primaries for the 5th Congressional District, won by Jim Rushing over Frank Robinson, and for Tulsa County Clerk. Oklahoma had a closed primary system until 1987 when a semi-closed system was adopted, allowing parties to include registered Independents if they so chose. Agnes Regier defeated Mike Clem in 1996 for the U.S. Senate nomination with well over two-thirds of the votes coming from Independents. In 2000 three Libertarians faced each other for the nomination for Corporation Commission, with Whitney Boutin and Roger Bloxham advancing to a runoff. However, Boutin withdrew in order to allow Bloxham to become the nominee, a move that saved the state over $200,000 and generated positive press attention. When the OKLP again achieved ballot access in 2016 Dax Ewbanks and Robert Murphy faced off for the U.S. Senate nomination. Murphy went so far as to endorse Ewbanks, but both Independent and Libertarian voters were largely unfamiliar with the two candidates and Murphy won with 59%.
The party was on the ballot for a gubernatorial election for the first time in 2018. Three candidates sought the gubernatorial nomination in what appears to be the first genuinely contested primary for the OKLP. No candidate received a majority in the primary on June 26th, putting Chris Powell and Rex Lawhorn in a runoff that Powell won on August 28th. This appears to have been the first Libertarian Party runoff primary in the nation.
Arutunoff v. Oklahoma State Election Board
The OKLP challenged revocation of their official recognition, and ability to run candidates under the party label, by the state after the 1980 elections. State law required a party's presidential candidate to receive at least 10% of the vote to maintain ballot access. The 10th Circuit upheld the ruling against the OKLP.
With just 90 days to gather over 44 thousand signatures and hampered by both bad weather and harassment over petitioning at public buildings, the OKLP went to court to try to gain ballot access for the 1984 elections. The party won by default when the Attorney General's office missed a deadline to file a response during the proceedings and was allowed to nominate candidates by convention. After obtaining ballot status, the party also unsuccessfully challenged state law that guaranteed the top line on the ballot to the Democrats. The ballot order law would be overturned ten years later in response to legal action by Republicans, resulting in the current system of determining ballot order by lottery.
Two petitioners were arrested and a third ticketed while gathering signatures at the State Fairgrounds. Ballot drive chairman D. Frank Robinson challenged the legality of the arrests, resulting in a ruling from Judge David Russell upholding the right to petition on public property.
Rainbow Coalition v. Oklahoma State Election Board
The Rainbow Coalition, OKLP, and the Populist Party sought to overturn the state's onerous ballot access law, challenging both the petitioning deadline and the signature requirement. The 10th Circuit upheld Judge Stephanie Seymour's decision against the plaintiffs that upheld the ballot access law. No state has had fewer presidential candidates on the November ballot in any election since that ruling in 1988. Interestingly, Seymour had written a dissenting opinion in Arutunoff v. Oklahoma State Election Board, citing the difficult signature requirement for a party to obtain ballot access. Another aspect of the case was that Seymour ruled against requiring the state to allow voters to continue to register affiliation with previously recognized parties, the opposite of her ruling in the Colorado case Baer v. Meyer, citing the fact that Oklahoma, unlike Colorado, did not have it's voter database computerized.
Atherton v. Ward
After the OKLP lost official recognition following the 1996 election the state election board changed the affiliation of all registered Libertarian voters to Independent. During the time since the ruling in Rainbow Coalition v. Oklahoma State Election Board the state's voter rolls had been completely computerized. Oklahoma Libertarians sought to be able to continue to be registered with their party of choice. Judge Wayne Alley ruled in favor of the party. The resulting process was that once a party fails to retain ballot access all those registered with the party are changed to Independent but any voter would be allowed to register with the previously recognized party for up to four years after they lost official status. In 2003 Ed Henke sought to be a candidate in a special election for state Senate but was prohibited from filing because of his Libertarian registration.
Clingman v. Beaver
Oklahoma has a semi-closed primary system in which a political party may choose either to allow only voters registered as affiliated with the party to participate or to also allow Independents as well. The OKLP wanted the ability to more fully exercise their freedom of association by allowing voters registered with any other party to also participate in their primaries. The party won on appeal but the case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court where the decision of the 10th Circuit was overturned.
Yes on Term Limits v. Savage
Former Libertarian Party national director Paul Jacob worked with Oklahomans in Action to gather signatures on an initiative to put a Taxpayer Bill of Rights measure on the ballot for a statewide vote. In 2007 Jacob and two others were indicted for out-of-state petitioners. A conviction would have carried a maximum fine of $25,000, and the maximum jail sentence of ten years in prison. The state statute criminalizing the hiring of out-of-state petitioners was overturned by the 10th Circuit followed by a denial of Attorney General Drew Edmondson's request for an en banc rehearing at which point the charges were dropped as the statute was unenforceable.
Oklahoma Libertarian Party v. Ziriax
After gathering over 57 thousand signatures to meet the requirement of 51,739 to obtain ballot access for the 2012 elections, the OKLP sought a preliminary injunction due to a the deadline to submit the petition being moved up to March 1st from May 1st. Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti denied the injunction, resulting in the OKLP not being able to place candidates on the ballot in 2012. The March 1st petition deadline for political parties remains in place.
Lawhorn v. Ziriax
The only alternative party to have ballot access for the 2012 United States presidential election in Oklahoma was the Americans Elect party which was not fielding a candidate. Leadership of the state party organization for Americans Elect, including chair Rex Lawhorn, sought to have Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson placed on the Oklahoma ballot as the Americans Elect candidate. The national party organization opposed the effort and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against Lawhorn. This resulted in Oklahoma voters being allowed only two choices for President for the third election in a row.
McCraw v. Oklahoma City
The OKLP joined several other individuals and organizations in challenging an ordinance enacted by the City of Oklahoma City to restrict panhandling. OKLP Vice-chair Tina Kelly was involved in the case as it pertained to restricting the ability to engage in political petitioning. The city amended the ordinance to focus on pedestrian safety. In December, 2018, Judge Joe Heaton upheld the ordinance but the plaintiffs promised to appeal.
Oklahoma remains the only state in the Union which has a ban on tattooing. In the recent years, the OKLP have been major proponents of the various bills in the house and senate which would decriminalize tattooing; however, an ultra-conservative legislature have always struck the bills down. In 2004, the Oklahoma Senate passed SB 806 30-15 which would decriminalize tattooing; however, the sister HB 1519 foundered in the house due to the Republican leader not allowing it to be heard. The OKLP continues to push for the full legalization of tattooing. Opponents claim that by legalizing tattooing, it will spread diseases such as HIV which causes AIDS; however, the OKLP asserts the libertarian ideal of bringing tattooing into the free market. By bringing it into the free market, just like illegal drugs, reputable businesses will compete to provide a low-cost, healthy, and secure product and service. The law was changed by the state legislature but is extremely restrictive and has been issued legal challenges by tattoo artists.
The OKLP vehemently oppose the state's recent trend of intruding on the individual's right to smoke tobacco. The OKLP protested, lobbied, and got the message out about the crippling effects of an increased tax on tobacco; however, the 49th Legislature ratified HB 2660 which dramatically hiked the tax up on tobacco products.
The largest hurdle for the OKLP is access to the ballot. Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, who is the nation's foremost expert on 3rd party politics agrees that Oklahoma has the strictest laws in the nation with regard to access to the ballot for 3rd parties. Oklahoma' Democrat and Republican parties essentially have a state run monopoly. The state is decided evenly along partisan districts and the two parties rarely offer each other any competition in the elections. In 2006 more than half of the Oklahoma State House seats went unchallenged.
In 2004 there were only two choices for President in Oklahoma, Senator John Kerry or President George W. Bush. In the same year Afghanistan had 18!! Not only is Oklahoma the hardest state to get on the ballot in America, but in countries that most people would think would be much more restrictive. The last election in Iraq, they fielded over 350 Presidential candidates! America is spreading Democracy around the world while forgetting to protect Democracy at home.
In 2004 the LP of OK filed a lawsuit, claiming the ballot access laws were unconstitutional. The lawsuit was appealed to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, who refused to hear their case in February of 2007.
Paul Jacob faced charges related to ballot access efforts in Oklahoma. The events surrounding this were chronicled at freepauljacob.com.
In 2014 legislation lowered the signature requirement for new parties to get on the ballot from 5% of the number of votes cast for president or governor in the previous general election to 3%. This made it easier for the OKLP to regain ballot access in 2016. In 2016 legislation reduced the vote percentage necessary to retain ballot access from 10% down to 2.5%. Gary Johnson's 5.7% result in the state marked the first time the OKLP has been able to stay on the ballot and the first time for any alternative party to do so in twenty years. E. Zachary Knight, OKLP 5th district congressional candidate in 2016, and Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform are to be credited for pushing these legislative changes.
David Greer accepted an appointment to the Dougherty City Council in 2018, becoming the first Libertarian in Oklahoma to hold elective office. On April 2nd, 2019, Chad Williams was elected to Choctaw City Council and Josh Clark was elected to Dale School Board, becoming the first Libertarians in Oklahoma to win an election to public office. Chris Powell won a special election on Nov. 12, 2019, for a seat on the Bethany City Council.
- David Greer Dougherty City Council 2018-2020
- Chad Williams Choctaw City Council 2019-2023
- Josh Clark Dale School Board 2019-2023
- Chris Powell Bethany City Council 2019-2021
Past Officials and Staff
- D. Frank Robinson (founding chair)
- Tom Laurent (1973)
- Porter Davis (1976)
- Loren L. Baker (1978)
- Fred Bross (1980)
- Lynn Crussell (1981)
- Gordon Mobley (1984)
- Fred Litzaw (1987)
- Charles A. Burris (1986-1988)
- Matt Sweet (c 1994)
- Mike Todd (c 1995)
- Mike Clem (1998)
- Robert Murphy
- Richard Prawdzienski (2001-2003)
- Chris Powell (2003-2005)
- Steve Galpin (2005-2007)
- Jimmy Cook (2007-2009)
- Clark Duffe
- Angelia O'Dell (c 2009)
- Seth Schuyler (2012-2014)
- Steve Long (2014-2016)
- Tina Kelly (2016—March 31, 2018)
- Erin Adams (March 31, 2018—March 30,2019)
- Larry Brittain , treasurer (c. 2008)
- Jimmy Cook, vice-chair (c. 2009)
- David Splinter, vice-chair
- Robert Stock, secretary
- Tom Laurent, secretary (1980)
- Loren Baker, Vice-chair (1987)
- Mary Laurent, Secretary (1987)
- Brenda Bromily, Treasurer (1987)
- Bailey Betts, Vice-Chair
- Christina Wright, Secretary (2016-2018), Vice-Chair (2018-2019)
- Ron Phillips, Treasurer
- Traci Baker, Secretary (2018-2019)
The earliest known Libertarian to run for office in Oklahoma was Stephen W. Browne who received 1,144(21.47%) votes for Post 3 on the non-partisan Norman City Council in 1973. The most frequent LP candidate on the ballot is Robert Murphy who has run for Mayor of Norman once, Mayor of Tulsa twice, US Senate three times, and US Congress five times(thrice in CD5 and once each in CD4 and CD3). He also was a candidate in Virginia's CD8 in 1990. The top percentage in a partisan race under the Libertarian label was 36.43% for Chris Powell in 2016 running for Oklahoma County Clerk. The high mark for a Libertarian running under the Independent label when the party did not have ballot access was in 1982 when Virginia Henson received 37.21% for District Attorney in District 23. The best percentage for a non-partisan race is Chris Powell's 63.23% in a special election for Bethany City Council in 2019. John Yeutter holds the record for highest raw vote total with 270,313(24.82%) for State Auditor in 2018. The best percentage for a Libertarian in a partisan race against candidates of both establishment parties belongs to Elle Collins who picked up 7.27% in state House District 87 in 2018.
The Oklahoma LP has had at least one primary in five of the six election cycles that the party has been on the ballot, the exception being 1984 when the OKLP was put on the ballot by court order and allowed to nominate by convention. Primary winners in 1980 were Anne Fruits for Tulsa County Clerk and Jim Rushing for Congressional District 5. In 1996 Agnes Regier narrowly edged out Mike Clem for the US Senate nomination. The 2000 Corporation Commission primary was headed to a runoff when first-place finisher Whitney Boutin withdrew, allowing Roger Bloxham to be nominated. Party stalwart Robert Murphy was nominated for US Senate in the 2016 primary. And in 2018 Chris Powell and Rex Lawhorn advanced to the first Libertarian primary runoff in the nation, with Powell winning the gubernatorial nomination.
Size and Influence
2004 - Present
1972 - 2003
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