Elections

Texas Libertarians dream of edging out Trump, Clinton in 2016 presidential race

Texans are among those competing for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.
Texans are among those competing for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination. Courtesy

Lifelong Texan Rhett Smith firmly believes he’s a better presidential pick than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

That’s why he’s making a bid for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.

“I have to run,” said Smith, 65, who grew up in Eastland and lives in San Antonio. “I have to stand up against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton isn’t much better.

“I’m shocked America has no good choices.”

Before Smith can have his name listed on the November ballot, he has to win the Libertarian Party nomination, which will be made this weekend during the party’s national convention in Orlando, Fla.

He is one of two Texans vying to be the party’s presidential nominee, along with more than a dozen other candidates. Another Texan is hoping to edge out eight other candidates to claim the party’s vice presidential nomination.

Whether they win or lose, a slew of Libertarians will be among the third-party candidates on Texas’ general election ballot in November, seeking posts ranging from the U.S. House and Texas Senate to the Texas House and State Board of Education.

Smith — who through the years has run for many offices as a Democrat, a Republican and a Green Party member — said he has found the best fit with the Libertarian Party.

This year, Americans are actually seeking alternatives.

Rhett Smith, a Texan hoping to claim the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination

And after previous losses, 2016 could be his lucky year.

“Who knows?” he said. “This year, Americans are actually seeking alternatives.”

Libertarians believe that people should live how they want as long as they don’t trample the rights of others. The motto on their website: “Minimum government; maximum freedom.”

Many within the party hope this will be the year they make a difference across the country, especially in the presidential race.

“The Libertarian Party is poised to have a breakout year in an election when the two old parties are putting up candidates with some of the poorest public-opinion numbers in any modern election,” said Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian National Convention.

“In light of voters’ extreme disillusionment, I anticipate this will be one of our most exciting conventions ever.”

Texas ties

Smith and Malisia Garcia, a single mother of three from Houston, are the two Texans in a field of at least 18 hoping to claim the Libertarian presidential nomination.

They know that former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is the front-runner, but that didn’t stop them from seeking this post.

Garcia freely admits she is “not a politician” and says she’s in the race because she can’t be silent anymore “while our government continues to destroy our nation because of their inability to put aside party loyalty.”

“No one party can solve all the issues of this country,” she wrote on her website. “All political parties must work together in order to make this country a true representative of all the American people.”

At the same time, Kerry Douglas McKennon of Petersburg, near Lubbock, is hoping to lock in the Libertarian nomination for vice president.

“We are all working towards individual Liberty for All,” he wrote on his website. “Some of us might have a different path or thoughts as to achieving that goal, but rest assured that is the goal.

We are the best hope Liberty has, period!

Kerry Douglas McKennon of Petersburg, who is running for the Libertarian vice presidential nomination

“So I challenge each of you to come together after all voting is done and get to work! Because we are the best hope Liberty has, period!”

Smith’s election efforts

Smith, who grew up in Eastland, near Abilene, has had the most experience as a political candidate, having run for president, the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Texas governor, San Antonio mayor and the San Antonio River Authority board of directors.

“I’ve given up on the other parties,” said Smith, a licensed private security officer and a Navy veteran. “I used to think that I could wake America up. But that’s not going to happen.”

Seeking the presidential nomination, he said he has many goals, from improving America’s foreign policy to reforming the criminal justice system, educational system and the country’s healthcare system.

Smith’s most successful bid for office came in 2004.

That year, he ran against Republican Lamar Smith for the 21st Congressional District. That year, Rhett Smith, as a Democrat, claimed 35 percent of the vote to Lamar Smith’s 61 percent and Libertarian Jason Pratt’s 2.99 percent, election results show.

Despite the fact that he has unsuccessfully run for about a dozen public offices, Rhett Smith said he’s not ready to give up.

“It’s not easy to break into politics,” he said. “But I believe we can achieve better things.”

#LegalizeFreedom

Libertarians meet this weekend in Orlando for their convention, which touts the theme “Legalize Freedom,” to unite and choose their presidential nominee.

Organizers say they expect around 1,000 delegates.

In addition to Smith and Garcia, other candidates seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination are: Joey Berry, South Carolina; Brian Briggs, Mississippi; Thomas Clements, Louisiana; Keenan Dunham, South Carolina; Marc Allan Feldman, Ohio; and John McAfee, Tennessee.

Still more candidates include Kevin McCormick, Arizona; Robert Milnes, New Jersey; Darryl Perry, New Hampshire; Austin Petersen, Missouri; Derrick Michael Reid, California; Jack Robinson Jr., South Carolina; Mike Shannon, Illinois; Shawna Joy Sterling, Kentucky; and Heidin Zeman, Nevada.

Delegates are expected to vote before the convention ends Monday.

“No matter which candidate the delegates choose to nominate, he or she will be the only candidate on every single American voter’s ballot running on a platform of supporting their right to live their life in any way they want, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else and don’t take their stuff,” Sarwark said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Third-party nominations

The Libertarian Party isn’t the only one choosing a presidential nominee at an upcoming convention.

The Green Party will hold its national convention Aug. 4-7 at the University of Houston to choose its presidential nominee.

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