I never wanted to run for office. I have been involved in politics for years, served on my party’s county and state executive committees, and am even now employed by the party I affiliate with—but running for office myself never interested me. I like being behind the scenes; supporting candidates who are better in the spotlight than me. To be honest, I still don’t really want to run for office, but in 2019, this became bigger than what I alone wanted.
I am a Libertarian. Depending on where you look or who you listen to, you will get very confusing answers about what a Libertarian believes. To be as clear as possible, my answer is this: I am a Libertarian because I want every person to be as free as possible to make decisions for themselves and live the life they want to live, without the interference of the government. I believe that you shouldn’t hurt people and you shouldn’t take their stuff, and I hold the government to the same standard.
The Libertarian Party is one of only two active alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats in Texas, along with the Green Party. Through significant effort, Libertarians have provided a choice for many years to those who do not feel represented by the increasingly radical right and left in this state. We have frequently provided the only option against a Republican or Democrat who was running otherwise unopposed. In 2018 there were more than a dozen races that would have had zero competition had a Libertarian not been running. In a time when fewer and fewer people feel adequately represented by either the Democrats or Republicans, it is a worse shame to have elections where there is only one name on the ballot, and whether you vote for them or not, that person will be walking into office unopposed.
There were two bills that were introduced during the 2019 legislative session that led to me being on the ballot today. The first was HB 4416 which was introduced by Republican freshman Mayes Middleton of Texas House District 23. This bill, which thankfully was defeated by an army of phone callers and letter writers, sought to increase the vote threshold for third parties to maintain ballot access in Texas. Essentially, it would have completely removed the Libertarian Party from the ballot and forced us to spend upwards of a quarter million dollars to run a petitioning campaign to regain ballot access. Middleton, who campaigned as a “liberty” candidate, made his first move once elected to attempt to remove competition from the ballot. I was proud to testify before the Elections Committee against this bill, and celebrated when it was defeated in the actual eleventh hour. My celebration came too soon though, as the next move was a more sinister one.
HB 2504 was introduced by Representative Drew Springer and co-sponsored by State Senator Bryan Hughes, Republicans from Texas House District 68 and Texas Senate District 1, respectively. On first glance, this bill did the opposite of Mr. Middleton’s bill, as it in fact lowered the vote threshold for maintaining ballot access for third parties. In fact, it did so retroactively, so this actually provided a path for the Green Party of Texas to once again be on the ballot in 2020. I certainly had no argument with this aspect of the bill, but that was of course not where it ended. HB 2504 imposed election filing fees on all third party candidates for the first time in Texas. These fees, starting on the low end at $350 and ranging all the way to $5000 would be required from every Libertarian or Green Party candidate seeking to be on the ballot. The argument made was that this was only fair—after all, Republicans and Democrats have to pay filing fees, so third parties should too. This would seem sensible if you didn’t look beneath the surface at all, but I can tell you from experience that you should never take Texas election code to be anything close to sensible. You see, while the Republicans and Democrats are primary parties, meaning their candidates are nominated through a primary, according to Texas law, Libertarians and Greens are convention parties, meaning their candidates are nominated through a convention. (I know I am getting granular here—I promise to keep it brief.) When candidates of the Republican or Democratic parties pay their filing fees, they go into something called the primary fund. This fund reimburses the parties to pay for their primary elections. Any and all expenses from office supplies and staff payroll to the very rent for party offices is refunded to the parties from the primary fund. Primary parties will be reimbursed by the taxpayers if and when the filing fees are used up. However, according to HB 2504, the fees paid by convention parties go into the general fund. In Texas, convention parties are responsible for funding their conventions entirely, and nothing is reimbursed to them. Thanks to representatives who seek to gain from limiting competition in their races, the bill adding filing fees for convention party candidates is now law.
In the days following the vote that passed this bill, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I had watched come about. I could visit the campaign pages of every one of these representatives and find promises to improve schools, protect free speech, fight against climate change, strengthen the border, speak for the unborn, support a woman’s right to choose. What I didn’t find were promises to reduce voters’ choices on the ballot, stifle competition, manipulate democracy—yet that is exactly what they had accomplished. As a Libertarian, I knew the deck was stacked against me and I had already discovered how laws written by the ruling class of the left and the right had been carefully crafted to keep us always out of reach of victory; but I had never seen that process play out in front of me, streamed live for the dozen or so people aware of it to see. Texans for Voter Choice, an organization dedicated to achieving fair ballot access in Texas, says it best: “Texas is starving its democratic processes. By subsidizing the two oldest political parties, while imposing cost-prohibitive barriers upon their potential competitors, the state is systematically denying voters the opportunity to hear from new candidates who can inject innovative ideas and perspectives into the political debate.”
Toward the end of 2019, Texas’ third parties won a partial victory. The new law imposing filing fees was sloppily written, so much so that the Secretary of State’s office was unable to answer how and when it would be enforced. During attempts to resolve the confusion, a lawsuit was filed and a Harris County judge offered a temporary injunction removing the filing fees until this case could be heard in court. At this point, I knew I had to step into the position I never wanted, because this may be the only chance for me to be heard. I know that at any time the injunction could be reversed, the case could be lost, and the Libertarian Party will be forced to pay monumental fines for having the audacity to challenge those in power. Right now though, I have a chance to tell anyone who will listen that what you are offered every two years is just a farce. Right now I have the chance to warn you that the choice between two candidates who will promise you the moon and then act only in their own self interest is no choice at all. I had to come out from behind the scenes so that I would never have to say that the Libertarian Party, the party of principle, died in Texas while I simply watched from the shadows.
So while I never intended to run for Congress, I do know that I could serve with integrity if I were elected. I became a Libertarian in 2012, and since then I have refused to simply vote for the lesser of two evils. My vote does not belong to anyone who hasn’t earned it, and yours shouldn’t either. My decisions are based on the principles of individual liberty for all, not just for those born in a certain place or with a certain amount of wealth. I live my life according to the principle of non-aggression, and I would bring that philosophy to Austin with me every day.
As Americans we are divided, we are angry, and we are often afraid, and this is exactly where the old parties want us. As long as we are fighting each other, we will be distracted from their efforts to remove competition and grab more power every day. So, whether or not you will vote for me, I hope you will consider how you can support something different than the failed status quo we live in. Perhaps you haven’t found yourself excited by either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, two divisive candidates to say the least who have, at best, very questionable judgement. Consider instead the Libertarian candidate, Dr. Jo Jorgensen. Jo is a PhD, a professor, a business owner, a mother, a wife, and hockey player. She has also never been accused of harassment, and can define real solutions she would bring as president, rather than empty platitudes. You can read more about her and support her campaign at www.jo20.com. You can add your voice to the thousands from all political parties who want to hear from Jo in the presidential debates. Visit www.let-her-speak.org and maybe even participate in the upcoming peaceful protest. Even if you don’t know yet if you want to vote for Jo Jorgensen, you can still contribute to making sure that she is a choice for every American. Visit www.LP.org/ballotaccess and do what you can to encourage real choice in our elections.
We the people have the power to put a stop to the political theatre and endless corruption that we have been forced to endure for generations—but it will never happen unless we change how we vote.
If you want to ask me questions about my race, Jo Jorgensen, or the Libertarian Party, you can email me at bekah@LPBexar.org and I will respond to everyone.