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State and national libertarians argue over who gets to nominate Colorado presidential candidate | Elections
State and national libertarians argue over who gets to nominate Colorado presidential candidate | Elections

The Libertarian Party of Colorado’s plans to place independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the state’s ballot stalled this week when a national party official filed paperwork putting Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Colorado’s general election ballot instead.

The move created a standoff between the state and federal Libertarian parties over who has the authority to recommend Colorado voters candidates for the presidential and vice presidential elections, with both sides accusing the other of self-indulgence and suggesting the dispute could end up in court.

After voting against the national party’s nomination a month ago, the Libertarian Party’s executive board announced last week that it would nominate Kennedy after forging a “groundbreaking partnership” with his campaign. Components of the agreement included the candidate signing a pledge to adhere to a list of party principles and an intention to cooperate on fundraising, the party said.

But before Colorado state Libertarians could file paperwork naming Kennedy and his running mate, California attorney Nicole Shanahan, the party’s official candidates in the state, the party’s national secretary, Caryn Ann Harlos of Castle Rock, filed forms nominating Oliver and his running mate, Michael ter Maat.

“A single party may not place multiple presidential and vice presidential candidates on the ballot in Colorado,” Jack Todd, a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, said in an email to Colorado Politics. “The department will accept complete filings from a branch of the Libertarian Party if they are submitted. Colorado law is silent on intra-party conflicts regarding candidate nominations.”

The National Libertarians nominated Oliver, the party’s 2022 U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, and ter Maat, a retired Virginia police officer, at the party’s convention in Washington. While the Colorado delegation voted “none of the above” in the final round, Oliver and ter Maat won in the seventh round after previously rejecting former President Donald Trump and Kennedy, both of whom spoke at the convention and sought the party’s nomination.

The state party said its refusal to endorse Oliver and ter Maat “confirms our deep concern that the national slate is inconsistent with the values ​​and policies the (Libertarian Party of Colorado) holds dear,” calling the pair “basically useful idiots for the regime.” Disagreements cited by the Colorado party included Oliver’s adherence to public health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic and his support for non-surgical gender reassignment treatments for minors.

Kennedy, on the other hand, partially won over the state party by agreeing to a series of demands, including dismantling the Department of Education, cutting funding for U.S. intelligence agencies and supporting the Second Amendment. Kennedy also promised to pardon Edward Snowden, a computer consultant who defected to Russia after leaking top-secret U.S. intelligence information, and Ross Ulbricht, who is serving a life sentence for creating an online marketplace for trading illegal goods and services.

The agreement signed by Kennedy is consistent with a pledge signed by a handful of Republican congressional candidates earlier this year as part of a deal with the state Republican Party to prevent Libertarians from “spoiling” contested elections.

Todd, the spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State, told Colorado Politics that Oliver and ter Maat had submitted the required candidate acceptance forms in addition to the nomination forms submitted by Harlos. However, as of Wednesday evening, the national Libertarian Party had not yet submitted the names of 10 presidential electors, so its filings are not yet considered complete, Todd said.

Colorado’s political parties have until September 6 to submit their candidates to the Secretary of State, who is expected to certify the state’s general election ballots by September 9.

Harlos, a longtime libertarian activist at the state and federal levels, said she strongly disagreed with the panel’s decision in Colorado and was particularly upset by its support for Kennedy, who initially ran as a Democrat before changing his affiliation to an independent.

“If we want to ignore our principles and join forces with a govt supporter who agrees with us on some issues, we might as well go full-on and support Trump,” Harlos tweeted on Wednesday. “Of course not. Just because Kennedy is a troublemaker doesn’t make him a friend of our cause. Remember, he wanted the Democratic nomination.”

Harlos added: “‘Collective fundraising’ is selling the party to one’s own ends. It is political prostitution.”

James Wiley, the state party’s executive director, told Colorado Politics that Harlos did not have the authority to submit the documents.

“The national side has no place in Colorado,” Wiley said in a text message, adding that filing nomination papers has always been the state party’s responsibility.

State party communications director Jordan Marinovich said in an email that state officials are the party’s registered representatives in Colorado.

“There are legitimate questions and concerns about whether Ms. Harlos exceeded her authority, not only in her communications with Colorado SOS, but also in her role as LNC Secretary,” Marinovich said.

He added that the state party intends to file papers to nominate Kennedy and Shanahan “shortly,” later clarifying that this would likely be by the end of the week.

While the Libertarian Party nationally did not respond to a request for comment, national chair Angela McArdle criticized Harlos on Wednesday in an email released by the state party.

“You will not usurp my authority as chairman,” McArdle told Harlos, adding that she believed Harlos had “put us at risk of legal action.”

McArdle said: “I want to make it very clear that you had no authority to do this and I had no knowledge of it. We will not be drawn into any litigation on your behalf.”

By Everly