Thursday, March 12, 2009

Texas Libertarians' rise versus California's decline

This is not just another one of my Mr. Way Too Proud of Texas articles gloating about how well the Libertarian Party of Texas did under my service as Executive Director from 2004 to 2008.

When you feel like you've got the situation under control, things are going well, your team is breaking new fundraising records, you're getting tons of positive feedback, morale of the group is high, and people are working together (or at least working separately and leaving each other alone most of the time), like in Texas, it's quite easy to be a Libertarian Party activist.

On the other hand, when things are going poorly after years and years of seemingly unstoppable decline and it feels like even the simplest of things seem to go wrong and you're just banging your head against the floor, and working harder just causes more headaches, like in California, it's tough to be a Libertarian Party activist. Those who keep trying are the real Libertarian heroes.

This is a list of some of the simple, humble approaches I've tried to take here in Texas.

1) I encourage people to run for any office they're willing to run for, and to run whether they have a realistic chance of winning, or are just likely to get a percent or two at the polls to help build the Party.
2) I've run for office five times, so I know what other candidates go through and can coach them.
3) At first, most prospects decline to be candidates because they don't want to disappoint the Party. I tell prospective candidates that they are doing the party a favor by running even if they don't spend a dime and only have a few hours all year to put into it. Most exceed expectations.
4) I don't nitpick the candidates' platforms. I support the right of candidates to have radical, moderate, left-leaning, or right-leaning libertarian platforms.
5) I try to give Texas Libertarians realistic hope they can achieve, and our results show it has worked.

I'll leave it to Californians to decide if any of this could be helpful to them or not.

I'm also writing this article to bring to your attention that I think a few former California leaders who let the California LP decline under their watch are now having too much influence on National LP strategy and we're seeing California-like declines at National.

For the record, I have offered to fix things myself by serving as the National Executive Director. Similarly, if California or any other states want my help at the state-level, they should give me a call. Pennsylvania? Wyoming? Hawaii? Hawaii?

The Libertarian Party of Texas had $25,000 in debt when I was first hired in 2004. Don't let an empty bank account prevent you from calling. My first job is to start filling your bank account. I can work out a realistic no-risk plan with you.

I actually like fixer-uppers. Makes it real easy to improve.

Check out my resume: Executive Director * Sold Business * MBA * Engineer

My resume reveals that I'm not a native Texan and that I've lived all over the US and overseas. I can work from a distance or re-locate, work full-time or part-time. I'm getting kind of tired of Texas, anyway. Aren't you? ;-)

(No permission necessary to re-post this article. Data for the graph is imprecise. CA data was the best I could find from their website. On 3/29/09 2000-2001 data for TX added. TX 2000 is estimate based on reported Jan-Sep of $37,344. If you see something that needs correcting, please let me know.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Final LP Texas Executive Director's Report

Documenting another outstanding performance by Texas Libertarians.

Here's the full report.

Texas Libertarians Announce New Executive Director


Libertarians Announce New Executive Director

Butler takes over for Benedict

AUSTIN - January 5, 2009 - The Libertarian Party of Texas (LPT) has announced that Robert Butler is replacing Wes Benedict as its executive director.

Robert Butler comes to the Libertarian Party of Texas from a political consulting position in Washington, D.C. He previously served as the executive director of the Libertarian Party of Ohio.

In Ohio, Butler worked on litigation to eliminate restrictive ballot access laws. The litigation resulted in Ohio's ballot access laws being ruled unconstitutional in 2008, and the Ohio Secretary of State was required to place the Libertarian Party on last year's general election ballot.

Butler is fluent in Spanish and expects to make use of his bilingual skills in his new position. He has an International Relations degree from George Washington University (September 1991 - May 1995) and an English as a Foreign Language Teacher Certification from Harmon Hall in Cancun, Mexico (July 1999 - December 1999). He is married and has three young children.

Wes Benedict was named executive director for the LPT following his leadership on a successful petition drive in 2004 to gain ballot status for the party. Benedict directed many of the volunteers and paid petitioners who gathered over 82,000 petition signatures to keep the Libertarian Party on the Texas ballot. The LPT's state executive committee named Benedict as executive director in June of 2004.

Over the next four years, Benedict grew the LPT's revenue from $58,000 to over $140,000. The number of donors to the LPT grew from less than 200 in 2005 to over 900 in 2008.

Benedict twice broke the party's all-time candidate recruiting records with 168 candidates on the Texas ballot in 2006, and 173 candidates in 2008. Also in 2008, the LPT had its first candidate ever to earn over one million votes on the Texas ballot (William Strange, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 9).

Benedict plans to seek other opportunities in the private sector. Prior to his work with the LPT, Benedict owned a custom countertop manufacturing company. "Wes was the single person most responsible for our unprecedented success over the last four years," said state chair Pat Dixon. "Robert has big shoes to fill, but we feel we selected an excellent candidate."

Benedict commented, "I really enjoyed my time as the LPT's executive director, and I hope that our strong growth over the past four years will continue into the future."

Arthur DiBianca will continue working with the LPT as its operations manager.

The LPT began recruiting for the executive director position in October 2008, and received nine applicants in a nationwide search (2 from Washington DC, 1 from Nebraska, 1 from Louisiana, and 5 from Texas). The state executive committee formally selected Butler in December, to begin work on January 1, 2009.

High-resolution photos of Pat Dixon and the staff are available here.

Pat Dixon, LPT chair

Robert Butler, LPT executive director


Texas Libertarians break records again


Texas Libertarians break records again

AUSTIN - November 6, 2008 - The Libertarian Party of Texas (LPT) showed strong results in the 2008 general election. The party broke several of its own records, and played "kingmaker" in several key races.

The party had 173 candidates on the ballot, its highest count ever.

By getting more than 5 percent in at least one statewide race, the LPT is automatically qualified for ballot access in 2010.

William B. Strange, the Libertarian candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 9, received more than one million votes. That is the first time any Libertarian in Texas has crossed the million-vote threshold. According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, Strange is one of only two minor-party candidates to cross the million-vote threshold since 1970.

Yvonne Schick, the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senator, received over 184,000 votes, or 2.34 percent. That is the highest vote count, and the highest percentage, ever received by a Texas Libertarian for that office.

Libertarian candidates played "kingmaker" in several legislative races. In State Senate District 10, State House District 11, State House District 52, State House District 105, it appears that candidates will win with less than 50 percent of the vote. The Libertarian presence may have been crucial in those races.

Earlier this year, current and former Republican officeholders had contacted several Libertarian candidates asking them to drop out of the election.

In Travis County, two Libertarian candidates played "kingmaker", holding the winners under 50 percent, and possibly costing two Republican incumbents their seats.

Wes Benedict, LPT Executive Director, commented, "I'm glad to see that we might throw the election to the Democrat in District 105. If Republicans lose control of the Texas House, that could be a good thing for taxpayers. Government generally grows much faster when the same party controls both the legislative and executive branches. Divided government might be healthy for Texas."

Election results are reported by the Texas Secretary of State's office:

List of Libertarian candidates:

Wes Benedict, LPT Executive Director