The Delhi Café was the place to be in Holt, Michigan, on Saturday, March 10. An excited crowd of 80 packed the Libertarian Party of Michigan’s annual LibertyFest Banquet to honor activists with Defender of Liberty awards, hear from Libertarian presidential candidates Gary Johnson, Bill Still and Carl Person, and participate in the Michigan Presidential Straw Poll.
After a quiet non-election year in 2011, LibertyFest went a long way to fire up the Libertarian faithful in Michigan. Old friends renewed acquaintances and many new faces were introduced in the social hour prior to dinner. Everyone had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the presidential candidates.
Following a tasty banquet, Party Chair James Lewis served as the Master of Ceremonies as three of the candidates for the Libertarian Presidential nomination spoke to the audience. Bill Still, a writer from Virginia, led off. He came out swinging, characterizing front-runner Gary Johnson as ill-informed on the Federal Reserve and with strong ties to the Republican Party. Still touted his own libertarian credentials. Carl Person, an attorney and past Libertarian candidate for New York Attorney General, talked about the need to deregulate education, and the positive effect that would have on the supply of jobs and cost of education.
Gary Johnson focused on his practical experience as a former handyman who built a construction business with 1,000 employees, and then served as a popular and successful two-term Republican Governor of New Mexico. He emphasized his libertarian policies as Governor, including vetoing more than 700 bills, most of which would have increased the size of government, and supporting the legalization of marijuana. He did not shy away from his controversial support of the Fair Tax, characterizing it as a good first step to cutting the size and intrusiveness of government. While acknowledging his fiscal policy is very similar to Ron Paul’s, Johnson noted that unlike Ron Paul he supports marriage equality for gays and lesbians, is pro-choice and supports a more open immigration policy.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Defender of Liberty Awards by awards committee chair Emily Salvette. Pat Clawson, former LPM executive board member, Libertarian candidate and CNN reporter received the Spokesperson for Liberty Award, given to a member of the community whose patriotism and conviction have inspired contributions to the cause of liberty. Emily made special note of Pat’s efforts that exposed the award of millions of dollars in tax incentives by the Jennifer Granholm administration to a convicted felon and scam artist.
Dr. Erwin Haas received the Promoter of Liberty award, given to a Libertarian whose efforts have done the most to promote the Libertarian Party and Libertarian principles. Emily noted that for many years Erwin has produced libertarian-themed cable television programming in West Michigan, and run for office as a Libertarian Party nominee. Hard-working activist and current LPM Treasurer Denee Rockman-Moon received the Promoter of Liberty award. This award is given to a dedicated, behind-the-scenes Libertarian whose quiet labors over the years exemplify the backbone of the LP, a description that fits Denee perfectly.
Once again, the LPM held a Michigan Straw Poll, designed to benefit the campaigns of the candidates for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, by counting as a vote each dollar cast by an LPM member as a contribution for a candidate’s campaign. Governor Gary Johnson was the clear winner, with the following Michigan Straw Poll results: Gary Johnson $6,489; Lee Wrights $198; Bill Still $118; Carl Person $15; R.J. Harris $3; James Ogle $2.
The 2012 LibertyFest was a great success, not only in honoring our Defenders of Liberty and promoting the candidates for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, but also in energizing many Libertarians from across the state for the upcoming campaigns and elections. Kudos to LibertyFest Chair Andrew Hall, principal organizers Bill Gelineau, Denee Rockman-Moon and Emily Salvette, and the many activists and attendees who made it such a rousing success!