Bus Life: The Ladies Behind Lady Liberty

From LP News | Vol. 50, Issue 3 | Quarter 3, 2020

By Kate Prather • LP Texas

2020 has been quite a year, especially for campaigning, with there being no exceptions for our presidential candidate’s campaign. Conventions, petitioning, fundraising, event planning, and campaigning have all had to take very interesting and innovative approaches to achieve victory for our movement.

Regardless of the struggles, Libertarians get it done. We persist, driven by the passion for liberty. A silver lining to COVID is the bus. Since musical groups aren’t touring, the campaign got a great deal on Rumours, the name of the Jorgensen bus. When I was asked to write about life on the bus I jumped at the chance. I wanted everyone to get a glimpse of what it’s like. Some of you follow our adventures on social media, seeing the fantastic places we visit, the incredible people we meet and the opportunities we find that help us advance liberty everywhere. It looks glamorous, and it absolutely can be. People can assume it is exhausting, and they would be absolutely right.

How did I find myself on the bus with this job?

Purely by happenstance. I never sought after this position or applied. I am the treasurer for LPTexas. The other officers and I were in the middle of transitioning into our offices since COVID delayed our convention process, pushing back our elections. Then I got a call from Kathleen Stokes, the project manager for many of the bus tour stops, about Jo needing a makeup artist for the Texas and Oklahoma stops in August. I accepted, with the help of my husband and family. It was a temporary volunteer gig, and I loved every minute. I gave a hand at the fundraising pitch, helped coordinate volunteers where I was needed, and of course, did makeup for Jo. I went home exhilarated with the job I did. A week later I get a call from Jess Mears about a permanent stylist, road fundraiser, and event assistant gig on the bus. I had shown that I could wear multiple hats. It also helped that I was a member of the party, as other stylists were not, which I was told was significant due to the nature of living on the road and why we do what we do. Having a love for liberty helps drive you through the hard times. After speaking with my husband, children and parents, we were confident I could take on this job. Three weeks later I was flying to Boise to join the bus and her crew.

Meet the bus crew

Jo’s crew is an all-female staff, minus our bus driver Colby. The ringleader is Jess Mears. She is the LP’s membership manager and the deputy campaign director. I’m pretty sure she is also SuperGirl in her spare time. I mean, I’ve never seen them in the same place at the same time. Her duties include being Jo’s handler and directing every project while on the road. Her favorite thing is the “job fair”, a list of duties each individual on the bus should perform at every event. The job fair is dreaded by the rest of us (Sorry, Jess).

Need the best at logistics and a pristine plan in place to pull off these events day after day? Look no further than Kenna Porter, the campaign’s events director, one of the hardest working women I’ve ever known. These two ladies spend every second on calls and in meetings, when not directing the events and staff themselves, making sure this tour is successful. Neither of these women had a single moment to lay down in a bunk in 21 days, and if it hadn’t been for Justin (Kenna’s hunk) following us around for a few days, I’m certain Jess and Kenna would have eventually become joined at the hip.

This brings me to the only other lady on the crew, and isn’t a member of the party, our audio tech, Kendall Allard. A young, strong, and vibrant personality, Kendall makes sure Jo sounds incredible at every event. She orchestrates a plan for the volunteers to follow and literally sets the stage for our Mama Jo. Her curiosity about liberty and our movement helps give an outsider’s perspective to the message we deliver. Her questions and insights are refreshing and remind us why we push to educate the masses of an alternative to the duopoly.

Lastly, Colby, our bus driver, aka bus dad. He takes care of us and makes sure we get where we need to go, on time, and safe. This poor man must clean up after us and our late-night snacking. It is a treat to get some conversation time with Colby in the cockpit. His stories of life on the road with bands help pass time on the long drives (at least the ones he is allowed to tell).

Kathleen Stokes must be mentioned even though she is not a permanent member of the bus crew. This lady is a ball of fire and the project manager for many key events in the tour. I’m so glad we got a few days with her on the bus. Her presence was energizing and helpful through some of the most difficult events. I’m very fortunate to have the continued opportunity to work with her in LPTexas. It was clear on day one we had a special group of individuals together on the bus. It is hard to find this level of commitment in one individual, much less five. I have so much love and respect for these people.

Jo completes our little road family. The star of the show. Our very own Lady Liberty. Yes, she really is as incredible as you’ve heard. Since she is the candidate, a lot of what you assume is correct — no time for sleep and always having to smile and be ready to perform. I don’t envy her role. It is the hardest job, above all. She handles the road with grace and grit, but remember, she is human. She misses her husband and daughters. She misses her students and her routine. She also thrives in the spotlight. She is one tough warrior woman. I’m so honored to call her a friend and have the opportunity to spend quality time with her. She is why we do what we do and she makes it all worth it!

Painting a picture

If every day were the same, I’d give you a walk-through of what a typical day looks like on the bus. Unfortunately, our lives are just not that structured. I can tell you, no matter what is on the schedule for the day, every minute is filled with every opportunity to advance the movement. Even with a full schedule, things come up that have the ability to throw us off, so we must adapt — and women are phenomenal at adapting quickly. Now, I’ll do my best to set the scene for our schedule. It’s crazy on the bus, so buckle up (see what I did there?).

We arrive at our hotel in the new city between midnight and 3 am. Maybe we get to sleep for seven hours and maybe not. If we have studio time scheduled our day starts early, especially mine. I can typically be the first one up because I need to get myself ready and bags packed before I stroll on over to Jo’s room to get her camera ready for the day and help her pack her things. This isn’t an uninterrupted pampering. This time is usually filled with conference calls, radio interviews, meetings, or personal phone calls, as this may be the only time available for them. You won’t believe how many times I’ve had to turn the hairdryer off when Jo needs to answer a question. Packed and polished, we head down to the lobby or bus, depending on the destination. The schedule has to be padded a bit, and when I say padded I mean we may have an extra five minutes to take care of any unexpected thing that arises before we must arrive to the scheduled event. We consider it an occasion to be celebrated if we arrive anywhere ten minutes early. And what about the ride to the destination? Yup, it’s also scheduled with interviews & meetings, even in the Uber.

We complete the mid day’s tasks and arrive at the bus rally location. Even though these events may have been planned weeks in advance, by incredible ground teams, there is no guarantee we won’t run into as few unexpected issues. Every day and every location come with their own sets of challenges. We could have been given permission to gather at a particular location only to be told we had to either change locations or reduce the setup due to COVID restrictions. Terrain or weather could be a big factor in setup and bus parking. Texas was sweltering through a heatwave. In Idaho and Montana, we dealt with smoke during the wildfires. Detroit, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine had chilly and rainy weather, which increased setup and breakdown time. These stops were especially tricky as these were the locations for the micro rallies, consisting of going to three cities, hours apart, each day, and setting up for a smaller version of the usual set up. I honestly don’t miss those days.

The government also made its inevitable appearance on the road several times. Cleveland was crazy, but I won’t go into detail as Jordan, our videographer, released a documentary, called Longing for Liberty, covering that circus. D.C. started late due to Congressman Amash needing to complete a vote on the floor before arriving at the event. Even some locations did not allow for campaign materials to be distributed, like in New Jersey. Even though we ran into the typical problems Libertarians face when dealing with law enforcement, we were pleasantly surprised to have a few Jorgensen fans attend a few of the rallies in their law enforcement uniforms. No sarcasm, these gentlemen are libertarians in uniform, eager to meet her for a selfie, and had pledged to vote for her, wanting their job to return to what it was intended to be — to serve and protect their communities. You don’t have to agree, it’s just a surprising observation I made and felt it needed to be recorded to show just how influential Mama Jo is.

Human factors could affect the events, such as Jo nursing a hip injury and sinus infection at the same time through the middle of the tour. Speakers chosen for each event sometimes could go longer (in some cases we wish we had a stage hook… LOL). Things were forgotten, people late or moods not quite right, but despite the challenges, we adapted and powered through for a successfully completed event. And COVID, y’all can just imagine. It’s dreadful having to deal with the different regulations that are ever-changing, city to city. As much as we wish we could defy these regulations, please keep in mind it’s hard to campaign from a jail cell.

The event is over. The media, VIPs and attendees got their Jo time. We have packed up the bus and now we are back on the road to the next city. Driving through most of the night to do it all over again.

What is it like to live on a bus?

Rule number one on the bus, no “#2”. I don’t think I need to go into detail on this one, right? Right. For most of you who have not gotten to take a peek in the bus, there is a main living area, then the hall which leads to 12 bunks, most of which is full of campaign materials or luggage, then there is the back lounge where Jo has her luggage and private area for work or interviews. For the most part, there may be one or two bunks available for resting or to have semi-private conversations with family. Sleeping on the bus is exceedingly difficult. There is a lot to do in between stops to get ready for the next day. Sleep deprivation is the number one issue most of us deal with, including Jo. Life at home doesn’t stop when you’re on the road. Jo has continued to teach on the road which means she is recording lectures, taking student meetings, crafting tests, working on her corporate taxes, answering emails and calls, and finding time to stay in contact with her family.

What is it like to be experiencing everything traveling has to offer?

There is hardly a minute to breathe while on the road. Remember those social media posts and photos I mentioned at the beginning? Those were interesting moments of us getting maybe five to ten minutes literally running to a cute location at a rally and snapping a few photos before having to run back to the event. I’m sure some of the event volunteers or early attendees thought it was quite a sight to see crazy women running an eighth of a mile back and forth to take a picture of something they may see every day. There is rarely any sight-seeing, as we do most of our driving at night. Free time is a treat, lasting about three to four hours and only came three times out of the 21 days. There are times of glamour as well. The opportunity to meet and mingle with big names like Matt Kibbe, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Justin Amash, Peter Schiff, Glenn Beck and Dave Rubin

For me, though, the true inspiration came from friends I have made in my time with the party that I got to meet face to face for the very first time like Dan Fishman, Ken Moellman, Amanda Parsons, Myra Matejka and Ashley Shade. Their pep talks and hugs rejuvenated me, and they made me feel like they came to see me — true friends that asked how I or the crew were managing. Hugs and having those personal conversations really helped. Those moments were also needed regularly on the bus with the crew. Not having your family for hugs or cuddles for weeks at a time can wear on a person. This was recognized early on as something that we may face while on the road and was talked about on day one. We made a pact of sorts, to be open about how we are feeling, to each other, but not to Jo or to others outside the bus, family members excluded, of course. Jo deals with the struggles as we do, but it’s our job to protect her and not weigh her down with our own issues.

Open communication is key when living in close quarters and in a chaotic environment. The crew does an amazing job at this. Recognizing when someone needs some alone time or when someone needs some physical contact, like a long embrace or back scratches. It does feel like a slumber party from time to time, but it’s always being interrupted. There were only two times where we felt we could all sit in the living area and turn on the first debate or a movie, only to get maybe fifteen minutes in before Jess, Kenna and Jo get called into emergency meetings to discuss yet another hiccup in an event or a new project altogether. One thing I can say for certain, I have been continuously impressed by these incredible women.

I hope this gives you an idea of what it is like working on the bus, but that isn’t what I want you to know. Doing this job, or being the candidate, on a tour like this is draining and hard. Imagine being away from your daily routine and family for weeks at a time. Choosing this chaos seems mad.

Why would anyone do this?

Liberty. Pure and simple. No one on this bus would choose this for themselves if liberty was present in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We are called into this. A battleground of sorts. That is what fuels our efforts. Sleep deprivation, stress and sickness be damned! And it isn’t just our passion for liberty that drives us forward, it’s every single person that comes out to these events. It’s the campaign staff, volunteers and families that come see our very own Lady Liberty, to hear our message through her. The people that give their time and money for the cause.

We could arrive in a city feeling defeated from a difficult event the day before, but when we drive up to a rally and see the grins on people’s faces as they wave in anticipation when they see the big bus, we become reinvigorated. That passion reignites and reminds us why we put ourselves through the rigors of the road. A real cause to follow, and it is all about you!! Real people demanding real change. We do this because we love you!