An Interview with Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark

sarwark_nicholasDelegates to the 2014 Libertarian Party National Convention in Columbus, Ohio, elected Nicholas Sarwark of Colorado to be the party’s new chair.

Sarwark has been active with the LP since 1999. He has served on committees of the national party, and as Chair of the Libertarian Party of Maryland. He was most recently the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, where he played a key role in recruiting the state’s 42 Libertarian candidates for 2014, as well as supporting the passage of Colorado’s historic marijuana legalization initiative in 2012. He is a deputy public defender and has tried more than 30 cases before a jury and argued in front of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Recently, Mr. Sarwark was kind enough to take time to answer a few of our questions about the 2014 and 2016 elections and where he sees the Libertarian Party heading in the future.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: First off, congratulations on your election as the new Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee. How are you adapting to your new role?

CHAIRMAN SARWARK: Thank you. It’s been exciting to step up to the national stage. I’m spending a lot of time listening to current and former LNC members, trusted friends, and the staff in the national office. While I have served in state party leadership before in Maryland and Colorado, I have not previously served on the Libertarian National Committee before seeking the position of Chair. Seeking input and feedback is one of the ways to learn about areas of the job I don’t know as much about. Thankfully, I have a great LNC with years of experience to draw on. Based on our meeting last week in Alexandria, it’s going to be a productive term.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Who was the first Libertarian candidate that you ever voted for?

SARWARK: Harry Browne in 2000. I was a delegate from Maryland at the nominating convention in Anaheim that year. I’ve been to every convention since then, but Anaheim was still the most exciting. At least until Orlando in 2016.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Recently Ann Coulter made a pretty outrageous comment, saying that anyone who planned to vote for a Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate is an idiot and that she would like to drown them. How would you respond to something like that?

SARWARK: As Libertarians get more powerful, washed up performance artists and hacks are going to try to make a name for themselves by attacking us. I see it as a badge of honor. The haters wouldn’t bother to hate unless we scared them. My response is to keep scaring them.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Running for office is never easy and most Libertarian candidates tend to be political novices. What are some common mistakes you see LP candidates make during their campaigns?

SARWARK: Every candidate who steps up to give voters a real Libertarian choice is a hero. They are the most important people in this party and should be thanked and honored every chance we get.

sarwark2It’s important when considering a campaign to be honest with yourself about how much effort you are committed to put in and come up with a plan so you meet your own goals. Our candidates are not professional politicians, they’re citizens taking time out of their lives because they care about their communities. They shouldn’t judge themselves by the standard of a professional politician with staff and consultants, but they should judge themselves by their own standards. If a candidate is going to commit to (a) having a basic website, (b) answering any media inquiries, and (c) returning any surveys, then does those things, that’s success. The mistake people make is trying to run a bigger campaign than they are really committed to following through on and then failing to meet the target.

The Libertarian Party has some great resources to help candidates run a more effective campaign. “Who’s Driving” training is a great tool to teach candidates how to better communicate Libertarian solutions to a media that may want to talk about something else. Every candidate or potential candidate should take that training; it’s interactive and offered over the web for free for any Libertarian candidate. Carla Howell, our Political Director, is also putting the finishing touches on “Game-Changing Libertarian Communications,” a guide for candidates in the 2015 and 2016 election cycles. We’re also making the current draft available for any 2014 candidates who would like to use it.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: As you know, the Libertarian Party was successful at electing several state legislators in Alaska during the 1980s. During most of the 1990s, there were at least 2 — and at one point 4 — Libertarians serving in the New Hampshire state house. It has now been more than a decade since a Libertarian has been elected to any state’s legislature. What, if anything, can the LNC do to try and change that?

SARWARK: The LNC can develop candidate training programs like “Who’s Driving.” The LNC can assist state affiliates in candidate recruitment and development. The LNC can support the state affiliates in being more effective, since that’s what attracts more and better candidates for office. I have high hopes for the Affiliate Support Committee this term, who are committed to being a working committee that will do concrete things to help the affiliate parties. All politics is local, so it’s going to come down to the state affiliates at the end of the day.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Staying on the topic of legislative races, one of the more promising LP candidates this year is Chad Monnin, a successful entrepreneur who is spending hundreds of thousands from his own pocket to fund a bid for a seat in the Ohio state house. Do you have any thoughts on Mr. Monnin’s campaign and has the national party taken an interest in the race?

SARWARK: I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Monnin in Columbus and I’m personally impressed by him and his campaign. He’s taking it to the next level for a Libertarian running for state house and his race is one of the ones we’re keeping a close eye on. As an aside, the Libertarian Party of Ohio is a strong, effective affiliate. It’s no coincidence that a strong affiliate attracts stronger candidates.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: As someone who was born almost a decade after the Libertarian Party was founded, you represent a new generation of party leadership. What do you think the LP should be doing to help better connect with voters in their 20s and 30s?

SARWARK: We need to raise the profile of the Libertarian Party. There is a younger generation that doesn’t know what we are all about. They know that they’re not interested in the old parties. They know that they’re worried about employment prospects, government spying, intrusion into their personal lives, and seeing their friends be able to live lives without being told what they can or can’t do by the government. What they don’t know is that the Libertarian Party most closely represents their beliefs and that they’d be so much stronger as Libertarians than as independents. We have to show them.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Looking back at the 2012 campaign, would you consider it a success?

SARWARK: The 2012 campaign energized more Libertarian voters and activists than ever before, as show by the Libertarian vote totals. Governor Johnson spoke to standing room only crowds around the country. And the cheating old parties have stepped up their efforts this time around to try to keep Libertarians off ballots and out of debates. If we’ve got them scared, I’d say it was a success.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Would you like to see Governor Johnson make another run for President as a Libertarian?

SARWARK: As national Chair, I would like to see as many dynamic, qualified candidates as possible contesting the nomination in Orlando in May, 2016, and if reelected at that convention, will do everything I can to support the nominee the delegates choose. However, I will remain neutral as to who the delegates should choose.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: What are your feelings about Ron Paul and his son Rand? Are they helping to introduce people to the concept of libertarianism, or are they stunting the Libertarian Party’s growth by keeping liberty-minded voters trapped within the GOP?

SARWARK: It’s complicated. As you know, Ron Paul is a life member of the Libertarian Party and was the nominee for President in 1988, so there’s a lot of affection and respect for him within the party (and within myself). His son has never been a Libertarian, but there are some things he’s done that have earned respect, like his filibuster against drone attacks or his work with Senator Booker to reduce drug penalties.

That said, Rand Paul is no Libertarian. He runs as a Republican, he serves as a Republican, he campaigns for Republicans and campaigns against Libertarians. So while he and his father have introduced many people to libertarian ideas, it’s our job as a Libertarian Party to show voters what real libertarians believe and remind them that trying to make the GOP libertarian is like trying to turn McDonald’s into a vegan restaurant with a few motivated cashiers and cooks. As the Ron Paul supporters saw in 2008 and 2012 at the GOP convention, those ideas will be ruthlessly crushed within the GOP.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?

SARWARK: I’ve been a Libertarian as long as I can remember, going to my first meeting with my father in Phoenix when I was 10 years old. When I made the decision to run for Chair, I made a personal commitment to build the Libertarian Party into a stronger, more effective, political party. If your readers have ideas on how to do that, I encourage them to contact me.


  1. Thanks for the interview, Nicholas and Austin! Mr. Sarwark represents the future of the LP.

  2. Pingback: Uncovered Politics: An Interview with Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark | Independent Political Report

  3. Lily Tang Williams says:

    Good interview. Nick, we are counting on your leadership to grow the party and win elections. One important job you have is to be the national speaker for LP. Hope you will use your communication skills to convince and welcome to all the liberty people out there to come home to LP. We have to open our both arms for those people, even though we might still have some disagreements.

  4. Thanks for the item. For more on what Libertarians are doing worldwide see Libertarian International @ .

    BTW, as a nearly senile old-timer who remembers when Paul Gilson and his protege David Nolan were discussing a potential Libertarian/Liberal party in the 1950’s DC over beer, this interview just warms my heart. We’re seeing more nice, well-spoken young people who just ‘grew up’ libertarian and know what to do.

    Sarwark is right that Rand Paul is not a Libertarian or libertarian. In fact, Paul has said that. He’s also attacked Libertarians. I also like how the national LP has been putting semi-retired older party candidates to run as President. Along with our up-and-comers, I agree with Sarwark on getting lots of them to choose from.

  5. An inspiring interview. The growth of the US LP will undoubtedly help grow Libertarian parties around the world.

    Cheers from Canada!

  6. Pingback: Uncovered Politics interviews Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark | Official site of DJ Michael Heath

  7. If you ask me George Stephanopoulos was the most dignified and hnoset man in the White House in the First Clinton Administration and he is one of the most dignified reporters on TV today. The probs Mr Paul with some serious questions – questions that I as a voter want the answers to. I can say that not many people out there know who the hell Ron Paul is, therefore supporters like those who have commented before me should thank “Grorgie” for giving the man some “face time”!

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