U.S. House, Senate: Libertarian candidates offer the ‘soulful Republican’ alternative

Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Rick Breckinridge, a surveyor by trade, stands near the Musselshell River with his trusty Martin guitar. (Courtesy photo)

(Community News Service) The Libertarian Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate, Rick Breckenridge, wastes no time differentiating between Montana Libertarians and the Republican Party.

“Libertarianism is the soul of the Republican Party, and they kicked the Libertarian movement out,” Breckenridge said during a campaign coffee stop in Missoula with his wife, Tracy. “They’re soulless.”

He said he had a “Come to Jesus” moment after Mike Fellows, a perennial Libertarian candidate who died in a car crash two years ago, called him a “Republican In Name Only.”

Breckenridge said it made him re-evaluate his party identity. “I was anti-abortion, but I was for gay rights. I believed in individual sovereignty, but held solid to states rights supremacy,” he said.

For him, he said, Libertarianism is a belief in less government and more autonomy. A recurring mantra for Breckenridge is: “Whatever the government can do for you, they can do to you.”

For this surveyor, a son and grandson of surveyors, his priorities are less government and less taxation. “For a Libertarian, taxation is theft,” he said. Eliminating the Internal Revenue Service is high on his priority list. So is abolishing the federal Department of Education.

Breckenridge is one of three Libertarians at the top of November’s statewide ballot and the only third-party hopeful in the U.S. Senate race. A Green Party candidate was removed during the campaign for failing to get the required number of signatures from all parts of the state.

The ballot also features Libertarian Elinor Swanson, who is running for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, and Roger Roots, the party’s candidate for chief clerk of the Montana Supreme Court.

Breckenridge ran for the U.S. House as a Libertarian nominee two years ago, but as a late-campaign replacement for the party’s most persistent candidate in recent decades, Mike Fellows, who was killed within two months of the election. Fellows died in two-car crash as he drove home after an evening campaign event in Seeley Lake.

Breckenridge received about 3.2 percent of the vote in that race, but it gave him the drive to try again. He said he’s running for the thousands of Montana voters who won’t tolerate Republican or Democratic representation.

Breckenridge speaks about his years as a surveyor with pride. After showing pictures of his son and granddaughter using the tools of the trade, Breckenridge said he helped map Flathead County and develop modern surveying software.

He says his experience working there gives him insight into public land issues. Asked about Congressman Greg Gianforte’s proposed Wilderness Study Area rollbacks, Breckenridge said if Montana managed its lands better, it could afford to offer free education from kindergarten to college by leasing land or allowing more resource extraction.

The thread that weaves the party together is liberty, but that can also mean it’s hard to stitch party members together on certain issues, especially social ones. While Breckenridge identifies as anti-abortion, Elinor Swanson, Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House, calls herself pro-choice, kind of. But her stance comes with caveats.

Elinor Swanson

Swanson, a mother of four, a Billings attorney and the party’s vice chairperson, says she believes that human life begins at conception.

Elinor Swanson

“I don’t want the government defining or enforcing or anything involved with the determination of whether a woman has unreasonably risked pregnancy,” Swanson said before a September meet-and-greet in Missoula. She said individuals don’t have a legal responsibility to help others, except when their conduct puts others in danger.

Swanson brought a couple of yard signs to her event. On them featured an illustration of the Statue of Liberty posing à la Rosie the Riveter above a tagline that read: “Decrease the debt. Live and let live.”

This is Swanson’s first run for public office. Missoula was one of many stops across the state in her campaign, which she said is mostly funded out of pocket and by grassroots organizations.

Swanson said her top priorities include reducing federal debt and defending individual liberties from state and federal infringement.

“My America is one where you can climb a cliff without a harness, ride in a boat without a life jacket, go in the back of a pickup truck, make your own choices about your own body as long as it’s not affecting other people,” she said.

She said she supports the repeal of Obamacare because it’s fiscally unsustainable. And, like Breckenridge, Swanson is no fan of taxation. “If you tax something, you get less of it,” she said.

Both Breckenridge and Swanson support defense-spending reductions, lowering corporate taxes, repealing Obamacare and the legalization of marijuana.

Neither support income tax increases on any bracket, or requiring states to adopt federal educational standards, or gun-control legislation or the Trump administration’s proposed wall along the border with Mexico.

Breckenridge called the wall a solution to failed immigration enforcement. Swanson said she is not opposed to accepting refugees and immigrants after conducting a cost-benefit analysis. She added granting amnesty too often could lead to policy violations.

Roger Roots

Roger Roots, another Montana Libertarian candidate, is seeking a sort of social amnesty in his bid for election as clerk of the Montana Supreme Court.

Roger Roots

Roots is a convicted felon who said he used to associate with Klansmen and skinheads. He credits education for his decision to leave his past behind. Roots said the human mind is the greatest tool and called “the racial aspect” preposterous. He said his goal in running in this election is to help create equal access to the court.

Government can file suits without paying filing fees, he said, adding that the practice puts average citizens at a disadvantage.

“Filing fees don’t apply to the government,” Roots said, “but the private sector has to pay.”

He added that the government gets extra time to file its claims. Roots said the courts should treat individuals and government agencies and officials equally. He called himself an extreme Libertarian, adding that the best form of government is an extremely limited one.

This isn’t Roots’ first run for office, or first time in the news. He recently worked as Ryan Bundy’s volunteer paralegal following a 40-day standoff in Harney County, Oregon, in early 2016. Roots ran unsuccessfully to represent Montana in the U.S. Senate in 2014 and to become Montana’s secretary of state in 2016.