The 2014 Libertarian Party of Illinois Convention was a huge success in so many ways, and I was glad to be a part of it. Despite my four years in the party, it was the first one I attended. I also helped out by being part of the Convention Committee, along with Karen Green, Kent McMillen and lead by Lupe Diaz. Everyone worked really hard to make this event happen, and there was plenty to see.
Everything kicked off on Friday night, September 12th in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Bolingbrook, where the previous convention also took place. Tables were set up with candidate information and books up for donation, people were getting registered to get in the dining hall, and Libertarian Party members from all across the state mingled and shared stories about everything from our recent ballot access struggles to what was happening in their local chapters.
The night provided plenty of entertainment, including the Convention Committee Chair Lupe Diaz egging on the crowd to bid money in an auction to sit at prize seats during the Friday night dinner with candidates and special guest speakers, and myself showcasing some of the video ads for many of our candidates that are being released this week. Of course, the highlight of the night was the candidate forum, where all seven of our candidates fielded question from Political Division Director and former Libertarian candidate for Governor Lex Green. It was the first time in a long time that all seven candidates had been together in the same room.
Candidate for Governor Chad Grimm was hit with some of the hardest questions, leading to some responses about government spending, his pension reform plan and what he plans to do within his first several days in office. Alex “AJ” Cummings, Chad’s friend and our Lt. Governor candidate, sat by his side and backed up Chad with his own statements on fiscal responsibility, putting emphasis on his support for 2nd Amendment rights in Illinois and putting his own experience as a medical doctor in front of his arguments for why we still need real health care reform. US Senate candidate Sharon Hansen gave her thoughts on federal questions involving everything from immigration at home to why we should be staying out of wars and entanglements around the world.
Julie Fox, our candidate for Comptroller, restated her qualifications, being the ONLY candidate running for the office to be a Certified Public Accountant with actual accounting experience, and challenged the status quo in Illinois to come clean with their spending. Matthew Skopek, also a working accountant with degrees in both finance and economics, talked about his qualifications and how he plans to implement greater transparency in the office of the Treasurer.
Ben Koyl is a lawyer who put his skills to work for the Libertarian Party of Illinois as he passionately fought to help us secure ballot access for 2014, demonstrating that he is indeed qualified for the office of Attorney General and that he has his own plans for cutting spending in the department. Hailing as a small business owner, our final candidate Chris Michel knows what small businesses have to go through in Illinois to get started, stay afloat and succeed, and he wants to bring that experience with him to help streamline the Secretary of State’s office while lobbying for better practices to help support small business owners and other entrepreneurs in Illinois by removing obstacles in their path.
If you didn’t get to meet your candidates or pose for pictures with them Friday night, you had plenty of chances to do so on Saturday. The day kicked off with a live morning podcast from The Side Project hosts Jim Goebel and Eric Ferguson, who spent some time speaking with Matthew Skopek, Sharon Hansen and special guest Wes Benedict, the Executive Director of the Libertarian National Committee. Wes was only warming up on Jim and Eric’s show, as he shortly afterwards gave a great speech on “Today’s Libertarian Party Heroes” while offering great stories on how we can more effectively spread our message and grow our party. I snagged a copy of his book “Introduction to the Libertarian party” which Matthew Skopek was nice enough to buy for me (thanks, Matt!) and Wes was kind enough to sign. Wes sold plenty of copies of his book after his speech and then (after signing copies of our books for us) he donated all the proceeds to help cover the cost of our convention. What a guy!
Other presenters throughout the afternoon included Dan Linn, Executive Director of IL-NORML, who spoke about cannabis prohibition, the drug war and other liberty based values. Illinois State University professor Dr. Terry Noel gave an excellent presentation on Bitcoin. Both of these topics are very popular with libertarians, and I caught both men wrapped up in multiple conversations afterwards in the lobby.
During lunch, Sharon Hansen spoke about her campaign for a bit, and was then followed by Lex Green, who awarded his wife, Karen Green, with the David Nolan Award. In a very touching speech, Lex spoke about his wife at length and all the hard work and dedication she has done for the party, both at Lex’s side and on her own initiative. If anyone were to deserve the award for hard work above and beyond what is required, it was Karen – congratulations!
Julie Fox was the keynote speaker, and took some time away from speaking about her campaign to talk more broadly about the party as a whole and our individual part in it. After a wonderful introduction by her campaign manager Thomas Hill, Julie delivered an exciting message under the title of “Compromise or Divide – Where Do We Go From Here?” which was very well received from everyone in the audience.
Orchestrated by Communications Division Director Crystal Jurczynski, there were several workshops that took place, designed to help both candidates and members looking to develop their campaigns or local chapter.
“What’s In Your Liberty Outreach Toolbox?” was a panel discussion of members who have worked or contributed to the Communications Division who hail from all over the state. Diana Visek from Champaign spoke about the best ways to develop and promote print media, Jennifer Floyd from DuPage talked about video making and using film as a tool to promote ideas, Jim Goebel from Grundy County – who earlier that day hosted his podcast program The Side Project – discussed radio broadcasting, Andrew Wikel from the Rockford chapter talked about web design and how instrumental it is to spreading messages of liberty for recruiting members for libertarian chapters, and Paul Clark, the chair of Will County, spoke on the many uses of social media and the many ways they can be of service to your promoting your group and ideas.
Crystal, with the help of Lex Green, also put a few candidates up to the challenge in a session called “Who’s Driving?” where the candidates must develop their interview skills in dealing with hostile media interviewers. This included audience participation to help measure how well or poorly the candidate was doing as the interview went on.
After a lively (and hilarious) game of Libertarian Jeopardy hosted by yours truly, and an endorsement ceremony for Comptroller candidate Julie Fox from the Libertarian National Campaign Committee, it was time for dinner, which was accompanied by a rousing speech by candidate for Governor Chad Grimm. Awards were given out to members from across the state, including Kent McMillen, Jenifer Floyd, Diana Visek, Crystal Jurczynski, Julie Fox, and me, Brian S. Lambrecht (which, by the way, I might say is a GREAT honor).
Afterwards, our keynote speaker for the evening was none other than award winning journalist Ben Swann, whose speech was themed on the premise of “How Liberty Wins Over Fascism.” It wasn’t as much of a speech as it was a lively lecture about how libertarians can better address our ideological adversaries and help set the narrative and change the landscape of debate for our side. It was fun and refreshing, and Ben was kind enough afterwards to stick around and pose for photos with everyone who wanted one.
Oh, and as a side note – he said to me that our game of Libertarian Jeopardy was “the most creative and funniest thing” he had seen at a libertarian event… and he’s been to a lot. What a compliment!!! DuPage does it!!
After auctioning off some interesting items and socializing some more, the Saturday event closed, only to have dead tired libertarians show up early the next morning for the annual business meeting – which included making changes to the state party bylaws – and the State Organizing Committee meeting – and included electing new members for the executive board as well as the directors. All of those positions are listed at the Libertarian Party of Illinois website, though all of us here at DuPage would like to offer a congratulations to Lex Green on being elected the new State Chair, Jonathan Parker as Vice Chair, Jasen Howard as Secretary and Matthew Skopek as Treasurer.
Finally, after most of the members and supporters had left before or during the business portion of the day, Evan McMahon, Executive Director at the Libertarian National Campaign Committee, worked for almost four solid hours with most of the executive board members, chapter chairs, and statewide candidates. Less of a speech and again, more of a workshop, this QandA session was very helpful for people looking to develop their libertarian presence on the local level in their communities, and to help draw in more members who want to serve long term purpose and be active in changing the political landscape in their towns, counties and state.
After all is said and done, this tired and exhausted chapter chair couldn’t wait to get home and sleep off the rest of the weekend. There was a lot of fun, but there was also a lot of learning. So many new ideas and projects to digest and work out later as the weeks and months go on. Of course, most of that can wait, because with roughly six weeks to go till the election, it’s time to get out there and promote our candidates! Thanks to everyone who came out and helped make this year’s convention the massive success that it was!!