Over the weekend, Colorado’s Libertarian Party, which saw its membership swell in the run-up to the presidential election, rallied for its state convention.
This year’s theme was “Liberty City”— if you could start from scratch, how would you create your Libertarian utopia?— and took place at the Westin in Westminster.
The state’s third largest political party had a good year in 2016, seeing its membership crack more than 1 percent of registered voters statewide as Coloradans looked for candidates and affiliation outside the two major parties.
Because of that, the Libertarian’s 2016 U.S. Senate nominee, Lily Tang Williams, was allowed to participate in the first general election debate, held in Grand Junction by the West Slope business group Club 20.
On Election Day, the Libertarian presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, snagged 5.18 percent in Colorado with 144,121 votes— one of his best showings of the cycle in a swing state.
Since the election, though, membership in the state party here has actually dipped. By November 1, 2016, the party counted 43,511 members in its ranks. As of the beginning of this month it had 43,441, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
That said, “We had probably the best convention we ever had,” says Castle Rock real estate broker Wayne Harlos, who was elected chair of the state party this weekend. “We had more participation in this off-year convention than we had last year in an election year.”
Harlos attributes the turnout to the convention’s content and promotion. Seminars included “Tactics for Defending Your Business from the Regulations,” “The Failed War on Drugs,” “Liberty and the African American,” and “When Helping is Hurting: Prostitution.” Speakers included former Libertarian presidential candidate Steve Kerbel and Libertarian Nebraska Sen. Laura Ebke.
As for leadership changes, the party— and Colorado— lost two of its most prominent figures. Its former chairman, Jay North, is moving out of state, Harlos said.
And Williams, a Chinese immigrant who crisscrossed the state in 2016 as the party’s fiery U.S. Senate candidate, is leaving Colorado for New Hampshire. She has joined the Free State Project, she says, which is a political migration movement urging 20,000 Libertarian-minded people to flock to the Granite State.
“I think maybe I could be more effective here,” she told The Colorado Independent from New Hampshire, saying it can be hard to compete in a state as populous and politically diverse as Colorado. (Williams earned 3.62 percent of the vote in the 2016 U.S. Senate election, with 99,277 voters casting ballots for her in the race.)
“I know the Libertarian Party is doing great in Colorado,” she said. “They have a new board and are showing strong leadership. I think they will do great things.”
Unlike neighboring Nebraska, Colorado’s state legislature doesn’t have any Libertarians. But the party does count Beau Woodcock, the mayor of Milliken, in its ranks.
The national Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado Springs in the early 1970s.
Photo of Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson campaigning for president in Colorado by Corey Hutchins