This weekend I had the pleasure of sitting down with RJ Harris, candidate for Oklahoma’s 4th district congressional race, to talk about his independent run and his views on the liberty movement in Oklahoma. He also spoke last week at a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. We talked about many things, and I would like to highlight a few of the topics below.
Running as an Independent
In 2010, Harris ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to the same congressional seat, being defeated in the primary by incumbent Tom Cole. This year he has filed as an independent candidate. He has been endorsed by Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee and candidate for the 2012 presidential race.
You ran previously as a Republican, what is different about running, now that you’re not tied to a party in your campaign? “Well,” Harris responded, “there’s been good and bad. The good is, an independent can really just do what they want and say what they want, and not really worry about being the party nominee, they’re going to be on the ballot in the general election one way or another. And that’s a double-edged sword because the downside to that is, you’re going to be on the ballot, but despite the growing cries from the populous that they’re angry with the Congress, angry with the president, the conventional wisdom is, and it’s usually been right, that people are going to vote straight ticket down to the top, and with Gary Johnson being removed from the Oklahoma ballot, there’s no way to vote from the top of the ticket on down for the Libertarian Party.” He says that is why the two parties in the state have done what they have done, “because they know that there’s straight party voting in Oklahoma, and they know that if there was a Libertarian party someone could just vote straight Libertarian, then we’d be on the map.”
Ballot access requirements are higher and stricter in Oklahoma than most other states, which was also the subject of last week’s rally at the state Capitol.
This year, there were 57,000 signatures on a petition to add Gary Johnson’s presidential bid to Oklahoma’s general election ballot, but that was reduced to 41,000 after a vetting process, short of the 51,000 signature requirement to place a name on the ballot. As a result, Oklahoma is now one of only three other states not to include his name for the election next month. Additionally, the American’s Elect Party of Oklahoma named Johnson their presidential nominee.
Harris said a lot of people talk about being independent, or Libertarian, but in the end, most people will probably vote for a party candidate. If Harris does win his race, it would likely be an exception
Oklahoma’s Unique Place in the Liberty Movement
Ordinarily it would seem strange to associate the liberty movement or libertarian ideals with the Democratic party, but Oklahoma has a much different political landscape than most other states.
In Oklahoma, not necessarily other states, Harris says liberty candidates will have to choose between the Democrat and Republican parties. If he wins his election, he will probably remain independent, but if not, a hard look must be taken to determine how to get liberty candidates elected. He says that because the Democrat Party will not have any elected national representatives after this year. The Liberty movement needs to sit down and have a dialogue with the Democrats in Oklahoma, considering that all the recent elected Democrats in the state were pro-life, fiscal conservatives (Jerry Askins, Dan Boren), and restore the party to the party of Jefferson and Kennedy (ask not what your country can do for you)