The Other Guy: James Werner

The real invisible man at the gubernatorial debate was the uninvited Libertarian candidate

The Other Guy: James Werner

He didn't get any free TV face time in the gubernatorial debate – the deep-thinking media barons at Belo Corp. deemed that only four candidates (two major party, two indies) deserved a lectern. But Libertarian James Werner is indeed running for governor, along with more than 170 Libertarian candidates across the state, allotted ballot access because of their success in achieving at least 5% in prior governor's races. Werner concedes that some of those candidates are "real fire-breathing" Libertarians, while others may be more conventional, but many Austinites will at least be surprised to read their Nov. 7 ballots and discover that many races include only a Republican and a Libertarian (or locally, a Democrat and a Libertarian). That's because the small but growing party is determined to run as many races as possible, to increase visibility, outreach, and voter awareness.

Werner is an Austinite who moved here from Los Angeles in 1998, describing it as a "lifestyle decision" because his work, as a software sales and marketing executive, allows him to choose his home – and Austin appealed as "just about the best place in the country to live." He's also a former liberal Democrat who moved to Libertarianism – running against U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett in 2004 – because it best answered his goals for government, which he sums up in the phrase "fiscally conservative, socially tolerant." In practice that means supporting radical budget and tax cuts and strong privatization of government functions, yet simultaneously defending traditionally "liberal" positions such as sexual tolerance and decriminalization of drugs, because Libertarians oppose government intrusion into private life. (One corollary is that Werner opposes incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, pointing out that much of our prison population – and expense – is the consequence of oppressive drug laws.)

In light of these issues, Werner politely objected to the Chronicle's characterization (in our endorsements) of his positions as "extremist Republican" (see his letter in "Postmarks"). He acknowledged that he does support privatization of public schools and other public assets (like parks and open space). He says he spent some time as a substitute teacher, and that experience confirmed for him "the failure of the public schools, particularly for disadvantaged students, that can only be changed by introducing some kind of competition." As for the parks and similar public assets, he says, they can be sold to private ownership under restrictive covenants that would require their maintenance as open spaces and recreational areas, but run as a business – that is, with some level of "user fees" to allow access and improve the conditions.

Werner has never held public office but says that his lack of such experience would be an asset over those "jaded, cynical, and morally corrupt" officeholders who have "lost the ability to see why they are in office in the first place."

"I would have a fresh perspective," he said.

Finally, Werner urges voters who support 50% of what the Libertarian Party stands for to vote straight Libertarian. "If I can get 15 percent of the vote, it will force the major party candidates to stop taking the voters for granted and to return to addressing the actual major issues."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Politics, James Werner, Libertarian Party

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