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R.I. Libertarian Party reorganizing after hiatus

After a five-year hiatus, the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island is back in action.

On Oct. 17, Christian Chirino, chairman, and Brian Stack, vice-chairman, held a Libertarian Party convention for the purpose of electing officers, selecting provisional by-laws and generally revitalizing the party. About 10 people attended, Chirino said.

Stack, Chirino and Treasurer Tony Jones began reorganizing the party too late to meet with congressional hopefuls and other political candidates to run under the Libertarian banner in the upcoming elections, Chirino said, but they are endorsing independent candidate Robert Healey for lieutenant governor.

Healey has promised not to take a salary if elected and to work to abolish the office, which he considers a waste of taxpayer money.

Chirino and the executive committee hope to hold annual official conventions starting next May to put things in order in time for next November's elections.

The Oct. 17 convention marked the first signs of life the party has shown in five years, Chirino said. He said that he didn't know what accounted for its dissolution in the first place.

"The executive committee didn't meet anymore … pretty much it just fell into stagnation and it died," he said.

Chirino started doing research on the party and its history in early August, he said. He contacted the old chairman, David Bibeault, a Republican candidate for Rhode Island state senator. But Bibeault is no longer on the executive committee for the party and did not attend the convention.

Now it's up to Chirino, Stack, Jones, secretary Elizabeth Richardson and member-at-large Gary Whitney to pull the party back together.

"It's been a work in progress," said Chirino. "None of us were involved five years ago."

The revitalized Libertarian Party of Rhode Island is addressing a political need that isn't being met by Republicans or Democrats, Chirino said. Specifically, "there's a lot of excessive programs here … there's a whole slew of things that libertarians don't believe in," he said.

Rhode Island politics need a breath of fresh air, something different from "switching back and forth between Republicans and Democrats every four years," party member Peter Rose said.

"If we can get some people in elected offices who are actually libertarians, that should give governmental policy a good hard shove in the libertarian direction, which is likely to be a good thing," he said.

Chirino said that the political climate in Rhode Island that stimulated the reformation of his party resembles the prevailing atmosphere across the nation.

As the popularity of the Tea Party has demonstrated, third parties are picking up steam all over the country. Associate Professor of Political Science Wendy Schiller wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that the nationwide surge in third party activity is a reaction to what voters see as unresponsiveness on the part of the government and the two major parties that compose it.

"So when a third party comes along that has a simple but clear message of (responsiveness) to the average voter, that party can gain support," she wrote.

She added that the lasting success of these movements will depend heavily on the outcomes of the coming elections.

"If third-party or alternate-party candidates win elected office then there will be a base to operate from in government in addition to the electorate. But if they do not win, then it will be a greater challenge to sustain their 2010 momentum," she wrote.

While Schiller wrote that the Libertarian party and other third parties in Rhode Island are benefiting from the success of the Tea Party, which demonstrates to voters that they have viable options other than the major Republican and Democratic parties, Chirino and Rose both said the Rhode Island Libertarians were not connected to the Tea Party.

"Personally, I think some of those people are kind of crazy," Chirino said.


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