Tom Kacich | 3 Libertarians think they're better choices for governor

Tom Kacich | 3 Libertarians think they're better choices for governor

Your choices for governor this fall may not be just Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker, or Jeanne Ives and Daniel Biss.

Don't forget the Libertarian Party.

Third parties historically have done poorly in Illinois gubernatorial races. The best finish was by Green Party candidate Rich Whitney in 2006, with 10.4 percent of the vote. The best a Libertarian has done was Chad Grimm's 3.4 percent in 2014.

But don't tell Kash Jackson, Matthew Scaro or Jon Stewart that they're wasting their time running for governor as Libertarians.

"I think people are going to look not for a billionaire in November, but for somebody from the trenches who has experience, and that's me," said Stewart, a 51-year-old former professional wrestler ("The Illustrious Jonnie Stewart") who lives in Deerfield and runs a used-car dealership in Chicago.

"Illinois is broken," said Scaro, a 35-year-old Chicagoan who calls himself a serial entrepreneur. "It is a state filled with fraud and corruption, and I believe that the Democrats and Republicans cannot get along on anything except raising taxes. Only a Libertarian sitting in that seat in Springfield can straighten this state out and handle (House Speaker) Michael Madigan."

"I've slept in the back of a Ford Focus for several days and I'm 6-foot-1. I've slept in peoples' homes and in my truck. It is a lot of work and that's my commitment," said Jackson, a 39-year-old veteran of 20 years in the Navy. "My prediction is that Bruce Rauner gets the nod and J.B. Pritzker gets the nod. Then you're going to have competing interest between a billionaire, a multimillionaire and a middle-class guy who's been a political activist fighting for human and constitutional rights since he left the Navy.

"What people are looking for today is something entirely different, and we really have an opportunity to capitalize. I'm confident that my hard work is going to pay off in the end."

The way the Libertarians choose their nominee could not be more different from the lengthy, expensive, TV ads-centric way the Democrats and Republicans will.

The Libertarian Party will meet at a Bloomington hotel the weekend of March 2 and 3. Only those who have been registered state party members for at least 120 days can vote on the party ticket.

Fewer than 100 people may decide the gubernatorial nominee, Stewart said.

"We have about 2,800 registered Libertarians in Illinois, but only about 90 to 150 will show up and vote. It's going to be a close call," he said. "You have your leaders in the party, but after that who shows up it's kind of a guess. It's always a dice roll."

That's not the end of the process. Party members then have to collect at least 25,000 signatures on candidate petitions in a 90-day period to get their ticket on the statewide ballot.

"We've done it before, and we'll do it again because the Libertarian Party is growing," Scaro said.

The numbers, although it's a small sample size, bear him out. There were almost twice as many votes for the Libertarian candidate in 2014 (135,316) as in the previous high water mark, 2002.

Jackson cited Illinois laws "that infringe on constitutionally protected rights," such as firearm owner cards, red-light cameras, civil asset forfeiture and other issues as reasons he wants to be governor.

"I was fresh out of the military and I took a look at what offices were becoming available and of course governor stood out for me," he said. "I could have run for a different seat and I said, 'You know what? I only live once and it's go big or go home as far as I'm concerned.'"

He said his experience as a Navy submariner and in working with people of diverse backgrounds makes him a better candidate.

"We say 'embrace the suck,' and I think politics is about the same way," Jackson said. "You embrace the suck, put your head down, plow ahead and get the job done."

Stewart and Scaro have similar platforms: cut taxes, cut government programs, legalize marijuana, get government out of your bedroom. Beyond that it's mostly about personality and presentation.

"I am definitely the front-runner. I am the most policy-driven, the most well-spoken and the most principled of the three candidates," Scaro said. "And if you put me in a debate with Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker I will dismantle them verbally. They have nothing on me.

"I am a Libertarian who believes in freedom more than those two, and I am a very dangerous man with a microphone."

Stewart says he's a former Republican who left the party after the late party chair Judy Baar Topinka said he'd have no support in the race for U.S. senator in 2004, the one won by Barack Obama.

"No one is being told the truth, certainly not in a forceful enough way, especially the (government) pensioners, that their pensions are going away once the state is forced to declare bankruptcy and once Congress passes the law," Stewart insisted. "We can't sustain this. It's going to go bust."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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