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Jake Porter: Libertarian Candidate Thinks He's Best For Maintaining Major Party Status

John Pemble/IPR
Libertarian Jake Porter

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds does not face a primary election challenger and there are six Democrats running for their party's nomination. But, there's also a primary race for Libertarians this June.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa has full political party status for the first time this election cycle. That's because of a record-breaking showing in Iowa for presidential candidate Gary Johnson in 2016. There are two candidates running for their party's nomination: Marco Battaglia and Jake Porter.

Porter also ran for secretary of state in 2010 and 2014. He has a business background and told IPR's Clay Masters  he's running for governor because he's concerned about Iowa. A transcript of the full conversation follows:

I'm asking everybody who's running for governor just simply why are they running?

Well a couple reasons. So I'm running, one is the Libertarian Party now has major party status I'm. running because I think I'm the best candidate to maintain that major party status going forward. So that's objective number one. I think we've accomplished quite a bit with that. I've ran for office a couple of times before, Secretary of State in 2010, 2014. Both times I received over 3 percent of the vote, enough that would have maintained that major party status. And I've been traveling the state now for the past- since July doing as many media interviews as possible, speaking to as many groups as possible. And then the other reason why I'm running is because I'm very concerned about the state of Iowa. Many things that are not being addressed: criminal justice reform for example, and also our state's budget is in crisis. We're constantly borrowing money from the emergency fund, making mid-year budget cuts just because we've not budgeted properly and because we've given a lot in corporate welfare.

You are relatively unknown. The Libertarian Party is relatively unknown. Many people think of the Democratic and the Republican Party. What do you bring to the table? Tell me about your background. Introduce yourself to the listeners. What do you bring to the table and why do you think that those skills would fit nicely for being the Governor?

You mentioned being relatively unknown, we're working quite a bit on that. Whenever I first got involved I remember you know you go up to people and say librarians, vegetarians, librarians have a party now? So I'm a business manager, business consultant so I've got a lot of an ability to do things that are less of a cost. We're not going to compete with you know Fred Hubbell's money for example I don't have that kind of money, but we do have quite a bit of resources. We've also grown quite a bit in the past few years. You know when I started we had no registered voters in the state of Iowa. Now we've grown to almost 10,000. That's a base that we did not have before. And you know 10,000 people would be 1 percent of the vote, give or take, in a general election. So we've got a lot more an ability that we've got before. I've also, you know I've ran for office before. I've been in I think about 60 different media you know interviews and things that we've done so far just this year, which you know compared with you know Dr. ?? ran for office as a Libertarian for governor she got maybe five or six the entire time. Having a major party status is definitely helping us out. Having a primary that gives a lot of people the ability to register as libertarians and gives them incentive to do it where they did not have before. So definitely going out there, speaking, doing all the stuff that we can. Now we've got lists and an ability and, you know, Gary Johnson brought in a lot of people last year that we can now-- to do work this year.

And you said that you're a business manager. What kind of business?

So I actually run my own business right now, I've worked for Yahoo as a retail store manager and now I own a consulting business and we do consulting mostly on, you know, skin rejuvenation, tattoo removal and things like that. So we do a lot of business consulting. We do online and online forms, you know online advertising, things that we to a degree we also use in the campaign.

You mentioned the state budget, concerns that you have over it. The legislature is into their third week of overtime right now there's a lot of talk about the state budget about a tax cut package that has recently come out that we're still kind of turning over and learning details about this week. What do you see when you see the state budget? What are the priorities for you when you look at it and think about, you know, is this the right time for tax cuts, simplifying the tax code, et cetera?

You know I look at it and I think you know 10, 15, 20 years ago we had better roads than we had. I think our schools were in better shape. I think you had better public services than what we've got. The poorest Iowans are now paying more in taxes than they have before in the past. But we are seeing fewer government services. We're seeing cuts to things that people would actually use the most, the sexual abuse hotlines, hearing aids for kids.

And we look at what should be a priority for the state. Well the priority of the state is obviously to protect people. So when I see things like you know, the sexual abuse kits not being tested, that's a concern. And then you see these this corporate welfare that the state has given out through things like the research activities tax credit, where they've literally cut, you know, big corporations, financially sound corporations, welfare checks to conduct research to help their bottom line. And now we're going to talk about tax cuts? You're going to cut taxes, you have to cut spending somewhere. And I've not seen any plans for where they're going to cut spending. So, you know, they're talking about cutting taxes, you know, one proposal I heard was close to a billion dollars. Where are you going to cut that spending from? I've not heard any plan. So what will end up happening if we're not careful is they're going to do this and they're going to have to raise the taxes somewhere like the sales tax, a tax on the poorest Iowans that will drive people out of the state. Or they're going to have to cut a lot in government services. Where are they going to cut from? Well we've seen right now where they're cutting from and it's not been good. And it's also shifted more spending down at the local level. For example you know cutting the mental health facilities. Well now local governments have to transport people farther distances. They're spending more money. Or they've done the property tax relief where they were going to backfill and paid these counties money back. Now they're not wanting to do that. Rural Iowa is suffering, you know 70 out of 99 counties lost population our last census. That's not good and it's going to continue to get worse as long as we kick these cans down the road. And to try to take a problem we've got now, and I think this is only going to make it worse until they determine what they're going to-- what changes they’re going to make

You bring up concerns about mental health. There was some bipartisan support for a bill this legislative session for mental health. There's been a lot of talk about Medicaid and what has happened with the privatization of the management of the Medicaid program. When you're looking at what's going on regarding health care and you're seeing the two, the Democratic and the Republican parties, being the voices at the table in these debates, where do you see yourself or the Libertarian Party in these conversations? What should be done? What is your viewpoint on what should be done for mental health concerns and for the privatization of Medicaid? There are two different things that we can start with mental health care.

You know, a lot of these issues that we have with health care there are, you know, top -- the federal government has a lot of policies that the governor can't do a whole lot about. And if a candidate for governor tries to tell you they're going to, they're lying to you. There are some things that we can do. One is I would reverse the privatization of Medicaid. That was a handout to three big corporations. And I don't think that's the right goal. What has happened, and we can see the disaster that it's been. It's not worked out for the regular Iowans that have had to use those services, and even the companies that told us it was going to save money, well is it really saving money when these companies are asking now for bailouts? You know, from the state taxpayer dollars. Ultimately it's a handout to big corporations is what it is. And I think we should call it that. So that would be something that we could definitely reverse, and then we could look for changes to it that's fine. But one of the things we need to do is to bring people from all sides, you know, like we had the changes to the unions, the public sector workers that we had--

In 2017, you have a rolling back of the collective bargaining rights.

And I've talked to many union members and many would agree, OK there could be changes made,  but let's bring everyone together before we start doing that because we've cost ourselves. And ultimately that hurts the local communities too, the rural communities in Iowa when we do stuff like this. Now we've got people that exchanged lower pay often for increased benefits. They may go somewhere else. They may go out of state now, and our rural communities will suffer. So whenever you do stuff, you know the governor is not a dictator. Nor should they act like one. We should try to bring people together on these issues. And a lot of them are federal policies that I would definitely say changes could be made to health care, but at the state level, we're not going to be able to make all of those changes. But what we can do is make sure it works as efficiently as possible and make sure that we include people in the process and not try to score political points against our opponents.

Another topic that is talked a lot about at the Statehouse this last legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds, the first bill she wanted to sign was a water quality bill. That's what she did, a $282 million for water quality projects in the state. Do you think that that was a good bill?

No I don't think it probably goes far enough. You know, one thing we've got to look at too is you obviously have-- people should have the right to do whatever business they want, but they do not have a right to pollute land and water that's going to be used by all of us. I don't really think that we want to go more towards how things are in the third world countries where you have to have a bottle of water that we can't-- that's where we're going to head if we're not careful. You know there's a lot of issues with that. So I think we've got to, and it's not-- we're not talking about the small mom and pop farmers too, we're talking about big corporate farms that are doing a bulk of the polluting. And so that's something I think we do need to do more about. But we need to have consensus on this, but that's something that benefits all Iowans, urban, rural we all want to have clean air, clean drinking water. So I think they could definitely go more with that as far as letting some of the local communities also dictate what's going to happen in their local communities, whether it be like a hog farm comes to town.

So more of like a watershed approach, the people within the different watersheds having more of a say?

More control. I don't trust the legislature to be able to do this. The problem is when you expect something to be done at the state level you're going to have political change every few years and it's going to flip back and forth and I think it's going to be pretty disastrous. But yeah letting the local communities make those decisions I think is always important. They have a better idea what's going on. And no one wants to see their local lands ruined or their local air quality go down.

You were mentioning population loss in many of the more rural counties in Iowa. As you've been meeting with Iowans and in this campaign for the primary, what have you seen that unites Iowans rural and urban as you've been talking and out on the stump?

Iowa is a very nice state. I wouldn't pick another place to live. It's the nicest people, the nicest population, and we're also for the most part I think pretty welcoming. Iowa's had a history, we've got you know in our state motto and we put it on our flag 'our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.' People used to immigrate here from all over and not only the United States but all over the world. They immigrated here for religious freedom, for example the Quakers that came in. People also immigrated for good tax policy that benefited the poorest people where they could start a life.

There's a lot of an entrepreneurial spirit that you still find right here in Iowa that we treat people with respect even along the campaign trail. You know, I think most of the candidates for the most part compared to the other states definitely treat each other pretty well with respect. We have a political dialogue that you don't often see in other states. I think people are pretty united as long as we-- we can't do this whole thing of starting to label people as our enemies. We may disagree politically but they're not our enemies. So I think most people agree with that and most people are willing to work together.

Do you feel that mental health care issues are the same -- the opioid issue. Is that the same? I mean, are they similar issues or do they look different in different parts of the state?

Well obviously certain communities got their own local issues going on, but that's something it's pretty well--you know I think throughout the state. We've all known people that have been addicted to drugs. We've all known people that have committed suicide, or most of us have. Some of us have even you know contemplated it ourselves. Those are issues that do impact everyone at some level or another and that's something it's an issue that comes up a lot. And that brings up another question, I was talking to at a high school today and they asked me a lot of questions about, you know, people being in prison for addiction issues. Is that really the way we want to go down? We're going to make someone to where they refute it, or where they decide not to get help because they're afraid they're going to be put in prison, are afraid their kids are going to be taken away from them. They're afraid they're going to lose their economic opportunity for the rest of their lives if they admit that they have a substance abuse problem. That's one thing where we can get into criminal justice reform, and I've found that you know Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents you know people are pretty well united that they don't want to punish people for substance abuse issues, that they don't want to punish people that are trying to get help.

The Libertarian voice, when you look at the last, well, look back as far as you want to, there has not been much representation if at all in the Iowa Legislature. If there was-- if you were in the legislature or if more Libertarians were in the legislature, what would it look like? I mean how would conversations be different in your opinion?

Well I think we're in a unique opportunity. And you know we have issues that Democrats will agree with, and issues that Republicans will agree with. I often say we take the good from both and we throw out the bad. But we can work with people on all sides of these issues. We can work with Democrats on certain issues, particularly ones that involve personal freedom. And we can work with Republicans to agree on ones that would involve more economic freedom.You know, whether it be cutting unnecessary regulations on small businesses, for example.

So I think you'd have a lot of dialogue. You would not see you know anarchy tomorrow or anything like that. You would see a lot of changes though happening. You would see, probably, the sick children now being able to get their medication, the medical cannabis. We wouldn't drag our feet on that for five or six years like the Republicans and Democrats have done. And mostly the Republicans on that specific issue. We wouldn't be trying to score political points against our opponents. If we do you know any tax reform it's going to benefit all of Iowans and it's not going to be a handout to a big corporation. You're going to see a lot of stuff like that where I think you're going to see an improvement. Probably more voices such as the rural community that would get-- and people that would get their voice-- that have kind of been ignored for the past few years, like criminal justice reform or people getting their voting rights restored. That's something that isn't talked a lot about. And I really think the Democrats would be well advised to talk more about that in the campaign. It's something I talked about. And most everyone thinks that if you served your time and paid for your crime, you should get your voting rights restored, with the exception of voter fraud of course.

Once this primary is over one of you will be the nominee. It's a tough hill. It's an uphill battle for the Libertarian candidate, whether it's you or your opponent in this primary. How do you make a message that connects and do anything when the cards are stacked against you?

Well there's many ways that a minor party can win. I won't say third party anymore because technically we are a major party in Iowa. But there are many ways that we can win. One is if you look, well obviously what the Republicans did, they replaced the Whigs. That was a long time ago. Something like that could happen in this political climate. Well the way, it's often more common that minor parties win, would be like the strategy of the Prohibition Party or the Socialist Party. They got a lot of their ideas implemented. The Prohibition Party got, obviously, the prohibition of alcohol implemented. Socialist Party got the direct election of senators for one, and many of the plans in the New Deal I would say came from their platform, that was adopted. And the reason why the Democrats adopted that was because they were taking enough votes in elections and they were, they weren't winning a whole lot of elections, but they were taking enough votes, they were out there promoting that message, that their ideas were adopted. I've noticed in my own campaigns for office that my opponents will frequently steal an issue here there, and you know my issues are free for the taking. Feel free to take them. My opponents, I just hope they implement them whenever they get in office. So that's another way we can win.

We're also building up a movement too. So your vote for us keeps us that major party status but allows us to recruit more registered voters, also more local candidates for office in the future and build up county organizations where we can take this message across Iowa. And that's how politics are changed. It's done at the local level. You know it's not going to be me doing this by myself obviously this is going to have to be an effort among libertarians across the state of Iowa.

All right. Thank you.

Thanks very much for having me.