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Kansas Libertarians to meet in Wichita, aiming for major-party status

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 7:51 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 7:51 p.m.

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Libertarians from across Kansas will gather in Wichita on Friday and Saturday to choose their governor nominee in what they hope will be their last nominating convention ever.

Kansas’ third party is hoping that this will be the year its candidate crosses the magic threshold of winning 5 percent of the votes in the governor’s race. That would promote the Libertarians from minor party status to major, which would allow them to hold an actual primary election like the Republican and Democratic parties in Kansas.

“Everything we’ve been working on for the last three years has been for this goal,” said party Chairman Al Terwelp of Overbrook. Terwelp said the Libertarians have added about 12,300 new members to their rolls since the 2012 election cycle.

The weekend convention at the Holiday Inn, 549 S. Rock Road, will begin at 6 p.m. Friday with a $10-a-person mixer featuring the party’s biggest political star, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 2012 and is widely expected to be the party’s candidate again in 2016.

Johnson also will be the featured speaker at the convention’s Saturday banquet. While the dinner tickets are sold out, people who want to hear the 7:45 p.m. speech will be admitted for a $10 donation payable at the door, Terwelp said.

Saturday’s political meetings are free and open to the public, although only registered Libertarians will be allowed to vote on party business.

The major decision will be to choose between lawyer-activist Keen Umbehr of Alma and Tresa McAlhaney of Bonner Springs, a founder of the Libertarian Party group in Wyandotte County, for the governor’s race.

In addition, members will consider adding four planks to their party platform that in general supports limited government and low taxes. The proposals are:

• Legalization of growing hemp as a farm crop. The party has long called for legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use.

• Abolition of the death penalty. Supporters argue that capital punishment should not be the role of government and is expensive, immoral and mistake-prone.

• Changes in instructions given to juries, to notify them they can rule on the validity of laws in cases, in addition to their traditional fact-finding role.

• Creating a system for voter-sponsored initiatives and referendums at the statewide level. At present, that kind of direct democracy is limited to local government.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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