Chris Rockhold is reminding voters that they have a third option for their representative on Capitol Hill.
The Wichita flight instructor is the Libertarian Party’s nominee for the 4th Congressional District, a seat vacated after Mike Pompeo was confirmed as the Central Intelligence Agency’s director in the Trump administration.
Rockhold is running against Republican Ron Estes and Democrat James Thompson in the April 11 special election.
Rockhold, 47, comfortably won the Libertarian nomination in February. He said his message of smaller government and personal liberty should resonate with voters.
Our government was founded on self determinism and self-reliance. To me, that’s what the Constitution is about.
Libertarian Chris Rockhold, running for Congress
“Our government was founded on self-determinism and self-reliance,” Rockhold said. “To me, that’s what the Constitution is about.”
“The federal government overreach is out of control.”
Libertarian early on
Born in 1970, Rockhold grew up around the country with time in Ohio, Wisconsin, California and Arizona.
He became interested in flying when he’d go out on flights with his dad, who piloted planes.
“Most people in aviation can you tell you the story when they were bit by the bug,” Rockhold said. “It’s always something that’s interested me.”
He said he realized he’s been Libertarian since high school. In 1988, Rockhold cast his first vote for president for Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman idolized by many Libertarians.
In the early 2000s, Rockhold moved to Washington state to work for Empire Airlines, which contracted with larger companies like FedEx. He would fly cargo flights around the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Alaska.
Rockhold also ran for a seat in the Washington Legislature in 2014. He got 10 percent of the vote, finishing third in a primary to determine the two general election candidates.
‘What I’m about’
Rockhold moved to Wichita later in 2014. He now works for FlightSafety International, where he’s a flight instructor.
“I’m actually now training people at what I used to do at Empire,” he said.
He wasn’t going to wait long for a second run for office. Rockhold said he was approached by Jordan Husted, a Kansas Libertarian Party activist, about a potential 2018 run for governor.
But then Pompeo was named by Trump as his pick for CIA director during the transition. Rockhold said he and Husted began talking about running in the special election first.
“It’d be a good opportunity to get some (name) recognition,” Rockhold said. “Even if I don’t ultimately get elected, people will know who I am and what I’m about.”
Husted, who is now his campaign manager, spoke in place of Rockhold at a Wichita Crime Commission forum Thursday that featured Estes and Thompson.
“He’s an extremely well-spoken individual,” Husted said. “He knows how to listen to people.”
Husted said Rockhold would not be vulnerable to pressure from party leadership on votes in Congress like Democrats and Republicans. He compared voters to a company’s shareholders and representatives to a board of directors carrying out their will.
“We’re not here to lead,” Husted said. “We’re here to represent.”
On the issues
Rockhold said the United States should stop fighting “unsustainable wars” and bring most of its troops home from overseas deployments.
“That would actually provide a stronger national defense,” he said.
He opposes “corporate welfare” policies like tax credits for large corporations.
Rockhold said he’s a strong supporter of gun rights. Like his idol Ron Paul and other Libertarians, he wants to audit the Federal Reserve.
Rockhold is critical of President Trump’s travel bans on several Middle Eastern and African countries, saying it sends the message that the U.S. is not “compassionate toward the Muslim world.” He also doesn’t think a wall on the southern border will solve illegal immigration.
“This isn’t 15th-century China,” Rockhold said. “We’ve got to find a sensible immigration policy that allows people to work toward citizenship.”
Not ‘a wasted vote’
Rockhold said his message should resonate with people who are conservative about taxing and spending but aren’t necessarily focused on social issues.
“A lot of people are really duly Libertarian but don’t realize it yet,” he said.
He pointed to statistics of Americans’ desire for a third party. Rockhold said the dominance of the two parties has led to endless swings of the pendulum: a party comes to power, voters grow disgruntled, an election brings the other party to power, and so on.
“A wasted vote is voting for somebody you don’t agree with,” he said.