- THE LIBERTARIAN PARTYS SUCCESS99 * 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW,Suite 100 Washington DC 20037 * (202) 333-0008 * www.LP.orgThe vanBuren Camp"".~ Profile of a Winning Local Libertarian Campaign ~-L. The election of Bruce Van Buren to the Washington Post and Home Magazine. Their four- Avondale Estates City Commissionwas important year-old son, Knox, really likes the city swim- for the Libertarian Party on several levels. It ming pool, and specializes in parent manipulation..showed the Georgia Libertarian Party, and the On a personallevel, Bruce is friendly, media and general public, that you can get outgoing, photogenic, and had demonstrated elected to local office when-you are strongly willingness to spend significant amounts of time identified with the Libertarian Party. and money on Libertarian activities. He was at Van Burens election, and the election of the top of my list of party members to recruit to DeWayneMetheny to the Auburn City Council, be a candidate. Bruce was non-committal when I were the first electoral wins for the Georgia first approached him about running, and it took Libertarian Party. They are demonstrations of some of his neighbors encouragement to get the LP Campaign Committees national strategy him to take the plunge. I offered to manage of developing success stories on the local level, Bruces campaign when he made the commit- both at winning campaigns and once in office - ment to knock on every door in the city, and to in order to form a farm team of Libertarians who run to win. will go on to. seek higher office. While Bruce had a lot of positives as a . Bruces election also showed that a few candidate, he also had one of the biggest nega- people and a few hundred man-hours of work tives you can have - no history of community can havevery significant success in cutting back involvement. In fact, Bruces only identification city hall, and keeping paychecks in taxpayers in the community was as "that Libertarian guy," pockets ~ rather than in city government not only from managing the Lt. Governor coffers. Bruces election has already had such an campaign, but from sending invitations to most effect in Avondale Estates, and he hasnt even. of the city to several Libertarian outreach events taken office yet. 111 ten you more about that at his home. success later. . . Having lived in Avondale for five years, I got to know Bruce through his managing Bruce was considered a newcomer in this tight- of the 1994 campaign of Walker Chandler as the knit community. The other four candidates had Libertarian candidate for Georgia Lt. Governor. lived there from 12 years to all their lives. Bruce As a candidate himself, Bruce had plenty of was, in fact, attacked late in the campaign both attributes. He uses his accounting degree and 15 for short-term residence and lack of previous years of management experience as Director of involvement in city affairs. Information Systems for a large Atlanta-based furniture rental company. His family has lived in Avondale Estates is a unique city of Atlanta for three generations. His wife Maurie is about 1,200 homes in Atlantas eastern suburbs. a noted architectural historian, who writes The city was founded in 1927 as Georgias first columns on historical preservation for the "planned community." Its features include an
EnglishTudor village-style downtown area, door-to-door walk. Wewould not have won distinctive architecture throughout the city, and without it, and it is certainly the factor that coordinated landscaping. The City is on the overcame Bruces lack of previous community National Register of Historic Places, and has the involvement. His personal contact with the second highest median income of any municipal- voters probably got us the first 350 votes, but it ity in the state. This isnt because of great took everything else we did to get us the last 80 wealth, but simply because there are no poor votes we needed to win. residents - with the possible exception of one I convinced Bruce we should use a pre-walk small apartment complex of about 25 units. Its card. This was a simple postcard with Bruces really a beautiful place. picture and a short note simply saying "Im your Although most of the areas around the city neighbor Bruce Vall Buren, Im running for city are low-income, high-crime districts, Avondale commissioner, and Ill be coming by soon to talk has a very low crime rate. One of the first things to you about our city." Weincluded a drawing of you learn as a young driver in the Atlanta area part of the Tudor Village property. The cards is dont speed through Avondale Estates because were hand-addressed and mailed first class. We the police are parked over there behind the mailed the cards out in batches of 125 to 200 bushes and theyll get you. The city doesnt have per week so that Bruce would be knocking on much of a business tax base, and has one of the the voters doors just a few days after they highest property tax rates in the state. The city received the card. A pre-walk card serves as both ,government had been in some turmoil for a an icebreaker and a time saver for the candidate. couple of years prior to the election, with It also is a big help to the campaign manager mismanaqement allegations and a series of since it commits the candidate to visiting a resignations by city commission members. certain number of homes every week. It also . Avondale Estates has exceptionally high builds credibility for the candidate by showing,-rates of voter registration and voter turnout: he will do what he says. "Hey, this guy sent me1 57% turned out in this off-year election with a card saying he was coming by, and then a few: only two questions on the ballot. This race days later he actually showed up," elected two city commissioriers in a citywide Westarted the campaign much later than race --.:.he top two vote getters were the t we should have - only about three months winners. The onlyother questions on the ballot before the election. So we used Bruces first were anincrease in the county sales tax, and an walks as our research phase. uncontested race for Mayor. " . , Weprinted a small batch of handout cards -; .. for Bruce to distribute as he walked, expecting My main duty as campaign manager was to change it considerably after we got a betterto be a real pest and to constantly push Bruce feel for the issues on the minds of the voters. for us to do more than he originally planned. He We chose five simple issues for the card, prob- initially felt that walking the city and producing ably two too many. one piece of literature would be enough to win, • No tax increase - and we phrased it and.that anything more might be "too much." with those words to voice objection both to the Since Ive never heard of a campaign losing by proposed county sales tax increase, and to any doing too much (unless its too much of the increase in city taxes, which we knew at least wrong thing), I worked subtly at changing .some of our opposition would be favoring. Brucesmind about how much activity we should • Revitalize Avondale Estates Business generate. I also set a goal of organizing the areas. campaign well enough that Bruce would have no • Preserve the historic Tudor Village duties other than to walk and talk to his con- Property. stituents. • Quality Schools for Our Children. The core of our campaign strategy was the • Get Tough on Violent Criminals.
It turned out that the only significant his proposals, Osofsky said "the city must change was to drop "get tough on violent condemn every conceivable piece of property." criminals" from the card. Avondales low crime In literature, Bruces opponent proposed either a rate meant that crime just wasnt an issue, even "special assessment" (tax increase) or municipal though it is issue #1 for most of the Atlanta bonds (read: tax increase) as the only means for area. The back of the card featured a family financing the Tudor Village restoration. Without photo, brief biographies of Bruce and Maurie, Bruce entering the race, there is no question and a one-paragraph personal statement. this program would have gone through with the As Bruce walked, he kept notes on the full backing of the city commission. folks he talked to, including things like their Wehad been working since the beginning dogs leg was broken, they had a Liberty Bell to identify Bruce as the anti-tax candidate, to replica, or were wearing a "legalize pot" T-shirt. provide that contrast between Bruce and the So, with the pre-walk card, the hand-out, opponents. He was the only candidate to come and the upcoming letter piece that Bruce was out against the county sales tax increase, and..initially planning to send out, we were up to the only one opposing taxes to restore the Tudor three pieces of literature ..so far without Bruce Village. even noticing. Prior to sending out our main "issues" Only two real issues emerged during the letter, we did polling -:- both to determine campaign, how to restore the. historic Tudor where Bruce stood, and to determine which part Village property, and, at the very end of the of our message had the most resonance with the campaign, that Bruce was a Libertarian. voters ..We found that Bruces position on the The Tudor Village property in question was county sales tax was not at all important to the one of the original buildings of the city. Once voters, so we dropped that. We also found that very beautiful and housing a lovely old theater, his position on the Tudor Village, when accu- the property had been declining for a number of rately phrased as a choice between pursuing years. The tenant base was so low-rent and private investors or enduring more taxes, was a transient that the twenty five thousand square 10-to-l favorite with the voters, so we quite foot property was only generating $1,500 per naturally made that the focus of the letter. year in property taxes . Wemade note of similar government-run ..The Mayor and the then-current city projects that have failed, emphasized that tax council favored the: city-buying the property and dollars for such a project is an immoral misuse of renovating it. Estimates ranged from $2 to $3 government power; and pointed out the city million for the project. Essentially, the Mayor, itself was initially built as a private, profitable the city commission, and the two candidates corporation. We also made sure to specifically backed by the current regime wanted to spend ask for a vote in the opening and closing para- three million taxpayer dollars so that they graphs of the letter. We hand-addressed and would have a tablecloth restaurant and a puppet mailed the letter first class to hit about a week show within walking distance of their houses. and a half before the election. One of Bruces opponents, HowardOsofsky, The last piece of literature we had planned made this project the centerpiece of his cam- to mail was an oversize postcard. Weused a paign. In his campaign literature, Osofskyused large family photo on one side, re-emphasized phrases like "Wemust take control" and "the Bruces position on taxes and the village restora- city must seize control," with the word control tion, and pointed out that Bruce would be the always in bold for emphasis - pretty scary last name on the ballot. Weasked for a vote on words to a Libertarian. each side of the card. Wemailed the card first In fact, when questioned at the candidates class to arrive the Saturday before the Tuesday forum on how to provide adequate parking for election.
lash reaction to the pieces, offering statements I told you at the beginning that our of support. Wehad the letter formatted by 11 victory had already had an effect on policy and am, printed at Kinkos by 3 oclock, and by 6 pm had already saved the taxpayers money - even on Monday, election eve, volunteers and a few though Bruce does not take office until January. paid kids had distributed the piece to aU 1,177 Bruces election has also forced Osofsky,the homes in the city. mayor, and the rest of the council to drop any hopes they had of the city buying the Tudor Election Day itself was fairly calm. We Village with tax dollars or bonds, and they have got a number of calls thanking us for sending completely given up on the idea. They realize out the endorsement letter. Weeven got a call that we woke up the electorate to exactly what from Martha Randolph Hunt apologizing for the their proposals really meant. hit piece she had sent. Osofskyis now doing exactly what we While in many races, Election Day activity would like for him to be doing - going out and is critical to final success, Georgia election law hustling like a dynamo for private investors for- and circumstances prevented us from engaging the restoration project. What we did saved each "in any meaningful campaigning on Election Day. household in the city around $3,000. State law prohibits campaigning within 150 feet And at the first commission meeting after of the outside edge of the polling place. In most the election, they started to talk about how to precincts, this eliminates any effective campaign privatize Avondales trash pick-up. activity. Also, a list of who has voted is not posted until the end of the day in Georgia. In [By Ron CrickenbergerJ many areas the list of who has voted is posted in the afternoon, so known supporters who have not voted can be targeted for a last-minute get- out-the-vote phone call. While I had made plans to serve as a poll- watcher all day, it turned out that one of our"identified supporters was the pollmanager, and his wife, another supporter, was a poll worker. So with little to worry about regarding fraud, I stayed for a few hours in the morning, and came back to watch the poll workers do their verifying counts and shut down the polling machines. The Avondale precincts ended up being some of the last ones counted by the county election board that night, and we didnt get the results until about 9:30 pm. When the final vote was in, Bruce had placed first with 432 out of 932 total votes cast. Our opponent Osofsky,the unlimited government candidate, had also been elected with a second place showing of 409 votes. The next candidate was the other status quo opponent, who had been endorsed by the Mayor. He lost with 389 votes. Mayor John Lawson, when told that we beaten his hand-picked boys, said simply, "Well, 111be damned."