On June 24th, Vice Chair of the South Carolina Libertarian Travis McCurry unexpectedly resigned. As a developing party, one might expect such a resignation to obstruct growth, outreach, and the business of winning elections. An experienced observer of Libertarian behavior might even assume fractures and schisms within party ranks because of our instinct to cling to minor points of logical argumentation and our on-again-off-again love affair with philosophical purity.
When I discovered the newly minted was Executive Committee Member C. James Brandmair, I expected there to be some riveting tales of Libertarian drama.
- James Brandmair was the single dissenting vote on the Executive Committee in early June when the SCLP voted 8-1 on a resolution of censure and disassociation against LNC Vice Chair Arvin Vohra following Vohra’s controversial remarks on current and former military members of the armed forces of the united states.
Having taken a principled and absolute minority position against the strong resolution, I imagined the debate over Brandmair and his opponent Alex Thornton (who was unable to attend the vote because of prior work commitments) to have been intensely contested.
What happened was in fact a reasoned and fruitful debate of ideas. While unable to speak herself, Thornton, a former Libertarian candidate in Charleston, was represented by members of the Executive Committee, including the state chair, Stewart Flood.
In the end, the race was decided during the second round of voting which Brandmair won 5-4, the first ending in a 5-5 tie.
Brandmair is clear in his vision for the South Carolina Libertarian Party.
“Our focus is on recruitment. Our numbers in South Carolina have been stagnant and I’ve been building a team to correct that. We will maintain C. Michael Pickens and his Libertarian Leadership Academy for mentorship and coaching of our party leaders and candidates. The State Party is currently developing five county affiliates and organize them in enough time they can be represented at the state convention.”
Brandmair’s outreach tactics have been effective for the SCLP. In his recruiting trips across the state, he has been able to enlist young, passionate communicators for liberty.
JP Wilson, 18, of York County has been a registered Libertarian for 10 months. As the South Carolina State Coordinator for the Libertarian Youth Caucus, Wilson’s focus is on youth outreach.
“Right now, we are organizing five campus caucuses for the South Carolina LYC. These caucuses will hit the ground running at the opening of the school year organizing youth outreach in South Carolina for the Libertarian Party.”
When I asked him how he became involved with the state LP, he told me he came from the Democratic Party and it was James who brought him into Libertarianism.
- Harper Sharp, 20, has only been a Libertarian for roughly 3 months and like JP Wilson, was brought in by Brandmair himself. For him, the election of Brandmair is an indication that the youth of South Carolina will have representation in Libertarian leadership.
“I’m looking forward to November and I’m looking forward to being the change I want to see in the party. We’re focused on our goal of 35 new members, new delegates, by November.”
Another young and passionate Libertarian member, Shane Sweeny, 25, likes to contrast his experience with the Libertarian Party while in college to his experience currently.
“While I was on the University of South Carolina campus, there was no outreach by the Republicans, but we know the Democrats worked for outreach on campuses across the nation and reaching young folks. Unfortunately, the Libertarian group on campus didn’t start up until I left. But meeting people like J.P., an 18-year-old working towards liberty up here even though he’s about go to college in Florida, seeing guys like Harper and James and people in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s actively reaching out to people shows me that it’s not just a club for old-white haired people. It’s a continuous and growing movement to be a part of.”
Shane has spent much of his career as a liberty activist on his own. As with both Wilson and Sharp, it was Brandmair acting independently to bring in an ardent, principled individual.
State Chair Stewart Flood expresses confidence in his state party and looks to goals already met as evidence of their success.
“The goal we set at the November 2015 convention when I was elected chairman was to double the number of counties this term. This required involvement by all of our party members, and they have been stepping up to the plate and working to accomplish our goal. We are now at thirteen organized county [affiliates]…and [our goal] is to have all forty six counties organized and active before the 2020 presidential elections.”
The results in South Carolina are encouraging for a growing party. Despite differences in ideology and tactics, the Libertarian Party of South Carolina has been able to unite behind a vision of outreach and an electoral strategy to paint the entire state gold.