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June 18. 2014 11:11PM

Drew Cline: A Libertarian plays devil's advocate in U.S. Senate race

GARDNER GOLDSMITH is not the Devil.

A few years ago, Goldsmith, who had a reputation among his friends for coming up with great Halloween costumes, was invited to a Halloween party in Pinardville. He did not have time to do an elaborate costume, so he threw one together: red makeup, a cape, pretty easy. He went as Satan. Then he and a friend wound up at the wrong party.

“We were in somebody else’s Halloween party, and we’re having a good time and wondering, how come nobody’s here?” he said in an interview this week.

A friend took a photo of him in that costume, and he has used it as his Facebook profile pic and Twitter avatar for a long time. Last week Goldsmith, not in costume, crashed another party. He filed to run for U.S. Senate as the Libertarian candidate.

He said he has been advised to take down the Satan picture. He refuses to. “If somebody’s telling you you have to wear the right color barn jacket, don’t listen to them,” he said. “If you can’t be yourself, you’re not being honest with people.”

Goldsmith, who has lived in Amherst since he was three (“I guess I would be considered a child carpetbagger”), is a radio talk show host and writer. He has written for television (Star Trek: Voyager), and in 2007 he published a series of Libertarian essays on New Hampshire titled “Live Free or Die.” Last year his first novella was published in the United Kingdom.

His name in New Hampshire was made as a host on WGIR, WNTK, and WTPO, all AM radio stations. He now hosts a show called Liberty Conspiracy on the Liberty Radio Network. He moved around, he concedes, because “ratings weren’t good enough.” So how does he expect to win a U.S. Senate seat? That is simple. He does not expect to win.

“I know as a Libertarian I’m not going to get 20 percent, 30 percent of the vote,” he said. “But it gives me the opportunity to talk to people and say, ‘hey, is your party still representing principle, or is there something wrong?”

Goldsmith says his mission is really to make people think about individual liberty.

“My goal is to spread the word. It’s to educate people about long-lost principles that are not being espoused in the Democratic and Republican Party establishments.”

To do that, though, he first has to get on the ballot. Even with the presence of thousands of Free Staters in New Hampshire, the Libertarian Party has not polled well enough in recent elections to qualify for the ballot.

Goldsmith needs 3,000 signatures to qualify. He does not think a lot of Republicans will help him.

“They hate the Libertarians because they fear we’ll take their votes,” he said.

That leaves independents, Libertarians and Democrats. If Democrats wanted to throw a monkey wrench into the election, they could easily organize enough signatures to get Goldsmith on the ballot, which could help Jeanne Shaheen in what is expected to be a Republican year. And that would be a great New Hampshire political irony. Goldsmith cut his teeth in New Hampshire politics by antagonizing Shaheen.

When Shaheen was a state senator, Goldsmith vigorously opposed her health insurance legislation that imposed guaranteed issue requirements on insurers. He called the State House to talk to someone about it, and he was given Shaheen’s number. He recalls a very short conversation, ended by Shaheen. When she was governor, he tried to get her to support changing the bill after it caused insurers to leave the state.

“Jeanne Shaheen, if she saw me, she’d recognize me. She can’t stand me.”

If Goldsmith did get on the ballot, he might get into the candidate debates.

“The Democrats would be wise to get me on the ballot, but ironically, if I get into one of those debates I’m going to tear Jeanne Shaheen to shreds, metaphorically,” he said.

Goldsmith is a reluctant candidate. The Libertarian Party tried to get him to run during the last U.S. Senate race, but he declined. This year he agreed, but he is not enthusiastic about politicking. He likes political philosophy, not politics. But he knows that his party needs a standard-bearer.

His immediate task is to get on the ballot. He will be at the Free State Project’s PorcFest in Lancaster June 22-29. He plans to have volunteers collect signatures across the state this summer. “I think it is doable, but it’s going to be hard.”

This year, we might just see how strong the Ron Paul/Free State/Libertarian influence in New Hampshire really is. If Goldsmith did get on the ballot, it would be devilishly fun for political observers.

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His column runs on Thursday. You can follow him on Twitter @Drewhampshire.


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