The Libertarian Party hopes to shake up the presumed Republican-Democrat contest for presidency, and Hood River’s Scott Scrimshaw has a stake in their fight.
Scrimshaw, a local community chaplain, served as a voting delegate at the party’s national convention Sunday in Orlando, Fla.
That night, the party nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, believing he can challenge candidates Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton with a third party bid at the November election.
Scrimshaw cast his vote for Johnson. He called the convention “refreshing” in light of two-party campaigns on the national stage.
“This was like 1776 America … the awareness that something truly important and new was emerging on the American political scene was palpable,” Scrimshaw said.
The Libertarian Party platform hinges on fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. Johnson described himself in his acceptance speech as “fiscally conservative in spades” and “socially liberal in spades,” the Associated Press reported.
It took two votes for Johnson to secure the Libertarian ticket; likewise for vice presidential nominee (and former Massachusetts governor) William Weld.
Until this spring, Hood River County didn’t have its own Libertarian District, or local party organization similar to the Hood River County Democrat and Republican parties.
Scrimshaw started the local Libertarian branch, becoming county coordinator in May. The group hasn’t held formal meetings yet, but Scrimshaw hopes to partner with Hood River Elks Lodge to hold town halls and strategy sessions. Social media will be another main driver.
Scrimshaw, 51, a former Republican, switched over to the Libertarian Party about six months ago, deciding he was fed up with the current pool of presidential candidates.
Marijuana deregulation and LGBT rights were key issues to Scrimshaw, in terms of local impact. He said those principles were rooted in the Libertarian Party instead of the “added plank,” he termed in Democratic policy.
Scrimshaw started a Facebook page, Oregon for Gary Johnson, which brought in attention from groups supporting Johnson. After a quick flurry of discussions with party leaders, he was appointed to attend the Libertarian national convention as a delegate — one of more than 900.
Though Scrimshaw lives in Hood River, he ended up being seated and voting with the Washington State delegates at Sunday’s convention.
“The Oregon Libertarian Party is sorting through some of its own internal business issues and it may have delayed my attending the national convention as a voting delegate,” Scrimshaw said.
The Libertarian Party has open and unbound delegates, which meant Scrimshaw could sit with another state’s delegates. He joined Washington State, a “good fit,” as he was a former resident, and voted with their delegation.
The convention was “organized chaos,” according to Scrimshaw, where delegates fought hard for what they wanted.
“Most of us didn’t get everything we came for and yet we all ended up sitting afterwards licking our political wounds drinking beer together,” he said.
The event drew considerable media attention. Scrimshaw was interviewed by The New York Times among other outlets and he appeared on national television.
“Once the intensity of it all settled in I think it was the discovery that we really do have a choice this year that hit me most solidly between the eyes,” Scrimshaw said. “We have been so (accustomed) to the two-party political and media narrative that I found it completely refreshing to discover how different the Libertarian Party is.”
Scrimshaw argued a Libertarian vote isn’t a “wasted vote” as opponents have characterized it, given the discourse of this election.
Scrimshaw expects to stay in the thick of the Libertarian battle. He anticipates the party will assign him to the official Oregon chair for the Johnson- Weld presidential campaign.
Those interested in learning more about the Hood River County Libertarian District should email Scrimshaw at GaryJohnson2016@gmx.com, call 541-399-0195, or visit the “Oregon for Gary Johnson” Facebook page.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.