On the Campaign Trail With Dan Delaney
June 7, 2016, Pilsener Haus & Biergarten, Hoboken, New Jersey
Harrington Park, New Jersey native Dan Delaney, 26, is the Libertarian Party’s candidate for the US House of Representatives for the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey.
And he’s late.
Not egregiously so, but fashionably enough. I am always punctual, which means I am often waiting on others, but that’s OK because it gives me the opportunity to settle into the ambience, become a fly on the wall, and reflect.
I’m waiting for Dan to arrive so I can interview him before he has to press the flesh of Pilsener Haus & Biergarten’s patrons. He, his campaign staff and friends (a distinction without difference) are here to celebrate getting on the ballot for November’s election.
Pilsener is a German style brauhaus. Trays of every imaginable lager and ale go tottering past, along with platters of sausages and pretzels (Germans had very little imagination when it came to cuisine. Perhaps quantity is the enemy of precision?). I prefer American microbrews, and thankfully, Pilsener’s booze menu is comprehensive. As I sip from my mug, I reflect on the irony that soon Dan and I will be discussing libertarianism in a venue patterned after the German beer halls where the National Socialists who formed the Third Reich had socialized and organized their coups against the Weimar Republic. Fascism, of course, is not dead; at the time of this interview/ballot access celebration, the United States presidential race still had three major two-party candidates: one neo-conservative (Clinton) and two national socialists (Trump and Sanders).
The Munich brauhauses are where Hitler and his idiot bastard cronies had planned the Beer Hall Putsch and had proselytized to their countrymen to gain support for their planned tyrannical government; tonight this Hoboken brauhaus will be a site for those celebrating and agitating for liberty. Perhaps Irony requires a hand in hand sympathizer known as Coincidence.
I’m almost done with my second pint when Dan arrives. He’s a handsome guy with fair hair and skin. He sits down and after we exchange some pleasantries and small talk, I begin the interview. He ponders the questions I ask him; he doesn’t have a mental rolodex of canned responses to my queries. We sit opposite each other on long wooden benches inside Pilsener’s, with my laptop on the table serving as a barrier between us.
Dan is the lead developer at Players’ Lounge. He gives me a brief overview of the business: “Basically, we have tournaments where you can play FIFA and bet $5 and play on your couch.” Dan was going to larger tournaments, and learned Players’ Lounge needed a software developer. “It’s a dream job,” he said.
Is he concerned Trenton and/or Washington D.C. will attempt to regulate his industry the way they have gone after DraftKings and the other fantasy sports leagues?
“It’s possible. It’s a different qualification, because it’s not gambling on other teams, but you’re betting on yourself and your abilities.”
This is Dan’s “First foray into anything political. I was rooting for Rand Paul, but when he dropped out, I was like ‘Screw it,’ and I jumped into the LP.”
Though Dan’s campaign piece is appearing now, he was the first Libertarian Party candidate I interviewed for this series, which have been published in these hallowed web pages here, here, here, here, and here, and I always ask, “If you are elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would introduce?” and happily, I always received different answers.
“Term limits,” Dan answers immediately, as though he anticipated the question. “It would have a lot of support, at least with the people, maybe not the people in office, but the voters. I know Rand Paul has talked about that a lot. But off the top of my head I can’t think of very many people who have talked about that.”
Before I can ask my next question, Dan says, “What’s confusing is SCOTUS, how they are just expected to serve until they die or go senile. Elections would definitely be a bigger change but a term of 8 years would be better. I know a lot of Republicans who don’t like Trump but are afraid Hillary would nominate liberal judges, so they support him.”
Ballotpedia lists the 8th as “safely Democratic.” Dan will be running against Democrat Albio Sires, who’s been in the House since 2006, and Republican Agha Khan. Opensecrets.com reports Sires has raised close to 375 thousand dollars, and in 2014 he carried the district with 77% of the votes. “What is your strategy to earn votes from the 8th’s constituents?” I ask.
“Be on the lookout for any local parades and festivals I can attend and meet some people and get out there,” Dan answers. “I just need to get my name out there. I have a few connections with some local websites.”
“When you’re talking about the message of liberty, there are some ways to make it palatable, and where there are things we agree on with liberals, such as licensing for local small businesses.
We talk about Dan’s incumbent opponent. Sires, a Sanders supporter, is opposed to President Obama’s Cuba deal. Sires is of Cuban descent. “I think it is healthy for us to have free trade with Cuba and promote human rights and work democratically rather than impose sanctions to get them to be a better nation,” Dan says.
New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. I ask what reasonable effect he thinks he could have on liberalizing them from Washington. He begins his answer with a refreshing admission you don’t often hear a politician utter.
“I need to study up more. If given the opportunity, it would be to make conceal carry easier. It took my father over a year to get a gun just to protect the house. We need easier access for people to protect their families. Also, I think McAfee brought it up in Florida, he knows a guy who’s a convicted felon out for ten years and he can’t get a gun to protect his family and wife. It might not be a good idea to give that guy a gun right away when he gets out, but after a while, a year or two, he should be able to buy and let his parole officer keep track of him and judge.”
I ask him what effect he would like to have on America’s foreign policy.
“Before we send troops anywhere we need congressional approval. The executive branch has too much power,” he says, than succinctly sums up what the “Delaney Doctrine” would be: “Less sanctions, more conversation.”
We get into the dirty politics of politics, the means with which to achieve the ends.
“Agha Khan ran uncontested in the Republican primary. Why not run as a Republican rather than as an LP candidate?” I ask.
“I don’t think so, because I’ve seen Rand Paul and Ron Paul try to do the same thing and run in the Republican Party, but people are shifting to the Libertarian Party. People are flocking to the party right now. Having the Republican Party label would hurt more than help. Furthering the message of liberty would be better under the Libertarian Party.”
Admittedly, I ask an absurd question: “Why not run a primary challenge against Sires and highlight your socially liberal stances?”
Dan seems to consider this a moment. “Run as a Democrat… it would definitely be more interesting. But I want to help break up the two party system. I don’t want to just put on the Democrat or Republican mask. If I had run as one of them, my campaign would have been cut short.”
I hit Dan with a lame-ass Get To Know Your Candidate lightning round:
Favorite Sports Team? “Manchester City.”
Favorite Movie? “Sgt. Bilko.”
Favorite musician? “Jack White.”
Most Embarrassing Moment? “Rode my bike into a sign in the middle of the sidewalk, fell, and broke my wrist and fell into mud that went all into my mouth.”
I ask him a question I hate, a premise of so many articles in Reason.com, since it always seems too optimistic, and I don’t believe the facts on the ground really support such optimism: “Is it too early to declare 2016 is having a libertarian moment? What would constitute a libertarian moment?”
“It’s definitely a moment,” Dan says. He thinks about a moment, and continues, “It’s a perfect storm because of Trump and Hillary. Gary Johnson is getting more and better press than the last cycle. Those Wall Street Journal articles weren’t around 4 years ago.”
I monopolized Dan’s time for long enough. I bring my laptop out to my car, and then rejoin him and his friends and supporters. For the rest of the night he hangs out with them. He’s a little reserved, but not introverted. He’s not shy, but he’s not pushy and/or pandering the way a typical politician is when around voters and the media (of which I am humbly, and very often embarrassingly, a member). An impromptu fundraiser breaks out when a hat is passed around.
Dan decided to run, “Both for liberty and the Libertarian Party. I try to convince my friends when I can of certain libertarian principles. Worst case scenario, I raise awareness.” I record a few videos of him interacting with his buddies, one of which is available here.
Before I depart we talk briefly about the Libertarian Party. Like many libertarians, Dan doesn’t offer blind loyalty to the LP, but says “Me getting involved can help influence the party. I was a delegate at the convention. I’m a big fan of Austin Wade Petersen. I was kind of against the Libertarian Party as well, but I’ve shifted to appreciating their platform. It’s pretty spot on.”
Dan has praise for the LP, but like other candidates I’ve interviewed, he acknowledges the LP does not have the ways and means of the major parties to provide major funding to its candidates.
“People I met at the convention have been very helpful. They gave me support for the petition to get on the ballot. At the New Jersey state convention there was talk for funding local candidates, but I’m thinking more local, I don’t know how much I could get from the party,” he says.
Then he adds, “They’re trying to get as many people running in districts as possible. I’m getting more excited by it by the day.”
Follow Dan at the following links:
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