An Interview with LP Candidate Mark West
What office in which district are you running for?
I’m running for U.S. House District 1, Arkansas.
What is your background? Employment, education, family, hobbies, interests?
I’ve lived my entire life in District 1, Arkansas. I was born and raised in West Memphis and graduated a Blue Devil. I attended college at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro where I received a bachelor’s degree in radio and television broadcasting and met my beautiful wife Kristy. I’ve lived in the Batesville area for about 15 years. I’ve worked primarily as a bi-vocational pastor. Currently I pastor White River Baptist Church in Oil Trough. I worked for five years in the banking industry and currently am the Corporate Office Manager for Mechanical Construction Services, Inc. in Newark.
My family is the most important part of my life and spending time with them fills up my days. My wife Kristy is the nurse for Batesville High School. My oldest son Matthew is 15 and loves science, art and music. He and I often engage in wildly intellectual discussions. My youngest son Caleb is 12 and is into sports. We usually talk a lot of sports and he plays football. My daughter Micaiah is 10 and is a gymnast.
She absolutely loves the sport.
My biggest hobby is reading. I always have a pile of back-logged books to read. I like to read fiction, non-fiction, religious, political, just about anything interesting that I can get my hands on. However, my favorite book to read is the Bible.
My interests really have shifted the last few years and have transitioned into an “others” focus. I like doing things with my family in which we can engage our community and meet people. I believe we are all wired for relationships and that we should spend more time with people. Part of that includes time training MMA and working out at the gym. I enjoy new challenges. I fought my first cage fight last summer at the age of 38 and completed the Conquer the Gauntlet event in Little Rock on my birthday. I ran my first 5k at age 37.
How long have you been a member of the Libertarian Party?
I became a Libertarian in 2013.
If elected, what is the first piece of legislation you would introduce?
If the people in Arkansas’ first district do honor me with enough votes to send me to Washington, one of the first pieces of legislation I will work on will be one to defund and abolish the federal Department of Education and return the funding and educational choices back to the local school districts. Education is very important to me and my family, especially after our middle child was diagnosed with a learning disability and was being left behind at school. His teachers put in the best efforts they had available, but were restricted because of the whole “teaching-for-tests” type of educational system we’ve developed that their hands were tied from doing more. I want teachers to have the flexibility and resources they need to help other kids, like my son, so that they can get the education they need to be successful.
Ballotpedia lists this race as “safely Republican.” Which means Rick Crawford, who has held the district’s seat since 2010, will most likely win re-election since incumbency rates are usually very high. How do you intend to unseat him? What would you have to do to convince voters you better represent their values?
I understand that my race is considered safely Republican and I do believe most of that is because of the high rate of incumbency wins that sits around 90%. However, this district is the most diverse district in Arkansas and was held for Democrats for decades. You have cities, small towns, big business, small business, family farms, big agriculture, and a thriving medical community. You have a couple of cities that are high crime rate areas that are in need of desperate reforms that can bring jobs and small business opportunities. A lot of the voters are older and dependent on Social Security or are veterans who need better benefits from the VA.
When Congressman Crawford captured the district in 2010, he didn’t defeat the incumbent but ran for an open seat that was vacated with the retirement of Congressman Marion Berry. Congressman Crawford won the race by less than half a percent, which was just less than a thousand votes.
In 2012, the Democrat hold weakened as they captured 39% of the vote, mostly because the district is full of “blue-dog” Democrats that have been alienated by the direction of the national party. In 2014, the Democrats only managed 32% of the vote. However, the Libertarian Party candidate in 2012, Jessica Paxton received 2.6% of the vote which was grown by Scott Willhite to 4.3% in 2014.
Congressman Crawford will be very difficult to unseat if I can’t get my message out. However, if we can get the message of change out, with the electorate being so bent on change in DC, I believe we can win.
Congressman Crawford has a 50% score for voting conservative values that includes votes to extend the debt ceiling, for deficit budgets and for funding Obamacare. These are things that most of the Arkansans I’ve spoken with are highly opposed to and that I would not do if elected to Congress.
Our focus is going to be on grassroots efforts. I’m working with a lot of independent voters who want to see change. We’re going to be canvassing, taking our message door-to-door, in September and October.
We’re hoping to do radio ads and even possible a cable ad if we can do enough fundraising.
We’re talking about restoring fiscal sanity to our federal government. We’ll talk about peeling away the layers of federal regulation that are unnecessarily strangling small businesses and repressing job growth.
We’re going to talk about balancing the budget, fighting for term limits and to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education so that we can restore funding and choice in education back to the local level. I want to eliminate the income tax and will vote for any tax cuts that will get our government headed in that direction. We’re focusing in the cities on criminal justice reforms like promoting community policing, citizen review boards, elimination of victimless crimes, drug decriminalization… things that will actually work in protecting the lives of our citizens and our police. We’re casting a clear difference for how government can work as we introduce our district to the concepts and value of a voluntaryist mindset.
We’re going to have to outwork and outflank Congressman Crawford to have any chance in this race. We want to bring a clear difference to how government works and we’ll lay out how different I would be as their representative in Washington versus what Congressman Crawford offers. He tries to use government to solve problems. I want to empower people to solve their own problems by getting government’s misguided and mistaken solutions out of the way.
The LP has a stigma attached to it by most voters and as such they would not even consider LP candidates; a third party candidate will always have a hard time. Would it not have been easier to win the seat by running as a Republican and primary challenging Crawford? Did you consider running for the GOP?
Yes, the third-party stigma does make running for office so much easier from either the Republican or Democratic Party. However, I never considered running as a GOP candidate. I’m not a conservative. I’m not a Republican. Maybe it’s time for a third party to break the glass ceiling and bust the stigma and make history by capturing a place in the U.S. Congress. The political philosophy offered by the Libertarian Party is shared by close to 27% of the United States public. It is time to give our viewpoint a place at the table and a seat on the bus. We represent a large segment of America whose voice has been disenfranchised long enough by the two-party system and it is our time to be heard.
Political party does not dictate ideology. You could have run as a Democrat to make it easier for yourself to get elected, and then governed as a libertarian. As of right now, your district does not even have a Democrat running. Did you consider running as a Democrat to at least enjoy major party stature?
I’m a proud member of the LP Rads and the state coordinator in Arkansas for the LP Rads. I’ve been approached about running as a Democrat, but for me, I want to build something that represents Americans. The Libertarian Party represents just as many Americans as does either of the two major parties and it’s time for them to start hearing the voices we represent. I’m not running for office to win at all costs, I’m running for office to change the way we govern. I’m running for far more than just 2016, but for the next generation of libertarians to have an easier path to office and to influence our government.
Though you are a libertarian and running for the Libertarian Party, do you consider yourself a social conservative? You seem to be a “traditional values” kind of guy.
While I am a traditional values kind of guy, I’m not a social conservative. Conservatives want to make laws to govern what consenting adults are allowed, or not allowed, to do in their relationships and with their bodies.
When I fell in love with my wife Kristy, my first thought wasn’t that I was so excited about her that I needed to get the government involved to approve of my relationship with her. I talked about my love for her with my family and friends. I asked her father for permission to marry her. I proposed to her, and she accepted. The only reason I involved the government is because the law required me to have a marriage license. I had no logical, tangible need for the government to license my love for my wife. No one else does either.
I’m staunchly pro-life, but I recognize that in a free nation I have to put my money where my mouth is. If I’m doing nothing to compassionately provide better options for women in crisis pregnancies then I’m a hypocrite. We will never have a pro-life America if we don’t promote a pro-life culture in our communities through private charity, private adoption, education and sharing loving compassion with women in who are considering abortion.
The tired-old argument that we need social conservatives to “fix” the Supreme Court is a fraud. How many times have we elected social conservatives to the executive and legislative branches of our government and the Supreme Court remains tilted towards Roe v. Wade?
I believe in an America in which people are so informed and cared for that those choosing abortions are rare. Let’s face it, when abortion was illegal, abortions still happened. Prohibition simply doesn’t work.
But I want to add that the Libertarian Party and the libertarians in our midst are the only ones who will fight for complete religious liberty. Social conservatives and liberals each want religions to acquiesce to their views of morality. Libertarians want you to be free to frame your morality in accordance with whatever religion you choose, or if you choose to frame it yourself outside of religion altogether. Church and State should be and must remain separate in the American system of government.
Let’s use Islam and Muslims as an example. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made the entire religion of Islam the bogeyman like a scared little child and has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country and for surveillance of mosques. Frighteningly, many Christian conservatives support his ideas on this. What we must realize is that what we use the government to prohibit one religion, we will inevitably be powerless to restrain the government from prohibiting our own. As far as the First Amendment is concerned, if the religious community doesn’t hang together we will certainly hang apart.
How would you rate Rick Crawford as a congressman? What issues do you take with him as a representative? What in his voting record shows that he should no longer represent the people of the First?
I want to first say that Congressman Crawford is a Christian man. A husband and family man who is doing his best to serve Arkansas one in the U.S. House. I think he is doing an OK job. However, my concern with Congressman Crawford is more about the set of lenses through which he views his job as a Congressman than anything else.
I voted for Congressman Crawford in 2010. However, he has a narrow view of what liberty means which shows up in the way he votes. He’s voted for bigger government surveillance on private citizens. He’s voted for bigger government solutions to a lot of our problems which has included a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling, the horrible budget, and funding Obamacare. Topping things off, he voted to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which will suck more jobs out of the economy.
I favor free trade, but we need to make sure that our deals are mutually beneficial and Congress has been derelict in its duty to hold the executive branch in check when it comes to this and the unending war on terror that has created ISIS.
We need a congressman who is going to fight for our liberties while also holding the executive branch accountable.
What sort of assistance, financial or otherwise, have you received from the Libertarian Party?
I’ve received some financial assistance from members of the Libertarian Party. I’ve also gotten opportunities for exposure on Arvin Vorha’s radio show as well as coverage on Libertarian web magazines and am featured in the current edition of LP News. I understand that we building as a party and that a lot of resources are required in a variety of places. What I hope to see more as the election moves on is down ticket help from presidential and vice presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. We have to be in this together if we are going to promote the future of liberty in America. It helps any campaign when the Party’s presidential candidate is able to show up for joint events that promote not only their campaign for Presidency, but also the campaigns that are working locally to build the grassroots of the Party.
What would you recommend be attempted, either by government or by private individuals, to help resolve the recent violence perpetrated by and against the police?
I was born and raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, which is one of the top 5 largest cities in my district. It is a city that has had its bouts with racial tension. Honestly, I suffered culture shock when I moved to Batesville, Arkansas. It wasn’t what I was used to.
My heart broke when I saw the video of Philando Castille’s killing at the hands of police. My heart broke when I turned on my television one night at bed time only to see that a sniper was killing Dallas police officers. Right now, black parents are concerned every time their child leaves that they may not see their child again. Guess what, police families are facing the same concern every time their loved one dons the uniform for another shift.
We’ve got protesters now blocking highways, trying to get the public to realize their helpless perspective on the issue of criminal justice reform.
One thing that has worked, is community policing. Many Dallas police officers were protesting with the #BlackLivesMatter protesters because the officers are involved in the communities they are policing. They are trying to build a bride of trust with the black community that both sides can cross.
Another step would be to have civilian review boards that serve as a check and balance to the police so that we can get out of the circular trap of police investigating police, government investigating government, which rarely finds that the police or government have committed any wrong-doing.
We need to change the way we pay for our police to voluntary options, either through lotteries or bonds, so that we can end the tragic conflict of interest that sees officers writing tickets and engaging in civil asset forfeiture to fund their operations. We can help this by scaling back our laws so that police are only allowed to ticket when accidents have occurred, rather than being out on the hunt for traffic infractions. Our police will be better utilized if they aren’t sitting on the side of the road ticketing someone on the way to work.
We can also transition the way we use our police force so that it works more like the fire department when it comes to traffic issues. Now, most of us would still prefer to have police patrolling our neighborhoods, but if we cut down on everything else we are asking officers to do it would help with their ability to build the relationships that are going to be vital to healing the rift that has developed.
A final step would be to end the Drug War so that the militarization of our police force can end. If we decriminalize drugs the same market pressures that make McDonald’s and Wendy’s compete for our business will impact the drug distribution community. Our streets will be safer. Our kids will be safer. Our police will be safer.
To follow Mark West’s progress, follow him at the following links:
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