By Max Bibeau | IOWA
On August 8th, 71 Republic editor Max Bibeau interviewed Jake Porter, a Libertarian Party candidate for Governor in Iowa. The video was recorded with the consent of all parties, and can be found on the 71 Republic YouTube channel HERE.
Max Bibeau: So I was thinking I’d just ask a few questions about social policy first, move on to some economic stuff, and then on to the actual politics of it.
Jake Porter: That sounds great.
MB: Do you believe that, first of all, softer drugs such as marijuana should be legalized or decriminalized, and second, do you believe that harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin should be legalized or decriminalized as well?
JP: I definitely would support the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, particularly restoring voting rights to those who have lost their voting rights because of the policies we’ve had against these victimless crimes. Prohibition does not work. I would rather we spend more resources on helping people with addiction issues rather than putting them in prison.
MB: I believe that the state of Iowa already has passed legislation as far as transgender people being able to use the bathroom of their choice. Do you support or denounce such a policy?
JP: I think it should be up to each individual business. It kind of surprises me that out of all the issues we have in America and in Iowa that that’s the biggest issue that people want to talk about. I think it’s up to the private business what they’re going to allow, and I don’t see it being a government policy which bathroom we’re going to use.
MB: As far as unemployment, Iowa does currently have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at only 3.1%.
JP: That’s correct.
MB: So how would you continue this downward trend as far as unemployment goes?
JP: Well, I think what we’ve got to do is take a look at what the state is doing. Right now, we’re giving lots of corporate welfare to these big corporations, and that’s actually hurting us, it’s hurting the economy, it’s hurting small businesses, and it is driving people out of state. So yes, we do have low unemployment, but we’re also exporting a lot of people out of Iowa, and we’ve been doing that now for the past 20 years. I think we’ve lost 60,000 people that have moved out of the state, so I want to actually bring them back in by sound tax policy. And I have a plan to phase out the Iowa sales tax, which would help our border towns. Some of our border towns like Council Bluffs, where I live, people are going over to Nebraska. I think we can get them back if we would have some sound policy and make some changes.
MB: Moving on to education – A STUDY IN 2015 BY EDUCATION WEEK found that Iowa finished 24th among the 50 states, with an overall score of 75 out of 100, and a grade of C. The nation as a whole also received a grade of a C, so Iowa stands at about average. How would you improve, or change the education system of your state?
JP: One thing that we’ve got to look at is things have changed. We have lots of technology that we did not have years ago. So the technology we’re using, Skype, right now, the state of Iowa back in 1989 what they call the ICN, the Iowa Communications Network, which would allow people to… this was long before Skype, but you could view classrooms from other towns. So if somebody in another town had a class that your school didn’t offer, particularly in rural schools, you could tab in – well, that’s outdated now, because of things like Skype, that’s really unnecessary. And we could start to teach people, and not do a one size fits all, but we can have kids learn at their own pace. So we’ve got to look at the whole system of how we’re teaching – it doesn’t quite work with our modern technology. There are much better ways of doing things, and that’s where we should more focus on, rather than continuing to just throw more money at a problem, when that just actually made our education worse. Our scores continue to decline but we throw more and more money at it.
MB: So would you say you’re in favor of reforming the current public school system, or moving towards a system of school choice, or some combination?
JP: It has to be kind of a combination in Iowa because there are a lot of rural communities, so the idea that you would send your kids to some kind of private school, you know, some of these towns have just a few hundred people.
JP: So, you’re probably not going to have a whole lot of competition. We could open it up to homeschooling, and things like that. We can also allow children to open enroll in whatever district they choose. They may decide they want to take their child out of this district and put them in another district, that’s one option. And also, allow people that want to sit in in the cities, where they have competition, to allow them to send their child to the school of their choice.
MB: So one issue that seems to kind of split Libertarians down the middle is abortion. So would you identify as pro-life, or pro-choice, or pro-life with some exceptions, or what?
JP: Yeah, it’s a very complex issue. I don’t think that, one, I don’t think that the government should be funding it, I don’t think we should be funding any abortions. The second point is that any legislation against abortion won’t actually prevent abortions – other nations that have tried this such as Uganda, such as Chile – it has not worked very well, and has not actually decreased abortions. So that is something that we can sit around and hope that it does something, I think it would have very bad consequences, if we’re not careful. If you put exceptions on there, which I think you almost certainly would, even if you got it passed, in a state like Iowa, where you’ve got about 55% of the population I would say would be for it, even if you could change that and got it passed, you would have exceptions. If you are not careful you could have exceptions for rape and then there be people who are falsely accused of rape, you could have women being accused of, you know, forcing a miscarriage, which is very easy to do. So I don’t think that the idea of adding more laws is going to solve that. And the party, is, as you say, very divided on the issue. We have a lot of pro-life people, pro-choice people in the Libertarian Party of Iowa, it’s about split 50-50, and I certainly welcome all of their support, and I would, as governor, go around and talk to the youth of today, and actually educate them on, you know, your actions do have consequences. And, you know, we can lower the number of abortions by talking to people and working together.
MB: Yeah, and I’ve seen studies that sex education in high school can reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies by like, huge amounts. So that could be extremely beneficial as well.
JP: Oh, yeah.
MB: So now to move on to some economic issues. Iowa is, as I understand it, an extremely agriculturally heavy state, and farming is a major sector of its economy. And because of this, Iowa receives over $1 billion annually in farm subsidies from the federal government. So do you support these subsidies, and would your state continue accepting them under your governorship?
JP: I think that one thing that the federal government does is they pass a lot of mandates. Such as mandates that require that, you know, certain amounts of Ethanol be used. That can be very dangerous, I would rather open it up to a level playing field, and end all subsidies, if the federal government would do that, I would be happy. And the subsidies for big oil, and the subsidies for every type of energy and let the market figure out and determine what is best. As far as accepting it, I guess I’d have really no control over that, at least if our government’s giving that out, but I think that we could look at doing other things as well. And we could also look into, you know, industrial hemp, and things like that as well that would benefit our economy and move us away. Because one of the big dangers is that you get so heavily invested into something, and then the subsidies or the mandates cut out, eventually, and then you’ve got this drastic shift that has to happen overnight and you could end up with a farm crisis like we had back in the 80s.
MB: So in Washington, one of the most reported on and covered problems in our Congress and Senate right now is healthcare, and the big fight between Democrats and Republicans on whether Obamacare should stand, or be repealed and replaced, or just repealed. What is your stance on healthcare?
JP: I think it should be repealed. You know, one of the problems we’ve had in Iowa too is there’s now, in a few counties, you can still get private insurance if you’re self employed, that would be covered by Obamacare. That’s not really acceptable, a lot of people, after this year will no longer have any options of insurance, and even if you do, it’s gonna go up about 43% next year. This is not acceptable to Iowans, Iowans cannot get insurance now. The system has failed on multiple levels. So that’s something that as governor you can’t do a whole lot about, but I would certainly favor the repeal of it.
MB: So you mentioned a tax policy earlier about sales tax. Iowa right now has a state income tax of an average of, like, 6 to 8 percent for most workers. In your opinion, is this tax fair, or should it be raised or lowered, and as far as other tax policies go, what would your stance be on increasing, lowering, or removing them?
JP: I think we need to get back to making sure the government’s doing what its actual necessary functions are, and what they do is they continue to spend more and more money, right now the state has a budget crisis. They’ve continued to spend, they’ve increased spending, and now it’s caught up with them, but they actually lowered taxes for big corporations. Everyone else’s taxes remained about the same, they’ve raised the gas tax, a few other things, but most of the taxes remained about the same. But they’ve increased spending, and they’ve increased it on a wasted bloat. But we could go through, decreasing that, and then decreasing the taxes. I don’t think the tax system is fair at all. And particularly, there’s a lot of property tax, and income tax and the state sales tax. There’s talk now that the Republicans want to increase the sales tax in Iowa. That would be a tax on really the poorest Iowans, and would not work. It would actually drive more jobs out of the state and hurt our border cities quite a bit.
MP: And going off of that, kind of, how the government has continued to expand – Iowa’s state budget has grown about 4 to 6 percent annually, including inflation, in, like, recent history. So how would you avoid continuing this trend, and where would you choose to make budget cuts?
JP: The budget, I mean if you don’t go into the sub-details, it’s over 1000 pages long, I’ve been through it, there are several things you could make cuts to and no one would ever notice it at all. There’s several little pet projects in there, that you can go through this whole list. I would order an analysis of all of it, have each department or agency explain to me what it is exactly that they’re doing, you occasionally find stuff that is buried in – whether it be education, whether it be healthcare – you find stuff that’s buried in there that can be eliminated, and it’s just complete waste. So that’s how I would do it, I would do an analysis of each agency and each department and then start making cuts on day 1.
MB: So would you be forced to make any major cuts, do you believe, or would you be able to make all of your cuts through these kind of smaller projects?
JP: I don’t think there would be any necessarily major cuts, especially at the beginning, because you would want to find out exactly what the impact’s going to be. Right now the state is making major budget cuts, because they cannot afford to pay their bills on time, but they’re cutting to things like domestic violence shelters, mental health facilities, and some of these things end up costing the state more money, like the mental health facilities. They cut them, well, now they just have to transport people longer distances, or they end up in the criminal justice system where they cost even more than what it would have been to keep them in the mental health facilities.
MB: As far as environmental protections go, this is another issue that Libertarians are kind of split on – whether there should be environmental protections at all, and if so, how those would be balanced with a free market. So in your opinion, what environmental protections are necessary, and how would you balance that with a free market?
JP: You know, you can’t knowingly pollute, you can’t knowingly do something that’s going to harm someone else, particularly when it commits fraud, where you’re lying about doing it. Companies should not be allowed to do that, in Iowa we do need funds from the state budget, I think, to actually protect our public waterways, thing like that. As far as the market working well, we have to pretty well let the market work. We can’t favor big business over small business with regulations designed to hurt the small business. That’s what we often see, and they don’t actually make us any safer, or they don’t make our environment better, they just keep competition out of the marketplace. And that’s one thing – we have to make sure we balance that.
MB: Okay, so on to the actual politics of the campaign. So, overall, what would you say your goal in running this campaign is?
JP: Well we’ve got to keep major party status in Iowa, so that would be 2 percent of the vote next year, so that’s obviously goal number 1, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all. Also, helping down ticket candidates, so by doing interviews, by going out into public, by being on the ballot, these are things that we can advertise to and help our down-ticket candidates. And run more candidates for office, we want to run more candidates than we’ve ever run in our state party history. We want to take the message to the people of Iowa, and we want to start winning some of these elections. So that’s my major goal, I can bring a lot of attention I think to the race and to the state party, and a lot of attention to our issues, and occasionally they do change public policy, based on what we’ve campaigned on.
MB: So, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the national election in 2016, received about 3.8 percent of the vote in Iowa, which was above the national average. So how would you go off of what Gary Johnson did correct or wrong, and how would you make those changes to do a better job?
JP: Yeah, I think that one thing that Gary Johnson did was he brought a lot of media attention to the state of Iowa and to the party. And that’s one thing we want to go off of. He also has a list of people that he brought into the party, a list of supporters, or people that I know that he’s brought into the party that I’m targeting right now and asking them for help in this campaign, and also asking some of these people to run for office themselves. So there’s a lot of work that we’re doing with that, you know, as far as changing things around. One of the things we’ve got to do is continue to build our organization. In the past we’ve not had a large organization, we’ve grown very rapidly in the past 4 years or so here in Iowa, we need to keep building upon that organization, and building a movement.
MB: So the incumbent Governor of Iowa is Kim Reynolds, who’s a Republican. What policies would you directly challenge her on in order to differentiate your campaigns?
JP: The budget’s going to be the big issue, they have mismanaged the budget. She was Lieutenant Governor under the previous Governor Branstad, they have mismanaged it to the point of having to borrow from the agency reserves, and that puts the state at a huge risk, in case there was ever, let’s say a natural disaster, or, you know, there was a flood, tornado, or a real bad farm crisis, it puts the state at a risk that we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills. This April we were not even able to pay income tax refunds on time because the state treasurer points out, we didn’t have the money to pay it.
MB: So as I currently understand it, I believe you aren’t currently on the ballot for Governor yet. What steps are you taking to accomplish this goal, and do you believe you’ll be able to accomplish it on time?
JP: So in order to get on the ballot, things have actually changed with our major party status that we have in Iowa now. I have to collect, it’s only 296 valid signatures by the end of February, beginning of March. So we’re almost there, I’d have to check in to see exactly where we’re at, we’ll probably get that within the next couple weeks. And there will probably be competition for the Libertarian primary, I know there’s going to be at least one other candidate running, so we’ll have a primary, and the primary will be in June, and then after that we’re good to be on the general election ballot.
MB: One of the biggest problems that Libertarians often have is getting their name out, because the two major parties take up all of the news, and get all of the media coverage, so how would you get your campaign out there and get your message out to the people of Iowa?
JP: It’s very difficult, there’s a few ways that we’re doing that, and we’ve been able to do it, so in the past when we’ve announced, we’ve had a little coverage but not a whole lot, and this time, whenever I launched my campaign here a few weeks ago, we did so on TV, we did so on 3 of Iowa’s largest newspapers on the Eastern side of the state, and then also on the biggest talk radio station and program that we could, so that was how we’ve done that, and we are doing another TV interview this weekend over in Cedar Rapids, so we’re using traditional media as much as we can, but also online. There are effective ways to reach people through Facebook advertising, Google advertising, that quite frankly the Democrats and the Republicans don’t always use very effectively, that we can reach a lot more people. And a lot more people that are in our demographic and are more likely to vote for us, that we’re able to reach a lot more effectively than just relying on the traditional media, which may or may not cover us as we get closer to the general election. And we’ll also go door to door, we’ve got local organizations that can do that, I participate in parades, do the fair booths, and things like that as well.
MB: So from what I’ve read on your website, you have a pretty long history within the Libertarian Party. Can you just describe that for me?
JP: Yeah, so in 2004 I was 16 years old, and I happened to have on Fox News running in the background somewhere, I was getting ready to go to work I think it was, and they had Gary Nolan who was running for the Libertarian presidential nomination, he lost it, but he was on Fox News talking about the issues, and I thought “this is exactly what I believe,” and so at that point I started reading John Stossel, and Judge Andrew Napolitano, I looked really into Libertarian philosophy, and became a Libertarian. I moved from Missouri to Iowa in 2006 where I went to college, at that point I got involved in the Libertarian Party of Iowa, did some national things between 2006 and 2008, I served on the National Committee as an alternate for a while, I fortunately got out of that and now just focus locally. 2010 ran for Secretary of State the first time, then ran again in 2014. So I’ve been around this for quite a while, and I can remember when people didn’t know what a Libertarian was. You would tell them that and they’d think librarians, vegitarians, they’d think all kinds of crazy things, and fortunately a lot of that changed after Ron Paul’s campaign and a lot of the work we’ve done after that.
MB: So, finally, one of the biggest problems that a lot of campaigns have, especially 3rd party campaigns, is funding. So how would you raise the campaign funding that you need to in order to get your message out and run a successful campaign?
JP: Part of it’s going to be self funding, and I’m going to fund myself, and I’ve been doing that, and another part is we have been reaching out to donors of my previous campaigns, donors of people, long time activists that I’ve known in the party, and then reaching out to new donors as well. If people see success, they’re more likely to donate money. That’s how Ron Paul was able to collect his money, that’s how Gary Johnson was able to raise a lot of his money as well, and so as long as people continue to see that we’re doing stuff, and that their money’s being used wisely, I think they’re gonna contribute. And we still got lists of people that we’re going to do direct mailings to and ask for money as well as me doing personal phone calls, which I’ve started doing.
MB: Thank you so much, that’s all I have.
JP: Thank you, I greatly appreciate it.