By John Keller | United States
Rex Lawhorn is a small business manager that is seeking the Libertarian nomination for governor of Oklahoma, where he hopes to bring about reform to restore liberty in Oklahoma, and hopefully be a part of the movement to restore freedom in America.
Keller: You are running for governor of Oklahoma. What inspired you to pursue a career in politics and seek this office?
Lawhorn: I never aspired to be a politician. I’ve been interested in the process my whole life, and my proclivity toward economics makes public policy a natural area of interest, but as far as being in the spotlight? No, that was never my intent. However, Oklahoma has a relatively young party, and there were no voices standing up. This is a ballot access race for us, so the Live Free team felt compelled to recruit someone.
I, more or less, fit the profile of a politician, and I have an exceptional grasp on policy and libertarian principles, so they recruited me.
We never expected this to be a winnable race, but we’ve been surprised at the amazing reception we’ve received from Oklahomans. It only took us three months to dive into this, full-time, and try to turn Oklahoma gold. That 2.5% goal became 30% overnight.
Keller: You are running as a libertarian. There are many misconceptions about what a libertarian is, as people from anarchist Adam Kokesh to neo-conservative John Bolton have called themselves a libertarian. What is a libertarian and what attracted you to its message?
Lawhorn: I’m going to change the wording of the question a little bit. I am a libertarian, as opposed to running as one, and that’s an important distinction. Oklahoma has the same issue, where many people call themselves Libertarian but don’t actually grasp the meaning.
Most people take their own rights into primary consideration, not recognizing that giving the state the authority to oppress anyone gives them license to oppress everyone – and the state takes every opportunity to do so. A libertarian recognizes that basic truth and advocates for all rights for all people, all the time.
A libertarian candidate of any color should be advocating for the absolute minimum governmental restrictions on an individual’s day-to-day life, so long as no one else is harmed in the process.
Keller: Why is the time now for a libertarian governor in Oklahoma?
Lawhorn: Because though both the old parties are recognized in Oklahoma, we really only had one until the LP gained recognition. Very few will argue that both parties are the same old tax and spend, throw water into a leaky bucket, don’t ever fix anything, don’t care about the people conglomerates that have no interest in maximizing individual opportunity.
It’s been bad enough for long enough, that record numbers of citizens here have become engaged in the process, and on top of that, they are looking for someone to break the stranglehold the legislature has placed on the economy and the lives of Oklahomans. I’ve not seen a climate so ripe for liberty as Oklahoma is right now in the 20 years I’ve followed policy closely.
Keller: Important to voters is where candidates stand on key issues. What are the three most important policies to you that define your platform?
Lawhorn: The three main areas I focus on are educational opportunity, economic diversification, and criminal justice reform. Those don’t just define my platform but are the largest issues our state faces. We have close to the worst education system in the country, despite spending near the median in per-pupil spending. It’s an antiquated industrial model that is failing all of our students, and they don’t have options, primarily due to legal restrictions.
Add into that the state formula crippling private school growth and opportunity, and we have what most anti-choice advocates fear – a system that bleeds the poor to provide luxury to the wealthy. My plan fixes this, pays our teachers a good wage, and provides exceptional options for every student, no matter their socioeconomic class. Next, our economy is highly invested in oil and gas and energy, in general, and they ignore the wealth of other natural resources.
That’s led to an economic climate of dependence on the price per barrel of oil, and it has bankrupted us. Our tax structure needs to make sure that every industry has equal treatment under the tax code and that Oklahoma is developing the employees and infrastructure to grow into a healthy economy. Finally, CJR is a hot-button issue in Oklahoma, as we incarcerate more than any other state.
It’s been a perennial issue for us, and we have learned that throwing addicts, mentally ill, and cannabis users in jail doesn’t help anything. 52% of our prison population has never committed an actual crime against any other citizen or property.
As much as 65% of our prisoner-citizens have a mental illness they’re being treated for. Jail isn’t the place for people like this. The state is just wasting money to feed taxpayer dollars to their friends in the private prison industry. There is no impetus to solve the issue until someone sits in the capital to make it a priority. That’s my job.
Keller: Recently there has been an increase in political dialogue over gun control. What do you have to contribute to this national dialogue?
Lawhorn: I have nothing more to contribute that hasn’t been said a million times already. The two most important things to remember is that gun control doesn’t reduce violence and those words “shall not be infringed”.
If they come to me with a proposal that addresses the real causes of the increase in violence, we can start a conversation. Until then, I’m unwilling to engage in even peripheral conversations about restricting the right of self-defense from anyone.
Keller: The Trump Administration has spent increasing effort to expand the power of the national government while weakening state authority. How do you plan to balance serving the people of Oklahoma with mandates from the Trump Administration?
Lawhorn: By utilizing 10th Amendment protections guaranteeing state authority over powers not enumerated in the Constitution. I plan to mostly ignore mandates coming from Washington DC unless they are returning plundered dollars back to the people that paid them.
It’s very difficult, as most of the federal overreach doesn’t come through the state, but rather bypasses the state and directly attacks the people. The only way that most of the problem can be ameliorated is through secession, and that’s a call that needs to come from the people.
That being said, my initial campaign promise was to be the shield for the people of the state from a government that has stepped way out of line. I intend to have an entire staff centered on making sure that I use every opportunity available to achieve that goal.
Keller: A key issue in the balance of power is the Drug War. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has increased the government “clamp down” on states with legal marijuana, whether recreational or medical. What do you believe is the solution to this growing issue?
Lawhorn: That’s an area that a governor can have a strong effect. With the cooperation of the sheriff departments in each county, we can prohibit federal legal activity from pursuing and prosecuting any victimless crime. I’ll ask them nicely to refrain because Oklahoma opts out.
If they don’t stop, I will tell them forcefully to back off. If they still don’t stop, I will activate the National Guard, and I will forcibly remove them. It’s a personal invasion of the people of the state that is preventable, and I’m fairly sure that not even Jeff Sessions is willing to do war over a plant.
Keller: If someone was interested in getting involved with your campaign, how would they go about getting involved?
Lawhorn: Stop by the web page, rexforgovernor2018.com and hit that volunteer button! While you’re at it give the ‘donate’ button a push and give whatever you can. This process isn’t cheap until a Libertarian can get in office and make the changes necessary. If I get into office, I will work as hard as I can to ensure no politician ever asks you to press a donate button, ever again! You can also come by my Facebook page, facebook.com/rexforgovernor2018, and participate in the debate, follow me on the campaign trail, hear and read my interviews, and even participate in one of my monthly live events, where I talk directly to anyone who wishes to show up and answer any question you like.
Keller: Do you have any final remarks to give to the readers?
Lawhorn: We are at a turning point in American politics, and never before has liberty had such a large and wide audience listening very close to see what we offer. Some people of our party are actively using that to promote their own self-interests and others are using it to spew hate and bile.
We can’t let this opportunity slip away from us. Educate yourself on the issues, and engage in meaningful, productive, and, most importantly, persuasive discussions about how liberty makes a difference! Be the change, and don’t waste your minutes in frustration and anger.
Use them to alleviate the frustration and anger that the uninitiated have which makes them hostile to us. Not since 1774 has the US felt more frustrated with the failures of government, and it’s time for them to have a real option. We are not the 3rd party. We are THE party, and it’s time we started acting like it and getting things done.
I would like to thank Rex Lawhorn for his time. Be sure to visit his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook for all updates!