Interview: John Hicks, Libertarian Candidate for Kentucky Governor

Derrell McIver | @BenjaminDMyles1

John Hicks is the Libertarian Party’s candidate for Kentucky Governor for 2019. The election will take place on Tuesday, November 5th. John Hicks is a Kentucky native running on liberty, civility, and election reform.

McIver: What are your major reasons for running?

John Hicks: Well, my major reasons for running; there are two ways to answer that. I was advocating and telling the party members that we need a full slate of candidates… we put people up to advertise our party and build our it for next year. That was one of my motivations for running, to announce to the general public that there is a libertarian party and to sensitize them for elections next year all over the ballot. Running this year was a very good decision because we are in a very good position this year. Mostly because no one likes my two opponents. I’m running on civility and people really like that.

John Hicks talks election reform

McIver: What will be your main focus?

John Hicks: There’s a couple of other things: Liberty, civility, and election reform. Liberty is what you might expect: legalizing cannabis, expunging convictions, being pro-civil rights—all ten of the bill of rights. Election reform is my pet subject since my college days. I learned there were more systems then first-past-the-post. Over the years two things have happened: people look at these other systems include rank selection voting. And counting those ballots has been difficult, but computers have helped as people have become more comfortable with them.

We’ve had a two-party system, but our founders warned against it and they weren’t good at foreseeing or understanding human systems because without runoffs the system naturally goes to two parties. As the two-party system ripens it becomes apparent how dysfunctional it is. Especially with Clinton and Trump and now with the Kentucky governors race where people are choosing the lesser of two evils. It’s time to fix the two-party system.

The first step is the option of rank choice voting. This simply refers to indicating your first choice, second choice, with no arbitrary limit. You could set up a system where you vote for your first through your twentieth. You vote one time but you rank your choices. This can be applied with instantaneous runoff. If anyone gets a majority then they win. Right now in Kentucky, we don’t have this so people can win with less than a majority. In other states, the top two candidates do a run-off. The problem with this is there’s a lot of expense and not a lot of people care to come a second time. The instant runoff allows you to show up one time and do the runoff instantaneously from the second or third choices.

We could also go to multi-member districts. Single transferable voting results in proportional voting. This would revolutionize our democracy. We’ve got a couple of big problems one is the polarization we have largely from our two-party and second people are alienated from the system because they feel like they can’t participate.

Kentucky Specific Policy

McIver: How will you fix the teacher-pension crisis?

John Hicks: I would call it a problem rather than a crisis. It’s been coming on along time. I have to give our current governor credit for trying to address it, he didn’t do a very good job of leading and getting the teachers together and a plan to address the problem. I think everyone agrees we have to go to a defined-contribution system like the private system has a traditional pension plan. We have to convert to something like the 401k where the benefit depends on how much is invested. Doing this would be difficult because of the transition system.

I think the current enrollees have a vested right to the benefits they’ve contributed too. We have a contract with them and we have to honor that. And dealing with rising health care costs is a separate problem and we have to deal with that. I’m telling people I don’t have a magic wand but I’m a better leader than the other candidates. It’s a complicated issue and not a very sexy issue and it’s become politicized, a lot of people are very vocal but not informed. One of my jobs was in a community newspaper and I think decisions have to be fact-based and not based on who is shouting the loudest.

McIver: What is your stance on school choice?

John Hicks: I am very much in favor of school choice. This has been politicized and is being shown as a binary issue. Charter schools are a hybrid. Vouchers are another program that we could do. I am trying to emphasis the fact that we’ve got a lot of resources and teachers who would like to do a better job but are hampered by bureaucracy. When I was in high schools one of our debate issues was “should the federal government aid public school education”. This was in 1962, the government had no power in education then; there was no Department of Education.

Before we knew it we had the Department of Education and it’s been downhill ever since and we’ve had more and more regulations and administrators that have taken resources away from teachers. I should point out I’m the only one of the three candidates who was a public school teacher and I was in the teachers union. I hope to work with teachers to find ways to innovate.

McIver: Kentucky recently voted to approve constitutional carry, what is your stance on this policy?

John Hicks: I am all in favor. I was surprised that it passed frankly. I think it’s a great thing, I think we need to demonstrate that an armed public is not a dangerous public and quite the opposite. I am very much in favor of constitutional carry. I think it’s been politicized. Some of the more religious rights are driven by disgust as emotion and want to make it illegal; there’s another part of the public that is motivated by the fear calling for common-sense regulation and to do something now. It’s based on fear and the odds of being harmed by a gunman are so slim that it’s just not up there on the list of important issues.

A lot of the violence in America has underlying causes and we need to address those causes. We lose a lot more people to suicide than homicide and we need to look at why that is happening.

Running as a Third-Party Candidate

McIver: Can we trust a 3rd party candidate?

John Hicks: It’s a legitimate question because all of our candidates need to be vetted and the media isn’t vetting my candidacy. I am better qualified—based on my experience—than the other candidates. I was a public school teacher, was in the army in Vietnam, I got into the IT industry and applied for a job at GE and they taught me the programming language they wanted me to use. I’ve had a career in the IT industry which has become more and more important as we’ve become worried about the security of our election and privacy of data. I think being a tech-savvy governor is important.

I had a third career working for a local newspaper in the Fern Creek area for ten years. That taught me a lot about how society and community work and I got to know people in the community and the leaders and that’s just experience that my two opponents don’t have. One of my opponents is probably an expert in making bells and the other one is an attorney, and they probably have other things on a resume, but I think my resume beats their resume.

McIver: Where can people donate?

John Hicks: The simplest is

I am running with Ann, she’s a fireball and she’s gonna make a great lieutenant governor. We’ve got a great set up where the Lt. Governor independent and that gives her a great opportunity to use her office as a pulpit.

McIver: Where can people volunteer?

John Hicks: We have a volunteer form on the website.

There’s something else I’d like to talk about. Everywhere we go, the further we go, people are receptive to having a third party candidate and people don’t like either and people are eager to learn about me and they talk to me and say they’ll vote for me. The challenge is to get the word out, but we’re very optimistic. One of the things we’ve got going for us is that our system is dysfunctional. We can win by 34%, I’d love to win by 51% but if I win with 34% we can wake up Republicans and Democrats. Even if we don’t win but we swing the elections, we can show that we need election reform.

I think we can win, though. And one way or another, the point is that there are only 3 gubernatorial elections this year and we’re one of the few. If we win we’d make headlines all over the country and put libertarians on the map. The American system is ready for change, the people are ready for change and by winning we’d be the tipping point for change and it’s really exciting to be involved in this and I really wanna get the word out to all libertarians that the potential is so great and we want to enlist everyone to affect this change.

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