The Invisible Man
Libertarian congressional candidate keeps low profile
By Alex De Grand

Naming the top industrial product of Paraguay would probably trip more easily off the lips of most local voters than identifying the Libertarian candidate in the sixth district congressional race- a fact that can't exactly be blamed on voter ignorance or apathy.

"I don't have any ads; I don't have any money," said Joe Novak, the 26-year-old candidate who works at Verizon's directory assistance center in Lexington. "I'm not trying to fundraise right now... I have to work 40 hours a week to pay my bills."

Novak guessed he wasn't invited to be part of a debate held August 30 at the Embassy Suites Hotel because the organizers weren't aware of him. (The debate included Republican incumbent Ernie Fletcher and politico veteran Democrat Scotty Baesler, along with the Reform Party's Gatewood Galbraith.)

"I think they expect candidates to be more in their face," Novak said.

Learning from that, Novak will make a more aggressive bid to be part of debates presented by the League of Women Voters and KET.

Novak isn't, however, particularly concerned about his chances of winning.

"Winning isn't important; it's getting the message out," said Novak who is the state Libertarian Party's sixth district chair in addition to being its congressional candidate.

But what is the message?

Generally, Libertarians are for rolling back the federal government to just the few roles specifically prescribed for it in the Constitution. Maintaining a national defense is something for the government to do; getting involved in a lot of the social and economic affairs of the people is not.

Many of the jobs government performs today should be assumed by the private sector, according to Libertarians. Private charities should look after the poor rather than the state, for instance.

In campaign literature, Novak lists as his issues "reduction of federal government to Constitutional limits, including privatization of social security; eliminating federal personal and corporate welfare, and an end to the 'War on Drugs.'"

Some voters may be thinking that emphasis on maximum personal freedom and minimum government sounds a lot like a platform written by Galbraith who also champions small government.

But Novak said Libertarians go further than Galbraith.

"We don't want to prohibit any drug," Novak said. "Legalize all of them... It would at least bring the problem out into the open and take the money out of the hands of criminals."

Galbraith is famous for supporting efforts to liberalize laws governing marijuana. But in a recent interview, he made clear his opposition to legalizing a number of particularly addictive drugs.

Also unlike the Libertarians, Galbraith endorses government's role in consumer protection and some "safety net" programs like Social Security. Novak said consumers should hold companies liable for their products through lawsuits, and funds already in Social Security need to be privatized as that government program is eliminated.

Libertarians disagree with Galbraith on free trade, Novak said.

Whereas Galbraith is railing against the Republicans and Democrats for their free trade policies that "send American jobs overseas," Novak said Libertarians support unrestricted trade.

Novak specifically denounced trade restrictions used for political purposes such as sanctioning a country for humanitarian reasons.

Such a position may seem politically awkward at a time when many people have been questioning "free trade" - from University of Kentucky students arrested during sweat shop protests to Seattle activists rallying at the World Trade Organization meeting.

(Novak said he doesn't like the WTO either, but only because it is more bureaucracy getting in the way of trade.)

Novak was asked about some of the particulars of this free trade position such as child labor. He made a few allowances for government intervention in personal and economic affairs.

For example, Novak agreed child labor is wrong, asserting children have rights.

And when a family is abusing a child's rights, Novak said the government should have the authority to take the child away from that harmful family situation.

While Novak said the federal government should butt out on a number of issues it currently regulates, he said there is a place for state governments to become involved.

In fact, he suggested the best regulations for something like environmental protection would result if states competed with each other.

But Novak's answers were vague when asked about states that lower their environmental standards in an effort to outdo each other in the drive to attract industry and jobs.

For example, a number of Kentucky legislators say they would like to hold chicken companies liable for environmental problems at huge factory farms, but they don't want to impose a burden on companies that will only drive those farm jobs away to a state without such stringent rules.

"States have to be free to compete as they want," Novak responded.

As for the rest of this campaign season, Novak pledges to carry on in his drive to Congress. However, he hints it may be a more leisurely pace than the sprint of his competitors.

Novak spoke more energetically about arranging a visit to Kentucky by the Libertarian vice presidential nominee in anticipation of the major parties' October debate at Centre College than any of his own campaign events.

"If the choice is between campaigning for me or the [Libertarian presidential ticket headed up by Harry Browne], I'll choose Browne," Novak said.

Alex De Grand can be reached at 225-4889 ext. 232 or


You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

Anyone who visited downtown Lexington this weekend would've come away with the idea that it was a thriving hive of activity. Although accessibility to the Farmers' Market was nearly destroyed by the closing of Main at Rose early in the day (and further hampered by the decision to cordon off the metered spaces a dozen hours in advance of the midsummer night's race), traffic picked up around lunchtime. A crowd of thousands spent the day at Woodland Park for the annual Woodland Arts Fair (not a cornshuck doll in sight). And by the evening, thousands more had arrived downtown for the annual Midsummer Night's Run. And in a rare stroke of genius, the city leadership had apparently collaborated with the engineers who time the traffic signals, and most of the police force, to ensure that those thousands would remain downtown - the average time spent trying to exit downtown, in a car, was anecdotally estimated at about 45 minutes per city block. And many of the streets remained blocked off at around 11 p.m.

While it was a distinct pleasure to see our downtown so heavily populated, the crowds may continue to visit, but they won't stay unless and until we solve our longer term problem of making downtown friendlier to residential living, mixed use neighborhoods, and shopping. Even a phalanx of cops and an endless sea of red lights wasn't enough to hold them in on Saturday night. Short of high-voltage electric fencing, we could use a real plan.

Love Gun

Reform Party congressional candidate Gatewood Galbraith met with reporters August 22 on the steps of the Fayette County Courthouse to spotlight his endorsements from the Gun Owners of America and the Kentuckians for the Right to Bear Arms.

Galbraith blasted his opponents in the sixth congressional district race with charges of "compromising" the constitutional right to bear arms with their support for trigger locks and background checks at gun shows.

In campaign literature, Galbraith reported the Gun Owners of America rated his Democratic opponent, Scotty Baesler, a D-minus for his 1998 congressional voting record. Fletcher only received a B-minus from the group, Galbraith noted.

Erosion of gun rights is part of an overall roll back of constitutionally protected freedoms, according to Galbraith who has championed a politics of maximum personal freedom with minimum government. In that vein, the use of marijuana and hemp have been among Galbraith's other signature issues.

Asked about gun violence in schools, Galbraith called for firearm instruction for school children. He suggested if young people become familiar with guns and know how to use them properly, they will be less likely to misuse them. - ADG