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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 28, 2010
Plans laid for Libertarian governor’s quest
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND While many New Yorkers are anticipating a Democratic primary for governor, a handful of Libertarians hope to see their candidate force a GOP primary.
Warren Redlich, a lawyer who grew up in Guilderland, is seeking more than the Libertarian endorsement for this fall’s gubernatorial race. He asks, “Instead of just running for the Libertarians, why don’t I try running for the Republicans as well?”
Currently a town board member and enrolled Republican, Redlich said he has been active with the Libertarian Party on and off for the past decade.
The party, founded in 1971, says, “Libertarians believe in the American heritage of liberty, enterprise, and personal responsibility.” Its national platform advocates a “free market” approach to health care and retirement security, and says foreign policy should “seek an American peace with the world.”
The Libertarian Party has 250,000 members nationwide. In the 10 presidential races since the party was founded, the highest popular vote for the Libertarian candidate was just over 1 percent.
“Saying that I have a long-shot at winning would be a nice way to put it,” Redlich said. But, he said, he hopes that he can get 50,000 votes so the Libertarian line can be on the ballot for the next four years.
The party made a splash statewide in 1994 when it nominated shock jock Howard Stern for governor; his supporters hoped he could attract enough voters to gain permanent ballot access. His detractors termed his run an embarrassing publicity stunt. Stern dropped out of the race because he didn’t want to comply with state financial disclosure laws.
“I didn’t like the whole idea of filing,” he wrote in his book, Miss America. “Hey, I was a Libertarian.”
Redlich has already filed papers with the state’s board of elections, and opened an account to accept donations. So far, he said, he’s received $90.
Third-party candidates play an important role, even if they don’t win an election, Redlich said.
“They can change the focus of a debate, and change the nature of a discussion. They can inject new issues, and, if they get media attention, they can make mainstream candidates answer questions,” Redlich said. “I think people are becoming more and more aware that the Democrats and Republicans aren’t serving them; they are serving themselves.”
Redlich has a checkered political history. He unsuccessfully sought a Guilderland Town Board seat both as a Democrat and on the Liberal Party line before succeeding in 2007 as a Republican. He also was a write-in candidate for Guilderland supervisor on the Green Party line.
And, Redlich made two quixotic runs for Congress in 2004 and 2006 as a Republican against an entrenched Democratic incumbent. Redlich opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, and he campaigned for cutting taxes in both runs. He also came up with such novel ideas as a monorail to spur the upstate economy.
Cutting state spending
In his yet-to-be-finalized run for governor, Redlich is sticking with his commitment to reduce taxes.
He said he will also seek support from members of the Tea Party movement, which, at its core, is focused on the state government wasting money.
“When it comes to the economic issues, I’m what the Tea Party is looking for. If I get the Tea Party behind me, I could get a primary,” he said. He compared the Tea Party members to “people walking down the streets with pitchforks, mad as hell.”
Redlich said the most important focus of his campaign would be to cut government spending. Looking at the state budget, he came up with ideas to not just control spending, but cut it out entirely. He identified 13 state agencies that, if elected, he would eliminate, including the Office of Technology, the Division of Human Rights, and the Commission of Public Integrity. He called the agencies redundant.
The government should not be handing out cash to large corporations, said Redlich. He would eradicate economic development, which he calls “corporate welfare.”
“It’s obscene that the government is handing out this money,” said Redlich. Another fact Redlich said he finds unbelievable is the salary of some state workers.
“You’ve got 30,000 people employed by the state making over $120,000 each, and the governor wants to put a 68-cent tax on an 88-cent bottle of Cola. You’ve got teachers and teachers’ aids that might be out of jobs, just to save money,” Redlich said. He said the people in government live in a bubble, and are not in touch with what is going on with “real people.”
“Instead of jamming the kids, the teachers, and the regular people making $40,000, it’s time for the people at the top to take a cut,” he said. He was appalled by the $688,777 annual salary that he said is paid to the head of the New York Public Library.
Redlich said he would also do away with the New York State Lottery, because the state should not promote gambling. Other focuses of his campaign platform would include putting more emphasis on traffic enforcement for safety, and establishing a “say on pay” policy for appointed officials.
“The state has turned traffic enforcement into a revenue measure, by placing State Troopers on the Thruway to hand out speeding tickets. I’m much more concerned about someone driving fast on a residential street than I am on the highway,” he said.
As for a “say on pay” policy, Redlich said he thought a raise for a public official the position, not a specific candidate should be put on a ballot for voter approval. He has credibility on that issue because he proposed a pay freeze for himself as a member of the Guilderland Town Board, Redlich said.
Redlich, who has created controversy in town with his use of political websites, is using the tool to further his gubernatorial campaign.
A Guilderland High School and Albany Law School graduate, he started his own small legal practice in 2003, after a year of teaching English in Japan and stints as a union negotiator, a trial lawyer, and a Fulton County Supreme Court clerk.
His Guilderland practice focuses on criminal defense and personal injury, with ahigh volume of traffic cases. It handles approximately 500 to 700 speeding tickets a year, along with driving while intoxicated cases, marijuana cases, and larceny cases.
The success of his business is due to his ability to create websites, Redlich said. He has launched another website, separate from his law firm, with the help of his brother, and said he expects that site to generate enough revenue within the next few years to support him. The site, www.town-court.com, has a searchable, compiled list of traffic courts across the United States, along with links for traffic lawyers.
“I’m basically someone who is very successful at search-engine optimization. I’m not just a business owner, but an entrepreneur,” said Redlich. He said the website will likely be his long-term business.
Redlich’s supporters have created a Facebook group to promote his nomination. The page describes him as “fluent in Japanese, a devotee of Kung Fu, and an avid blogger,”; 197 people have joined the group.
Although Redlich’s adult life has been defined by a passion for politics, he hasn’t adhered to a single party line.
In 1996, he worked on Lee Wasserman’s campaign for Congress. The environmental activist, a Democrat, was unsuccessful in his challenge to Michael McNulty, the Democratic incumbent. In 1997, Redlich ran for Guilderland Town Board, and was defeated in the Democratic caucus. He was a Democratic committeeman until 1999, at which point he enrolled as a Republican.
“I became a Republican because I didn’t agree with the Democrats on policy issues. The Democrats were more concerned with winning than with policy,” said Redlich. There is no faction of Libertarians in the Democratic party, he said, referring to himself as “fundamentally Libertarian.”
Redlich represented former Libertarian Committee Chairman Eric Sundwall, pro bono, when Sundwall ran for Congress, and he also worked on the Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. Paul, a Republican Texas Congressman, had won the Libertarian nomination for president in 1988 and was on the ballot in 46 states.
“There’s more of a home for a Libertarian in the Republican Party. I’m not thrilled with the Republican Party, but there’s a wing of it that fits with me,” Redlich said.
In both 2004 and 2006, Redlich ran for Congress in the 21st Congressional District, and was defeated by incumbent McNulty. Motivated in part by research he had done for his senior thesis, at Rice University in Texas, which was a cost-benefit analysis of the United States’ defense in Western Europe, Redlich ran his 2004 campaign using the tagline, “Stop wasting money overseas.”
Redlich said he didn’t expect to win a Congressional seat in 2004, but hoped to build a good campaign and garner enough name recognition to show people it was a winnable race. In 2004, he got roughly 30 percent of the vote. He got considerably less when he ran again in 2006.
In 2008, Guilderland Republican Mark Grimm asked him to run for town board with Republican endorsement, Redlich said.
“The plan was for me to keep enough votes on the line for Mark to win out over the Democrats. I wasn’t supposed to win, too. In the end, I am very glad I ran. It’s been a learning experience, and I feel like I’ve made a big difference,” he said. Redlich and Grimm are a minority with three Democrats on the board, which has split along party lines on some major issues.
Approximately six months ago, Sundwall suggested Redlich run for governor on the Libertarian line, Redlich said.
“At first I thought, ‘no way. There is no way I could do that,’” he said. Redlich said he went to a Capital District Libertarian party, during which the whole room full of people encouraged him to run for governor.
“I talked to my wife about it, and she gave me the go-ahead. We have this joke that she will only let me run for races that I have no chance of winning,” he said, of Heather Redlich.
Sundwall, who now serves on the Libertarian Committee, said he thought Redlich had great Libertarian credentials, and offered to be his campaign manager.
“Warren is in favor of gun legislation that is proactive to owners, and is very conscious of the amount of spending, waste, and fraud in the government,” said Sundwall. In order to be put on the ballot permanently, the Libertarian Party would need to get 50,000 votes, which historically hasn’t been done, Sundwall said.
“With a higher profile candidate like Redlich, people may be willing to jump off the two-party train and look to the future, toward the ability to have a third-party candidate run untainted,” said Sundwall.
He has run two campaigns in the past, Sundwall said, and is already talking to media outlets, looking for supporters in a variety of arenas, and searching for funds. To secure a chance at Libertarian endorsement, Redlich will need 15,000 signatures on his petition.
Although Redlich said he is fairly certain he won’t be the choice of the Republican establishment, he will try to force a GOP primary against Republican Rick Lazio.
Running on a platform of reform in Albany, the former Congressman and Wall Street lobbyist is probably best known for his crushing defeat against Hillary Rodham Clinton making her first run for senate.
Barney Keller, a spokesman for Lazio’s campaign, was puzzled by Redlich’s assertion he would try to force a primary.
“What does this Mr. Redlich think he is going to do? We already have 41 percent of the weighted vote at the Republican convention, and we fully expect Rick Lazio to have the endorsement of the Republican and Conservative parties,” said Keller.
Redlich expects to make a decision about his own run by the end of the month, after attending the Libertarian convention in Manhattan.
“My friends at the Libertarian party asked me to run, and I really appreciate what they’re trying to do,” Redlich said, concluding, “If I do run, it will partly be for them. Whatever side you are on, you’ve got to appreciate people running for office…otherwise you aren’t living in a democracy.”