Who Is Ned Fenton Roscoe?


Well, as of 1:30 p.m. California time, Ned Fenton Roscoe is the only Libertarian to have qualified for the recall ballot (among a total of 14 candidates overall). His platform? Smokers' rights.

"I want to be a candidate for governor so that smokers will get more power," Roscoe said Friday. […]

Roscoe, of Napa, footed most of the bill for the Proposition 28 campaign in 2000, which aimed to repeal recently imposed tobacco taxes but garnered only 28 percent of the statewide vote.

He's also president of Cigarettes Cheaper!, a national discount-smokes chain. I figure any sworn enemy of Rob Reiner makes my shortlist….

NEXT: Edwin Meese IV

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Whether he is qualified or not depends on the outcome of a lawsuit which claims that they are using the wrong qualifying measure.

  2. I seem to remember that a few years ago he didn’t approve of voting or political involvement. I guess he changed his mind.

  3. Better than the druid and the blue guy.

    But not much.

  4. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say that the Libertarian party doesn’t field serious candidates. “Smoker’s rights”?

    What the California anti-smoking laws violate is the rights of PROPERTY OWNERS, specifically owners of bars, restaurants, etc. These people should have the right to allow smoking on property that they own (provided, of course, that they’re clear that they do so — I don’t want to pay a $20 cover charge and then find out that I can’t breathe the air inside the club).

    There are no “smoker’s rights” that are currently being violated. None. You have no right to fill the air that other people are breathing with smoke, and the right to smoke in private is not currently being violated. Smokers tend to have a confused view of what they have a “right” to do — they tend to have the standard drug-addict attitude that their “rights” encompass anything necessary to feed their habit.

  5. Hm – and I’d just written an e-mail to the Cali Libs asking if Ah-nuld’s somewhat libertarian aura was keeping actual Libertarians out. Good to know that’s not the case.

  6. Dan, your comments about the LP are spot-on (just like in today’s earlier Arnold post).

    While you make a good point about property rights vs. smokers’ rights, you needn’t even go that deep into it: CA is deeply in debt, bleeding jobs, and heading towards junk bond status, and this guy’s platform is that everyone should be able to smoke more? Way to be in touch with the voters.

  7. Dan, the smoker’s rights that are being violated have to do with the heavy “sin” taxes on cigs. Otherwise, I agree with you that the prohibition of smoking in bars and restaurants etc are violations of the property rights of the propriators.

    And, as others have mentioned, it’s hard to take the Libertarian party seriously when they run joke candidates like this. In the last election, didn’t they run some guy whose primary issue had to do with the rights of ferret owners?

    Even if they stand firmly on good principles, I won’t vote for nuts.


  8. While I wholeheartedly agree with Dan’s comments above, after reading the article it seemed like this guy wants the government out of the decision process. He says in there “Smokers feel they bear the brunt of some really stupid laws, things that people ought to be able to work out without a law,” which sounds to me like he wants property owners to decide whether smoking will be allowed in their establishment. He also said something about no new taxes and no new laws which also sounds pretty good. But maybe I’m being to optimistic…

  9. Why, oh my, must all the capital-L Libertarians be insane? What god did we offend, in what parallel universe where some horrible tyranny was carried out by libertarians? Now we’ve been sentenced to being represented in public by Harry Browne and Papa Smurf.

  10. What’s wrong with Harry Browne?

  11. Dan,

    How can the “rights” of the bar owners, etc. be violated if the law is constitutional? Are you arguing from the context of natural law or something?

  12. The Libertarians in Cal. have ballot access and as such can not control ALL of the candidates that want to run under their “banner”. The LP is not running this guy, he decided to run all by himself with his own freedom to do so. Libertarians generally believe people are responsible for themselves and do not dictate who can and cannot run like the Rs and Ds normally do. This is a cost of freedom for the LP as “wackos” sometimes run as Libertarians without much control by the LP. In Illinois you can’t make the same claim about the LP candidates. In 2002, our candidate for Governor was a 16 year state representative. Our candidates for Comptroller and Treasurer were both experienced CPAs running against 3 lawyers and a journalist. We have a Republican journalist as our Treasurer in Illinois, and she’s now under federal investigation for using state employees on the clock to try to kick the Libertarians off the ballot. One state rep candidate was endorsed over both an R and a D by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Another state rep candidate was endorsed over the two old parties by the Sun-Times and the Daily Herald. Just as many “wackos” run under the two old parties as run under the LP, it’s just a much higher percentage of the LP. LaRouche and Flynt are Democrats and David Duke is a Republican afterall.

  13. “What’s wrong with Harry Browne?”

    Two words: purple neckties.

  14. Has anyone here who is calling Roscoe a “nut” actually read the “smokers rights” platform, or know anything substantive about Roscoe, or are you just blowing your own smoke, based on the same hearsay and innuendo that you beg people not to believe when it comes to your own favorite candidate? Are you just spoiling to trash-talk the California LP? It looks like that from here.

    Check out http://www.smokersparty.com. The material there is very clear that by standing up for “smokers rights,” they are standing up for people’s rights in general, including property rights and so forth. And although reasonable people may argue about whether or not there is a set of rights one could call “smokers’ rights,” wouldn’t you agree that smokers bear just a little bit more than their fair share of the sin tax burden in California? At least one right that smokers definitely have is the right not to be inordinately taxed for their habit just because it is politically incorrect this year.

    I really have to question the judgment of people who call the CEO of a very successful, multi-state chain business a “joke candidate.” What makes Roscoe any more or less of a joke than, say, Schwarzenegger? Or Bill Simon, for that matter? The fact that he sees common cause with his customers and their fellows, and wishes to use that cause as a jumping off point for worthwhile reforms in government?

    Were you aware that, of ALL the candidates named on the CA Secretary of State’s official list, when I looked the other day, Roscoe wasn’t just the only Libertarian candidate who had filed all his paperwork and qualified for the ballot, he was the ONLY candidate to have cleared all the hurdles, period. OK, big deal, he got the paperwork in early. On the other hand, I am encouraged that someone was willing and able to get those petty but important details out of the way at the start, instead of waiting until the last minute. Isn’t waiting until the last minute and beyond a reason that we fault Gray Davis and the budget-challenged goofs in the state legislature?

    With candidates like Schwarzenegger and Bustamante in the race, who will command sizeable followings and get much free and paid-media, Roscoe may not win. Before the announcements of the last few days, Roscoe actually seemed to have a pretty good chance of getting a good number of smokers mad as hell enough to vote for him. Now, who knows? But leave the epithets “joke” and “nut” for Gallagher and folks like that, please. Or at least, criticize from a position of having done at least a few minutes of homework.

  15. I took another look at the official recall candidate list (this time, the 8/8 edition), and learned that a statement in a posting of mine above may have been in error. From looking an earlier version of the report several days ago, I got the clear impression that Roscoe was the only candidate on the list who had qualified at the time. Looking at the latest list, however, it seems that he was merely one of the earliest qualifiers, not the earliest. According to the 8/8 report from the CA Secretary of State (http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/recall_cand_status.pdf):

    Jim Hoffmann, REP, qualified on 7/25/03
    Peter Miguel Camejo, GRN, qualified on 7/29/03
    Paul Mariano, DEM, qualified 7/30/03
    Gerald Lee Gorman, DEM, qualified 8/1/03
    David Lee Kessinger, DEM, qualified 8/5/03
    Eric Korevaar, DEM, qualified 8/5/03
    Robert C. Mannheim, DEM, qualified 8/5/03
    Darrin M. Schiedle, DEM, qualified 8/5/03
    J. Leonard Padilla, IND, qualified on 8/5/03
    Ned Fenton Roscoe, LIB, qualified on 8/5/03
    John W. Beard, REP, qualified on 8/5/03

    I omit candidates who qualified AFTER the date of Roscoe’s qualification; the 8/8 report lists several of them, too.

    I don’t know whether the information about the other candidates shown here was present in the earlier edition of the report that I saw; it seemed not to be. I do remember seeing only one “Qualified” designation by any candidate name at the time: Roscoe’s, hence my earlier comment. But the latest report clearly shows that other candidates got their papers in sooner, so I must assume that either the earlier report or I (or both!) were in error.

    Even so, Roscoe was among the first 11 to clear the “Qualifying” hurdle, which isn’t too shabby in a field of hundreds. I note that he is also the qualifying candidate who had to pay the least in filing fees, owing to the number of signatures he ponied up in the petitions. Most candidates simply paid the $3500. Roscoe paid $1913.56. Another candidate, Ed Beyer, who qualified later, paid $3459.05. All the rest of the early qualifiers appear to have paid the full fee. It may be that candidates who wait until today to submit their papers will have collected enough signatures to avoid paying any filing fee at all; we’ll have to wait and see. But it’s nice to know that a Libertarian candidate didn’t have to simply buy his way into the election, that he presented enough signatures, early on, to cut the filing fee almost in half.

  16. James Merritt,

    Whether he has qualified or not depends on the outcome of several lawsuits – there are five in the California courts as of yesterday, and another two or three in the Federal courts.

  17. There’s at least one other Libertarian trying to qualify, he just came by my house the other day to collect signatures. He contrasted himself to the “smokers’ rights” guy and said his top two issues would be liberalization of drug laws (and fighting against federal interference) and making sure any two people can get married if they want. Those sound like bigger issues to me, and possibly even winnders in San Francisco, where he was collecting signatures.

  18. There’s at least one other Libertarian trying to qualify, he just came by my house the other day to collect signatures. He contrasted himself to the “smokers’ rights” guy and said his top two issues would be liberalization of drug laws (and fighting against federal interference) and making sure any two people can get married if they want. Those sound like bigger issues to me, and possibly even winnders in San Francisco, where he was collecting signatures.

  19. James, I visited the guy’s website before I ever posted. I never referred to him as a “nut,” but I did refer to him as utterly unelectable. I stand by that statement. With all the high-profile stuff going on, campaigning on “smoker’s rights” is absolutely absurd. It doesn’t matter that a logical person like yourself (and I say that from having read a lot of your posts) can understand that it symbolizes a general respect for individuality. What matters is that it’s an issue that does not resonate at all with the voters, when there are plenty of good libertarian positions that COULD.

    Am I spoiling to trash-talk the LP? Sure. They frustrate the hell out of me (speaking as a person who has volunteered a lot of time and more than a little money to the party). They have done little to nothing to keep themselves out of the fringe when there is ample opportunity to do so.

  20. To Max: Just so we’re clear that we’re clear, it was someone else who used the word “nuts,” elsewhere in this thread. Thank you for the kind words you had to say about previous postings of mine.

    On the other hand, reading through the material at the site you said you visited, you should have seen that there was more to the platform than “everybody should be able to smoke more.” In no uncertain terms, they clearly positioned “smokers’ rights” as a way to talk about over-taxation, over-regulation, and wasteful government in general. So it is not very fair to say that the campaign has a fatal tunnel vision. For example, right on the website, they point prominently back to the Reason foundation’s own proposed state budget, which goes way beyond mere concerns of smokers. Also, a key plank in the Smokers’ platform, which has nothing to do with smoking, is massive downsizing or repeal of the hated vehicle tax. These are not the only substantial examples of the platform going beyond the narrow interpretation that you and others have ascribed to it. It isn’t a case of the campaign chanting “smokers’ rights” and leaving it to the voters to fill in the blanks about the larger implications to liberty or their personal concerns. They spell the connections out, right there on the website.

    Rather than tunnel vision, the Roscoe campaign appears to be presenting public policy concerns through the lens of smokers’ self-interest, and this is the thing that got my attention in the first place (I’m a non-smoker, by the way). In a multi-candidate, plurality-wins election, the candidate who can forge the largest coalition or field the biggest bloc, wins. People have to be motivated to go to the polls. Arnold’s fans (many, perhaps, among the previously non-voting) will be motivated. Bustamante is openly playing the race card to get Latino voters to go to the polls on his behalf. Put-upon smokers are a sizeable bloc (roughly the size of Gray Davis’ winning vote total last time, if memory serves), and are highly motivated to get government off their backs. In theory, if someone could reach out to all of those smokers and get them to come to the polls and pull the lever for Roscoe, he could win handily.

    Obviously, smokers have other concerns in their lives, which may override their desire to send a message about “smokers rights” to Sacramento. Will a Latino smoker feel more strongly about putting a Latino in office (supporting the racially/ethnically defined tribe) or a smoker-friendly candidate (supporting the behaviorally defined tribe)? Will an up-to-now politically disaffected 20-something smoker, who is drawn to the polls by Schwarzenegger’s “people’s candidacy,” think twice and decide that the smoker-friendly candidate is the better choice to address his or her bottom-line concerns? Who knows? All I’m saying is that the math isn’t that simple when all the cross-interests and cross-loyalties are factored into the mix.

    Roscoe is the President of a fairly large company. (How many reading this have a Cigarettes Cheaper! store near their home or work? I do.) He knows a bit about motivating people, managing ambitious projects, etc. So, for that matter, does Schwarzenegger, if you take a look at his dealings in real-estate and behind-the-camera in the movie industry. Would either man bring the right stuff to Sacramento? That’s what we, as voters, have to determine between now and October 7. We need more information before dismissing either candidate out of hand. Schwarzenegger is getting a lot of free media (including a large amount of attack media from opponents or those friendly to them). It will be harder to get information on Roscoe, as he is already being ignored by the media (in a way that, say, Green Party candidate Camejo, is not). The http://www.smokersparty.com website says that Cigarettes Cheaper! stores will be turned into local campaign headquarters. Maybe that will provide a method to get more info on Roscoe. They’ve already said that they won’t be spending the money that most candidates are expected to spend. Win or lose, if Roscoe makes a big enough splash at the ballot box, perhaps he might think of opening a string of Campaigns Cheaper! outlets! 🙂

    To say that the issue of “smokers rights” does not resonate with the voters is to miss the point entirely. It DOES resonate strongly with SOME voters — namely voters who are smokers, who agree with the unfairness of the situation that smokers are now in, or who are farsighted enough to realize that the guns trained on smokers today could be just as unfairly pointed at others tomorrow. There is no question that this resonance isn’t very broad; otherwise, Prop. 10 (Rob Reiner’s 50-cent/pack tax) wouldn’t have passed in the first place, and Prop. 68 (repealing Prop. 10) wouldn’t have failed in the second place. But in the special circumstances of this election, is that resonance broad enough to bag a plurality, or at least to DENY a plurality to mainstream pols who might then think twice about sticking it to smokers in the future?

    If this were any other election, Max, I would agree with you that running as the “smokers candidate” would be a losing approach. In the current situation, however, it may be a lot less absurd than you think. I think a lot will hinge on how well Roscoe executes his “side-door” campaign. Time will tell.

  21. Andy says, “In the last election, didn’t they [CA Libertarians] run some guy whose primary issue had to do with the rights of ferret owners?”

    For Lt. Governor, yes. His name was Pat Wright. Like Roscoe, Wright used a galvanizing issue to attract the interest of highly-motivated voters (ferret owners), and also to fit into the preconceptions of the media, who was used to covering the LP as fringe-wackos, and needed human-interest material for the campaign. The thing with Pat was that, in interviews, he was clean cut, articulate about quite a few more issues than just “ferret rights,” and adept at weaving them altogether so that people who actually got a chance to hear him speak his piece came away understanding that the general subject here was broad-based freedom, of which “ferret rights” was a flashy neon sign to get people into take a peek into the Libertarian tent.

    Pat’s campaign didn’t use the “ferret rights” issue cynically, of course. Pat’s pet ferret “Rocky” had been arbitrarily and cruelly euthanized by the state, after Pat brought him to a Southern California protest of the anti-ferret laws. At one point, Rocky got spooked by an aggressive reporter, took a nip at the fellow, and that was it for him. It was a really sad story. The much better story was the one Pat told, about his subsequent journey to get justice for Rocky, which broadened his horizons on the whole question of freedom. That’s they story that would get written up in newspapers and put onto local news, by the reporters who initially sought to cover Wright as a side-show.

    See, Andy, there is a lot more to what is going on than a dismissive phrase will convey. Wright had an infinitesimally small chance of winning because the ferret rights crowd — while highly motivated — is much smaller than, say, the smoking crowd, and because the election in question was not the dozens-of-candidates, plurality-wins sort of affair that this one is. Under the circumstances, he sought primarily to get the message out and educate voters, and he achieved his goal surprisingly well, in my opinion, to judge by the coverage and ultimate vote total he received (over 107K). Even the more broadly-based Green candidate was only able to get approximately 3x Wright’s total; either candidate made only a drop’s worth of splash in the big bucket, so it is hard to fault Pat for wanting to lead with his big, heartfelt issue.

    When I first heard about Roscoe’s campaign, I thought about Pat Wright. I don’t think that Pat could win in this election either, although he might make a bigger splash. Perhaps his ecological niche in this election will be filled by the medical marijuana champion. Roscoe’s campaign, on the other hand, is a more interesting case, which bears watching, I think. There are a LOT of smokers. If Roscoe can somehow appear committed to enforcement of Prop. 215, as well, he might pull away some of the medical mj candidate’s votes, too. It’ll be interesting to watch.

  22. Incidentally, for those who want to see a Libertarian candidate base a campaign on more traditional, broad-appeal issues, there may be Jack Hickey. An SF peninsula resident, who doesn’t seem to have appeared on the Secretary of State’s list until today (although he’s been listed on the CA LP website alongside Roscoe for weeks), Hickey is currently being reviewed for inclusion on the ballot as a Libertarian. I guess he formally announced and turned in his papers in one fell swoop yesterday. His platform is big on educational reform and privatization — an issue that resonates on many levels with many more voters than even the politics of smoking does. I worry that he won’t get a lot of free media, however, unless he can generate sensational controversy (a quality that is built-into the smokers’ debate).

    Hickey appears to have a bit more political experience than Roscoe, although his formal background is as an engineer and scientist. With luck, we will start hearing more about him in the days to come. I want to see the CA LP wesbite get more into this election than it has been to date. For a party that was the first to formally endorse the recall, they sure haven’t said a lot about it on the statewide website. (The “California Freedom” newsletter, available at the website, does say a bit more, but you have to download it, have or get the pdf viewer to read it, etc. As few people as seem to have bothered to do as much as pull up a wesbite to research libertarian alternatives in this campaign, you’d think the LP wouldn’t want to make them work even harder to get any useful voter information…)

  23. UPDATE: As of 430pm PT, the CA Secretary of State’s report shows three qualifying candidates in the Libertarian column: Ken Hamidi (Sacramento County), Jack Hickey (listed as “Butte County,” though last I heard, he lived in San Mateo County), and Ned Roscoe (Napa County). Still under consideration is Jonathan Marvin (SF City and County).

  24. I must admit I don’t understand the hostile reaction here. If you’ve got porn stars, pornographers and — most preposterous of all — the lieutenant governor running, why can’t a businessman focusing on somoker’s issues. And what’s so wrong with his claiming the libertarian mantle?

  25. damm, im no libertarian, but i have much empathy for the cause, and truth to tell, find myself identifying more and more with you guys.

    and then this: a crank trying to peddle his bank account fused on to some indivdual rights shuck and jive. We have midget sitcom actors and larry flynt running for guv, but no sentient being picking up the libertarian mantle. like Matt w. says, though: anyone who tacks against Meathead aint all bad.

    what you guys need is a william f. buckley–kick ass, have some street cred in the marketplace of ideas, toss the marginals to the side, sell books. little sharpies on campus wanted to be WFB….who the hell wants to be Harry Browne, or even to have a drink with him.

    short of this: enjoy life on bulletin boards and meetings held in friends living rooms….there is a certain nobility in failure, which seems to be a generally accepted operating principle among Libertarians.

  26. As a registered Libertarian, I find Ned Fenton Roscoe’s candidacy an example of why my affiliation is tenuous at best. Single-issue candidates don’t do the party any good. If you have one issue, start a proposition petition. If you want to run for governor, please tell me your position on unreimbursed County mandates, vehicle license fees, the death penalty, abortion, personal property rights, after-school sports programs, medical marijuana, prostitution, three strikes, physical infrastructure, standardized testing, conservation issues, alternative energy… I think you get the idea.

  27. Hold on there! Let me try to nail down the position of the most sensible person in the race:

    Unreimbursed county mandates: Primarily a federal problem. Top of the list of priorities is to persuade the Legislature to make enough changes to make California competitive with other states, and to run the State agencies so that people say ?they?ve got a much better attitude than before. Things are getting done.?

    Vehicle License Fees: The current law is convoluted. There was a tax increase triggered by the provisions of the law. The number of unregistered cars shows that the registration fee is too high. Again, this will take an agreement in the Legislature to move to a more sensible solution.

    Death Penalty: I?ve read that it?s cheaper to keep the prisoners alive than to kill them because of the legal fees. What people really want is a deterrence to horrible crimes. Running stores, we?ve done a lot to prevent crimes from occurring in our shops. I won?t bore you by explaining it other than this cryptic comment: trouble is contagious.

    Abortion: Everyone ought to want to reduce the number of abortions. Wasting political capital on fighting over the dividing line between the individual and the State won?t do that.

    Personal Property Rights: Buy a copy of the book Bagatorials in one of our stores. Published by Simon & Schuster?s Free Press in 1996, it?s an excellent compendium of libertarian philosophy in practice.

    Medical marijuana: It?s a federal problem. We won?t correct the federal problem by getting huffy with John Ashcroft. Ashcroft himself probably knows chemotherapy patients who smoke marijuana.

    I think you get the idea.

  28. Fist i like to say i am glade arnold won .
    as far as ned roscoe gois you dont know the hole story nor the truth he dus not care about smokers he cares about making money he owns a cigarett store called cigarettes cheper and he uses that to push his own cigaretts nobles and crap and the way he runs a bissness is puthetic for example a girl in indiana indpls was working in one of his stores wen a fire happined becouse of there rejected lighters they sell the girl barly made it out a live he culd not fire her legaly becouse it was found that he was to blame so he just lied to her and kept saying there was no place for her wen there was a help wonted sighn posted at 4 uther of his stores and he did this becouse she was a woman he told me this in his own words plus he use to have 800 stores nows hes down to 200 and something if he cant run a bissness how can he run a state and i am cutting this short i got a crap load of dirt on him i use to work for him he is a peace of sh** crap so becouse the libs put him up for office i will never vote for that party i will stick with republican party

  29. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    URL: http://online-casino-gambling.best-gambling.biz
    DATE: 01/20/2004 05:14:24
    No cause is so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.