Libertarian Party

Judge Jim Gray To Seek Libertarian Presidential Nomination

The longtime anti-drug-war jurist drafts Larry Sharpe as a running mate.


Judge Jim Gray, the 2012 Libertarian Party (L.P.) vice presidential nominee and the first sitting jurist to come out against the drug war way back in 1992, announced to his email list Monday that he will seek the party's presidential nomination in tandem with vice presidential candidate Larry Sharpe.

The L.P., America's third-place finisher in the previous two presidential elections, is scheduled to determine its 2020 ticket during a national convention on May 21-25.

Gray, 75, was a Superior Court judge in Orange County, California, from 1989 to 2009, during which time he was best known for his pioneering stance on marijuana prohibition and his unsuccessful Republican primary run against longtime Rep. Bob Dornan in 1998. Gray switched to the L.P. soon thereafter, finishing in fourth place with 1.8 percent of the vote in a 2004 U.S. Senate race won by incumbent Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer. After being cultivated by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for the vice presidential slot in 2012, Gray became part of what was then the party's second-most successful White House ticket in history, earning 1.0 percent of the national vote.

The announcement, which comes pretty late in the nominating game (anarchist Adam Kokesh has been running already for more than two years), was, in Gray's telling, set into motion with the demise of the presidential bid by ex-mayor/senator/governor Lincoln Chafee, who Gray had backed.

"After [Chafee] hung up the phone," the judge recounted in his email newsletter, "his staff members asked if I would consider running in his place. My answer was no. But, since they were persistent, I told them that I would take two days to consider that possibility."

"During those next two days," Gray continued, "I spoke to several high-ranking and well-respected Libertarians around the country, and they were all supportive and even enthusiastic. So, also considering the fact that I always thought I would be a good candidate, I called Larry Sharpe, who is a friend in New York who was a great Libertarian candidate for Governor in the 2018 election. During the discussion, I told Larry that if he would be my running mate, I would throw my hat in the ring. On Friday, April 10 he agreed. So that afternoon we had a Zoom meeting of Governor Chafee's staff, along with the campaign manager of Riverside County Board of Supervisor Jeff Hewitt's campaign where we introduced ourselves to each other and then started planning our campaign."

Those two names will certainly focus attention within the L.P. rank and file. Hewitt, the highest-ranking Libertarian elected official in the country, had previously thrown his support behind the ex-convict entrepreneur/comedy enthusiast Mark Whitney, as had some of Hewitt's well-respected braintrust. And Sharpe, one of the party's leading and most ubiquitous figures (he is scheduled to deliver the keynote at the national convention, though the physical status of the gathering is currently in doubt), was certainly not expected to make a second consecutive run at the vice presidential nomination.

"The two guys that I adore most are the two people I voted for first as Libertarians: Gary Johnson and Judge Gray," Sharpe told me. "They are literally the only two people who could have gotten me to run for anything….If Gary Johnson had decided to run and asked me, I would have said yes to him, too." (Sharpe, a former Marine, had told me back in 2017: "I will always be loyal to Gary Johnson. Without him I'm not a Libertarian.")

Until now, the primary and caucus season has been dominated by Future of Freedom Foundation founder Jacob Hornberger, who has received the most results among human candidates in six out of the eight nonbinding state contests, compared to two such victories by political satirist Vermin Supreme. (Libertarians often prefer expressing their votes for such categories as "no preference.") Hornberger also leads the popular vote, 22 percent to Supreme's 10 percent and 1996 vice presidential nominee Jo* Jorgensen's 9.6 percent.

Hornberger, a longtime friend of 1988 L.P. nominee Ron Paul, is the favorite of the party's growing and hungry Mises Caucus, members of which have frequently expressed criticism of the type of allegedly milquetoast libertarianism represented by the last two presidential tickets, especially 2016 V.P. nominee Bill Weld. Team Hornberger is likely to laser in on Gray's presence on the 2012 ticket, his prior support for the Weld-like northeastern party-switcher Chaffee, and his enthusiasm for the ex-Massachusetts governor himself ("I really believe that Bill Weld was a really great addition to the campaign," Gray said to me in 2016 five days after the veep nominee went on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program for the purposes of "vouching for Mrs. Clinton").

But Sharpe, one of the few figures well respected among all the party's notoriously quarrelsome factions, counters that Gray is not some Republican-come-lately re-run.

"This virus, this crisis, this destruction of our economy, destruction of our health, this should be the piece that shows you there's got to be a better way. And Judge Jim Gray is the better way," Sharpe told me. "He's the guy who was saying 'Let's fix the war on drugs' before it was cool. He's the guy who was saying 'I'm a Libertarian' before it was cool. He's the guy who's saying 'I want to make changes' before the problems actually hit. As soon as he saw things to be bad, he wanted to make the change. He's written books about it. He's an advocate about it. Now he can be your president."

Sharpe will likely be Gray's best asset within the party, though the coming days should indicate whether the party's money and political talent (such as either exist) will come off the sidelines and rally around an old familiar face.

"When Chafee gave up," Sharpe said, "I think the pragmatic part of the party just basically couldn't believe it, like, 'What do we got now? Oh my God.'…And then when Judge Jim Gray stepped up, I think most of the people were like, 'Oh good, here's our regular guy that we wanted.'"

Libertarians select their presidential and vice presidential nominees separately, with the veep pick coming second at the convention. Presidential nominees are given space to lobby for their preferred choice, and, in practice, delegates have backed that advice the three previous national conventions, though not without some nose-holding. (Sharpe, relatively unknown at the time, came within a whisker of beating Weld in 2016.)

As of now, Sharpe would seem to have much better chances of securing the veep slot than Gray does at besting Hornberger. Though Monday also saw another V.P. announcement that could theoretically attract attention: international man of mystery John McAfee, who finished third for the 2016 L.P. presidential nomination. McAfee ran for the presidential nomination again this cycle only to drop his half-hearted presidential bid and propose a ticket with Vermin Supreme. He has now announced that he is open to running with Adam Kokesh.

"I am happy to join forces with Adam in my bid for the Vice-presidential slot within the Libertarian Party," McAfee said in a statement passed around by the Kokesh campaign. "Adam's platform is close to my own and I fully endorse it. Even though I am continuing my bid for President, if Adam wins I will be happy to fully support him as his running mate."

Added Kokesh: "I am honored today to be endorsing my friend John McAfee for the Vice-Presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. It's hard to even know where to begin in so honoring a man of such legendary stature. His corporate credentials speak for themselves and there are few household names in tech that rival his. His lifestyle has been so libertarian that even I am often found envious, even as someone regularly praised on that count. His commitment to libertarian principles is unquestionable. His reach in social media is undeniable. His effectiveness as a freedom activist is proven. As our nominee for Vice President, he would bring unique capabilities to our team that none of our current presidential or vice-presidential candidates possess, especially regarding Bitcoin and the crypto-community."

Watch Jim Gray tell Reason below in 2010 about the six groups that benefit most from the drug war:

* CORRECTION: Was originally "Jill."

NEXT: No, Trump Cannot Open the Country Back Up Whenever He Wants

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  1. "His lifestyle has been so Libertarian that even I am often found envious" Sure Welch, sure.
    Oh by the way

    1. it's almost as if he's miles away from being libertarian even though he writes for Reason. Strange..

    2. He was quoting Adam Kokesh. You can tell from the quotation marks, and the way it says "Added Kokesh:" beforehand.

  2. "the first sitting jurist to come out against the drug war way back in 1992"

    I suppose he may have been the first sitting jurist to come out against the drug war in 1992.

    But US District Judge Robert Sweet came out against the drug war at least as early as 1990, in a publicly broadcast debate produced by William F. Buckley's "Firing Line."

  3. He's the guy who was saying 'I'm a Libertarian' before it was cool.

    When was it ever cool to be a libertarian? Oh damn, did I sleep through the libertarian moment?

    1. Only Gillespie's jacket gets to decide when its a Libertarian moment.

    2. The country is run by libertarian ideologues - so is Europe. Austerity, deregulation and neoliberalism all over. Only the coronavirus provides a final chance of getting power out of the hands of these libertarian fanatics.


    3. I think the Libertarian Moment is coming. The number one show on Netflix is Tiger King, and the only sane person in the whole show is a libertarian.

      1. There's a sane person in that show?

      2. While that's true, I think most people look at the libertarians the same way they do the zoo animals. Their antics are amusing, but they're too dangerous to be allowed to roam freely.

  4. As someone from the "pragmatic" wing of the party, I was NEVER keen on Chafee. Honest, nice guy, but not a great choice. I was far from alone in that assessment. Monds, Armstrong, and Jorgensen were the ones I had my eye on. Whitney was before he showed how short his temper was. Now Gray seems like the best bet to me, but we'll see how he does.

    1. Interestingly, I liked Armstrong best, but I think Hornberger is a fine choice. Ideologically I'm an anarchist, but if I'm gonna bother to participate in electoral politics then I'd prefer somebody who's going to use the platform of the campaign to speak persuasively about how libertarian ideas can solve their problems. I like Vermin Supreme, but he's not going to change anyone's mind. McAfee is a glorious nutcase, but again, not a persuasive one.

      But some of the so-called "pragmatic" folks have a really curious approach to the whole process, to me. Why spend the money and effort to back someone who isn't going to represent the ideas you're trying to promote? Weld wasn't it, and Chafee certainly isn't either. We're a third party - we've already taken a huge hit to our electability just by refusing to adopt their colors. I don't see why you'd skimp on the last iota of electability to pick someone who isn't going to represent your views.

  5. Gray, 75

    This sure is the year of the oldsters. They're running and they're dying.

    1. Agree that is a huge problem unless they are able to pull in a ton of a)younger talent one-generation back with executive/organizational skills (prob not with political experience because that has been DeRp exclusive) and b)much younger talent two-generations back who can see a DeRp-alternative if the LP ever speaks to those serious generational problems that oldster group has created.

  6. Running for president and dying of colds. What a mindfuck, as Cypher might say.

  7. No. I want principled, later middle aged, and distaff ticket. I don't care if they aren't "famous."

  8. Yeah, whatever. I'll be voting Democrat, even though I disagree with most of his positions, because the Republican nominee literally just stood and said, on national tv, "The federal government has absolute power."

    1. Oh, is that related to the #TrumpMeltdown trending on twitter? They've used that hashtag like 50 times since the beginning of the year. I guess it's to distract from everyone else's perpetual meltdown over every little thing he says.

    2. Im voting for Trump because Lefties are liars and need to be destroyed with the ballot box, soap box, and then if needed the ammo box.

  9. I love Larry Sharpe

    1. Hes okay.

      Trump will reelection as he is the most Libertarian-ish President in a long long time.

      1. There's nothing libertarian about Trump. Ban bump stocks, opposes free trade, palled around with the Clinton's before he wanted to run for president.

        He's hilarious because he riles up progressives and it's fun to watch him demolish them and make them cry but don't pretend he has libertarian qualities.

        1. lc1789 said "most libertarian", note the waffle adjective. It's like a nun walking by the Vatican and saying she felt "almost pregnant".

          1. Libertarian-ish. Its an important distiction.

            Lefties hate Trump, so he must not be a Democrat and clearly does Libertarian-ish things.

      2. Trump is Libertarian-ish in that he makes his supporters laugh.

        That's why I joined the party - it's preferable to crying all day...

        The Donald was elected for entertainment-value, as most of his voters believed what they saw on "The Apprentice."

        1. Yet he does Linertarian-ish things. It must all be random. That is what unreason believes.

          Trump could not possibly be a squishy Libertarian. Which is to say a million times more Libertarian than most unreason staff.

  10. I will note that Libertarians got the most votes they ever did in 2016, and Trump was elected. So if being useless and wasting your time is the thing, vote Libertarian.

    1. Depends on what state. If the Demo is going to win 2/3 of the vote, your vote is wasted so you may as well choose a third party to bump; might even get them easier ballot access next election. If it's going to be so close the pollsters won't call it, vote carefully -- your vote will still be wasted, but you'll think you did some good.

  11. "He's the guy who was saying 'I'm a Libertarian' before it was cool. "
    Not in this race. That "guy" would be Bumper Hornberger, who was a libertarian long long before Judge Gray. Hornberger's problem will be getting the electorate to listen after he proposes cutting off 65 million social security recipients cold turkey and throwing them on charity, at the same time voters are struggling to comprehend 15 million unemployed folks who have suddenly lost their paychecks.

    1. To be fair, the treasonous media make fiscal responsibility sound ridiculous and will certainly skew historical fact about the 2020 Kingflu hysteria which was caused by Blue states and the MSM.

      I personally look forward to 16 million unemployed with pitchforks going after state officials and the MSM.

  12. Unfortunately another failing attempt, mainly because the majority of Americans still like to be told how long to hold their breath!

  13. I just hope they can manage to get the L.P. or any other "third party" candidates into the debates this year.

    If the choice between the two current presumptive nominees can't get people to think past the two-party paradigm, it's hard to imagine what might. 2020 is shaping up to be the literal embodiment of the South Park "Giant Douche vs Turd Sandwich" match-up if there ever was one.

    1. There are more party unaffiliated Americans than Americans who are strongly loyal to either Republican or Democrat. The problem isnt thinking past the two party paradigm, it is the fact that our electoral system pretty much guarantees that it will exist. Unless something like Ranked Choice Voting or Approval Voting is implemented for elections, two parties are going to dominate. The only way those systems will be implemented is from the bottom up -- within the local two party systems or through direct voter initiations.

      1. FFS. Quit with the bullshit 'voting system that needs a black box to explain' and that can't even deliver an actual representative

        Just because a first-past-the-post - which DOES deliver an identifiable accountable person to represent the people in a geography - system will tend to create a two-choice election does not mean it becomes the same two choices in every district everywhere.

        Yes - third parties need to focus locally - on local issues - and become THE alternative in what are now mostly not two-party districts but ONE-party districts

        And at the national level, focus entirely on massively increasing the size of the House of Representatives. Which doesn't require some party loyalty or serve some party agenda. But merely restores accountability and representation - which can then be the first step to legitimate improvement in self-governance

        Not sure the LP is really in tune with either of those objectives. Certainly not the Mises/Paul crowd.

        1. and revoke the 17th amendment.

      2. If the majority are truly unaffiliated, the most "successful" campaign in the last 2 decades should have been able to crack the double digits in percent of total votes.

        The last time that happened was Perot, who was at least able to get himself into something that was on national TV. He made it to 20% against two "major" party candidates who weren't nearly as repugnant as the presumptive 2020 field (including one who might have been in the top 3 most inerently charismatic candidates to run in the last 50 years).

    2. I just hope they can manage to get the L.P. or any other “third party” candidates into the debates this year.

      I hope they stop trying. that's a dead end. Focus entirely on the nuts-and-bolts of local and college organizing. continually point out that the DeRps are naked and corrupt. Undermine the DeRp future.

      DeRps are never gonna let anyone into THEIR debate to undermine their message until AFTER that person/party has already undermined their voting base. And at that point, the third party doesn't necessarily need the debate participation as much as the DeRps need the coopted credibility of including them

      1. After seeing how well focusing on colleges and local/grassroots organizing worked for Sanders, I'm not sure I can get on board with the idea that it's a great strategy. Especially when one of the biggest obstacles to breaking the two-party/"horserace" paradigm is that the media (including a huge portion of online/blogosphere outlets) is mostly invested in one of the "viable" parties, and the only thing those parties still agree on is that there's no need to have more than two factions splitting up the power pie; compound that with the fact that reporters like the simplicity of a binary choice and probably think that most of their readers aren't capable of processing anything with more complexity.

        1. It's a great strategy. Sanders is selling their grandfathers union organizer politics to that generation. That's a hella headwind considering there's nothing in that politics that is uniquely generational. 'Free this and that' is not that.

          'Media' is only relevant to that generation in that they are the focused object of advertisers who seek to turn them from citizens into mere consumers. Which does work - extremely well - but the part of the media that 'informs' is not even viewed by the young. It is irrelevant - and so is the debate - and so is the voting turnout. The very effort to get into the debates is an attempt to change the minds of 40-80 year olds - and their minds are already made up

        2. I'd say it worked pretty well for Sanders. If a Libertarian could get that kind of national attention and support, it would be quite encouraging.

  14. LO fucking L. Amash, imd doing this for my principles and not for fame and a presidential nod.... says he is open to running for president.

    Who fucking didnt see this disingenuous asshole making this move?

    1. I will vote for Amash if he runs. Otherwise, I'll write-in Vermin Supreme just to say I voted. No way am I voting for the orange conman or the senile old coot

      1. Instead you'll vote for the pro IC abusing its powers when I dont like the guy. Gotcha.

      2. Trump: +1 vote

  15. Gray became part of what was then the party's second-most successful White House ticket in history, earning 1.0 percent of the national vote.

    Only if you round up. GayJay finished with less than 1% in 2012.

    Clark/Koch broke 1 % of the vote in 1980

  16. So if the Libertarian Convention is a virtual one, they should open it up to allow everyone (including non-libertarians) to vote. It would certainly break attendance records, and nobody would notice the guy in the thong, or the lousy candidates, with all the porn zoombombs.

  17. Bill Weld sucks. Still.

  18. Well, If Any Judge can answer this. You Refuse to judge The Actions of The State, You don't Judge Your Own Actions, and You shouldn't Judge The Actions of The Individual if you can't do all 3;

  19. Crystal J. David want to have some fun and to play dirtу ==>> Details Here

  20. I'm going to vote for the Libertarian, no matter who it is, because I'd be too ashamed if I voted for either Trump or Biden.

  21. Yeah, you do that, Jim. You'll be running on the "Came from and will go back to even deeper obscurity" platform, right?

  22. You can’t eradicate cannibalism by eating the cannibals; there is no better analog for what voting is.
    The voting booth should reconfigure the ballot lever to a dildo and require the Helots to use their mouths to make the selection of their next master, it also provides a keen preview of things to come for the voter.
    “A ballot is just a substitute for a bullet. If your vote isn’t backed by a bullet, it is meaningless. Without the bullet, people could ignore the election outcome. Voting would be pointless. Democracy has violence at its very core!” ~Muir Matteson, “The Nonviolent Zone”
    "An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it." ~ George Bernard Shaw
    "Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves." Herbert Marcuse
    "Working within the system means to become a part of the system. When you go into the voting booth, the only meaningful significance that your action will have is to show that one more person supports the state". ~Mark Davis
    "Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other." ~ Oscar Ameringer
    "If the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds ... its policies would most definitely reflect the ‘legitimate concerns’ of children to have ‘adequate’ and ‘equal’ access to ‘free’ french fries, lemonade and videos." ~ Hans-Hermann Hoppe
    “Grown men do not need leaders.” – Edward Abbey

    1. Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?

  23. Judge Jim Gray appears to be a competent, logical, well-spoken individual. His charisma isn't off the scale. He'll need to carry a cute puppy to be successful.

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