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Libertarian Jeff Hewitt Wins Seat on Riverside County Board of Supervisors

The L.P.’s biggest 2018 winner wants to tackle California’s public sector pension crisis head-on

||| Jeff HewittJeff HewittJeff Hewitt, the Libertarian mayor of tiny Calimesa, California, has narrowly won a seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the Riverside County Registrar of Voters announced early this morning.

The 65-year-old supervisor-elect, best known for booting out the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) from Calimesa and replacing it with a cheaper, city-owned department, squeaked past former GOP assemblyman Russ Bogh, 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent. Hewitt won despite being heavily outfundraised, with Bogh's chief sources of money coming from public sector unions, and Hewitt pulling cash from state and national libertarians, including California tomato-industry giant (and Reason Foundation Board of Trustees member) Chris Rufer.

"I raised $550,000 total, and he raised $1.1 million total, so he out-raised me two to one," an exultant Hewitt told me yesterday. "However, he outspent me nearly three to one between the primary and the general election, so that in itself is amazing. There is no one in this area that thought I was going to be the winner."

The seat, like Hewitt's mayoral post, is nonpartisan, though his party affiliation is nobody's secret, sitting as he does on the Libertarian National Committee. In a fundraising email sent Wednesday, L.P. National Chair Nicholas Sarwark characterized the prospect of a Hewitt victory as a "mega-win."

Riverside is the 11th most populous county in the United States, with 2.4 million-plus inhabitants, or more than West Virginia and Wyoming combined. Hewitt, whose district includes the cities of Moreno Valley, Menifee, and Perris, is one of five supervisors overseeing an annual budget of $5.5 billion. The county's precarious finances took a massive hit in the 2008-09 financial crisis, and continue to groan under the weight of public sector pension obligations and contract negotiations between elected officials and the unions that support them.

"You realize I will now be one of five people determining 101 [fire] stations, the largest user of Cal Fire," Hewitt said. "I went from being their most hated enemy, to now they're going to have to start kissing up….We've got our priorities, with pensions and pension reform basically being the first—getting all new hires away from the unsustainable CalPERS, and putting a program in so that we can possibly follow through on all these [pension] obligations, these ridiculous ones that we've made to the people that are already grandfathered in."

Hewitt becomes the 28th Libertarian to win office in the November election, and the 53rd overall for 2018, according to the party. That latter number is an increase from 34 in 2016, Sarwark indicated in his email. "This may be the most significant WIN by the LP since it stole an Electoral College vote," Matthew Barnes, a Hewitt campaign volunteer, gushed earlier this week at Liberty.me. "[His seat is] one of the most prized political positions in the country and easily among the top 20 most influential positions in all of California. The result will likely mean that for the first time in history, the Libertarian Party will have a solid member supervising a significant county seat."

While perhaps hyperbolic, and containing a whiff of morale-boosting after the party's many disappointments last month (Gary Johnson's distant third-place showing for U.S. Senate; Larry Sharpe's dispiriting 4th place for New York governor; and the drubbings of party-switching state representatives Laura Ebke, Brandon Phinney and Caleb Dyer), such enthusiasms nonetheless reflect a reality: Jeff Hewitt's win is an important demonstration project not just in how Libertarians can win elections, but what they can do once in office.

"I used the advantages of being a Libertarian," Hewitt said. "I used the donors that weren't available to other people, and we used ideologically driven libertarian canvassers that sold me as good as I could sell myself…. Every one of our about 13 different canvassers that worked on my campaign, they were taught to go run campaigns in the future, successful campaigns. And they're all Libertarians."

Critical to that effort was Young Americans for Liberty's Cliff Maloney, whose Operation Win at the Door has fanned out nationwide to support pro-liberty candidates. ("He's super helpful," Sarwark said this week in a conference call to Libertarian activists.) And earning the most rave reviews was long time Libertarian activist and Hewitt campaign manager, Boomer Shannon. "I hope in this next cycle, we're going to see three, four, five successful campaigns just from the people that Boomer…was able to show how to do this," Hewitt said.

Shannon portrays the victory as one of grassroots personal connections over the top-down, out-of-touch approach of the Democratic and Republican parties. "We have a saying around here that guides our attitudes: 'Politics is about people; and the number one skill is making friends,'" Shannon told Matthew Barnes. "We could have never had this level of success if Jeff had not first volunteered for the planning office in his hometown, ran for the city council and then been promoted to Mayor. A candidate's reputation is the foundation every campaign is built upon."

Hewitt, a former swimming-pool digger, is as gregarious a character as you will see in any room full of Libertarians. He is not shy about talking to strangers. And he is ruthlessly pragmatic when talking to voters about what matters to them.

"As a Libertarian, things like asset forfeiture and other social rights that we are fighting for—I agree with all those things. I'm not good at arguing for those," he told me at the Libertarian National Convention this summer. "Most of my things are economic freedoms as far as trying to get taxes down. That's how we get people from the other two parties. A lot of Democrats, they think we need to pay taxes, but guess what? They like it when they have more of their money left, too."

"If the majority of people say, 'Hey look, we want our public safety, we want some of our roads or our parks done,'" he continued, "don't shove it in their face and go, 'No, all those things should be private!' You and I may agree on that, but when we come in there and we deliver a better product for them at a much reduced price, we've applied free market principles already right there."

As for the eternal debates over platform language and philosophical principles? "The Libertarian Party doesn't need any more principle, doesn't need any more platform—it's got great ideas," he said. "Now, how do you implement them? We obviously elect officials."

Photo Credit: Jeff Hewitt

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  • Adina123||

    Mazal tov!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Shannon portrays the victory as one of grassroots personal connections over the top-down, out-of-touch approach of the Democratic and Republican parties.

    Well consider my hopes up.

  • damikesc||

    Libertarian Jeff Hewitt Wins Seat on Riverside County Board of Supervisors
    The L.P.'s biggest 2018 winner wants to tackle California's public sector pension crisis head-on

    That this headline is serious and not parody is more than a little sad.

  • Rich||

    "And then we'll move on to tackle the National Debt! YEEAAAHHHH!!"

  • SIV||

    pulling cash from state and national libertarians, including California tomato-industry giant (and Reason Foundation Board of Trustees member) Chris Rufer.

    Reason is in the tank for Big Tomato?

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    The LP is playing catchup in the national political game; what else could they do?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Boom.

  • creech||

    Congratulations and good on whomever in Cal. is responsible for having many races be non-partisan. Anywhere else where Hewitt would have run on the Libertarian label, he would have lost even if he was far and away the most credentialed candidate.

  • Dillinger||

    Vamos.

  • HiredGoon||

    It's official!
    I was watching this race closely. I can hardly believe the magic that Boomer and all the guys pulled off with half the cash of the other guy. Absolutely incredible work by everyone.

  • ||

    How many steps above Dog Catcher is this?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    "You realize I will now be one of five people determining 101 [fire] stations, the largest user of Cal Fire," Hewitt said. "I went from being their most hated enemy, to now they're going to have to start kissing up…

    Mr. Hewitt seems a great candidate (in several ways) to be on the lonely end of a series of 4-1 votes.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Diversity doesn't mean you have any power. It just means you just sit in the back and look diverse.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    with Bogh's chief sources of money coming from public sector unions,

    Why would labor be so supportive of management? This doesn't compute.

  • Longtobefree||

    It may not compute, but it surely pays well

  • flicka47||

    You have to remember that the BOS has to vote on all wage increases. So, of course, the unions are going to support candidates that support their employees.
    And, no, it doesn't "pay well". Take out safety positions, and management(who are not union) the average county employee probably makes a great deal less than $50k a year

  • ||

    And, no, it doesn't "pay well". Take out safety positions, and management(who are not union) the average county employee probably makes a great deal less than $50k a year
    LOL, the LOWEST paid gov employee is making over $50K/year in BENEFITS alone.

  • Alive Free Happy||

    Jeff Hewitt is the Libertarian on a board made up of 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans besides himself. It is not at all likely that many votes are going to be 4-1. Mr. Hewitt, and Mr. Shannon are savvy politicos and will perform very nicely as the swing vote between the two corrupt and competing sides. Southern California Libertarian activists are not only excited by this but hopeful. Mr. Shannon has been accumulating activists and talent for 15 years and organizing them. They have had a number of successful political campaigns leading up to this win, and is the first time they have drawn from donors. I imagine that there are a lot of VERY happy, excited and even surprised donors out there right now and I think we will likely see more wins coming out of that area.

  • Radio||

    I've been volunteering for this campaign since the beginning and seeing how grassroots boots-to-the-ground activism triumph big corrupt politicians makes me hopeful for the future of politics in California!

  • vli||

    This is a huge win for all of us. I volunteered on this campaign hoping to spread the good word on Libertarianism and have fun; I got all that and MORE. Politics is about people and I'm excited for whats to come. What about you guys?

  • retiredfire||

    The "libertarian" position of open borders has been embraced, already, and is the biggest reason why California sucks on so many levels.

  • Sevo||

    Congrats to you folks in Riverside County!
    Can we somehow make that contagious to more of CA? I live in SF, and we could really use it.

  • Alive Free Happy||

    Sevo,

    Get involved in the LP. Meet Mr. Shannon. Vote the asshats out of party office that nearly sunk the Hewitt Campaign.

    There are a bunch of acivists in California that are effective. They spend too much time dodging the rocks that Republican Goons throw at them from LP officer positions. They have been trying to purge the activists and destroy the party. They even tried to hold trial over Hewitt's top leadership to move towards kicking them out of the party in the middle of the campaign. They had no case, and tried to hold a secret tribunal to do railroad a couple of long time effective activists. Their real motivation being they are unable to be effective themselves, the fine hats on their heads make them jealous of all who would be successful, and to kill it.

    When this behavior in the LP is put to rest, we will see MORE wins.

  • hackajar||

    The SF LP is actually very active. Reach out to Nick Smith!

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