This may be the best email I’ve ever received:
Hi. I just read your interview with Roger Stone. I’m not nearly as
interesting, but I am running for Governor of NY and Roger hates me.
Would you like to interview me?
Wow. What would you do? A boring and potentially unlikeable interview subject? Sounds like a losing combination. Naturally, I had to speak with him.
First things first though, I circled the Internet wagons for information on him.
Warren Redlich is the Libertarian Party’s gubernatorial candidate in the Empire State, and his platform revolves around the slogan “Stop Wasting Money.” He’s a personal injury and criminal defense lawyer (jealous yet, Binder & Binder?) who lives with his family outside of Albany where he is currently an elected official: a Guilderland Town Board Councilman. He was also the unsuccessful Republican nominee for Congress in New York’s 21st district in 2004 and 2006.
Just last week, it was announced that he will be included in a seven-candidate gubernatorial debate at Hofstra on Monday night. (Seven?! What is this the 2008 Democratic presidential primary?) Even if you don’t care about politics, I implore you to tune in to this debate on Monday. It will be a “Cluster f#@k to the Statehouse” of the highest order: Warren, Andrew Cuomo for the Dems, the GOP nominee Carl Paladino running his mouth, Manhattan Madam Kristin Davis, the “Rent is 2 Damn High” guy, and a couple other characters. The deus promises to be more absurd than a Comedy Central Roast, but it would be pretty amazing if one of these long-shot candidates ends up stealing the show.
Being a candidate for governor is not a full-time job for Warren, which is oddly quaint and palatable. Maybe we need more of that? He’s not bankrolled by big party contributions and he’s not independently wealthy, so he can only spend 10-20 hours a week on the campaign. He has a campaign manager and, sometimes, volunteers.
He feels his campaign is picking up steam, and although I doubt any of you out there have heard of him, he’s kind of right. In the last week he’s been interviewed on NY1’s Inside City Hall, PBS, a local CBS affiliate upstate, and on the radio in Buffalo.
Now, this is all moot, because Andrew Cuomo’s going to win, but let me just say that Warren Redlich is no crazier than Carl Paladino. He just hasn’t made billions of dollars to blow on his campaign. Then again, Carl Paladino is crazy.
Born to liberal Democratic parents, he called his being a Democrat a “congenital birth defect” that he eventually fixed by switching parties to the GOP in 1999. How did he begin the journey that eventually led to his change in party? College! And here I am, thinking college only made you more liberal… and arty. Well, Warren studied economics at Rice and the conservative fiscal philosophy took hold. “Government is not the answer,” “We pay too much in taxes,” you know the drill.
Even though he is still a registered Republican (who identifies with the Tea Party), Warren broke with the establishment when he couldn’t get the GOP nomination this year because in his telling, Paladino told Tea Party types what they wanted to hear.
This led to one of my key takeaways from speaking with Warren, stemming from how party labels are paper-thin these days. You can see that by checking out West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s latest ad in his campaign to move to the Senate; he’s running like a Republican.
The emptiness of party labels is not a new concept, but it’s rarely been explored outside of the two-party system. If anything, we tend to think that the candidates of third parties are more dogmatic and committed to ideological purity since they generally have no chance anyway. Poltitical expediency doesn’t come into play. However, our discussion ended up offering me insight into the unseen world of fringe party politics. And they are fringe; there are no Ross Perots in these races, gobbling up 19 percent of the vote.
I got the impression it was not so much what party’s banner you ended up running under, but that you were able to reel in a party at all. Warren described how you would try “to get support wherever you can get support” and how this was not uncommon. In the past, he has had meetings and pitches with the Liberal Party, the Green Party, and the Working Families Party. After realizing the Republican nomination was not going to happen, he was able saddle up with the Libertarians. The courtship process felt to me like finding a girlfriend just for the sake of having someone.
Getting on the ballot was difficult for him even in a party that already existed. To start, he had to win over the state Libertarians at their convention last spring. Then he had to collect 15,000 valid signatures around the state to secure a spot on the ballot. The veracity of those can be challenged (but were not seriously in this case), so you need a buffer. Warren rustled up 34,000 just in case.
So, what about his politics?
One of his chief proposals is to cap pay for all state jobs at $100,000, pointing to the New York City librarian who makes $689,000 and the Long Island Railroad conductor who makes $239,000 as evidence of state salaries gone wild. Those are some galling figures, but when I posited that $100,000 is not as much as it used to be, especially downstate and in New York City for a family of four, he didn’t have a great answer. He said, if you posted those wages for government jobs to people in NYC, there would be “a line a mile long of highly qualified” MBAs and lawyers around the block. I don’t scoff at $100 grand, but I know plenty of MBAs and JDs who do. They went to school to earn more than that, especially when you throw in the caveat that they can expect no raises, even on merit, from these hypothetical state gigs. He counters that a government job is more stable (conflicting with his intent to cut many), and that anyone is still free to frolic in the private sector.
Warren is pro-choice (don’t tell the Teabaggers that) but a staunch Second Amendment man (that, you can tell them). He has a passion for the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) and for ending the drug war, saying we should legalize drugs and stop locking up poor blacks and Hispanics and breaking up their families. His rationalization is that we are throwing out cash on an un-winnable war, that addicts aren’t stopped by the law, and that resources should be put towards clinical treatment.
Of being the Republican House candidate in 2004 and 2006, he says it was a great experience despite the decisive losses. Four times he had the chance to debate the incumbent Michael McNulty, who he called a class act regardless of their political differences. He did better than the past seven challengers, but couldn’t get the national Republican machine to give him the cash to make a dent.
His choice for president in 2008 was Ron Paul. His choice for 2012 is Ron Paul. His choice for favorite American microbrew is Ron Paul.
When I asked Warren about something that he wrote on his blog two years ago regarding how females reach peak sexual fertility around 13 to 18 years old, he explained that he was making a satirical point and not implying that men should be pursuing them. I give him the benefit of the doubt, but the larger takeaway is why broach any of these topics at all? You were a candidate for federal office, you hold a local position, and you aspire to be state executive… I think any talk of young women is begging for trouble.
Finally, I had to ask Warren why Roger Stone, himself not short of enemies, hates you? He grunted back, “Why does Roger Stone do anything?” He’s an “empty human being” who deceitfully interfered with Warren’s plans in an effort to make Kristin Davis the Libertarian candidate. In the end, they both made it on the ballot.
Warren feels he can get 50,000 votes, roughly 1 percent, though he claims he has reached 3 or 4 percent in some polls. That’s all TBD, and I’m not putting my money on him, but Warren wasn’t as boring and unlikeable as I had expected. I just can’t tell if I am pleased or disappointed with that.