Libertarians name NH 'Free State' for 20,000
|Title:||Libertarians name NH 'Free State' for 20,000|
Libertarians name NH 'Free State' for 20,000From Staff and Wire Reports 10/02/03
A group of libertarians from all over the nation have decided they will "Live Free or Die" in New Hampshire.
The Free State Project announced yesterday it will encourage 20,000 liberty-minded people to move to the Granite State within the next eight years and create a free society through the electoral process.
With 4,500 people already committed to move, the migration could begin as early as this year, the organization announced yesterday.
New Hampshire was chosen as the home of the experiment after beating out nine other states Montana, Wyoming, Delaware, Vermont, Maine, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska in mail-in ballot vote. Wyoming was the runner-up in the election.
"We won. That's fantastic," said state Libertarian Party Chairman John Babiarz. "It's like New Hampshire has won a nationwide popularity contest based on its fundamentals."
According to its Web site, members of the Free State Project support decentralization of government, widespread privatization, abolishing all income taxes and the repeal of most gun control laws.
Gov. Craig Benson said he's not in favor of all the organization's tenets. Some Free-Staters are for legalized prostitution and drugs. Benson said he does agree with the project's goals of limited government and low taxes.
He said the project fits with a tradition dating back to the Colonial era of people coming to New Hampshire seeking small government and personal liberty.
"I am excited they are for the rule of law, against prejudice and eager to be engaged in the political process," he said.
Members of the Free State Party raise their hands yesterday in New York after the libertarian group announced New Hampshire as the site of the gorup's Free State Project, to get 20,000 Americans to move to a state and work to transform it into a "free state" with fewer laws, smaller government and greater liberty. (AP)
Project Vice President Elizabeth McKinstry of Ann Arbor, Mich., said New Hampshire's strengths included low taxes, a lean state government, a citizen legislature and local support for the movement.
The New Hampshire Constitution also protects the right to revolution: "Whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government."
Rich Tomasso, secretary of the state Libertarian Party, said a "fair percentage" of the transplants may find Grafton and Coos counties attractive for its large parcels of open land.
But, he said, "We can't tell people you have to move here, you have to move there."
Babiarz, who lives in the town of Grafton, said: "Those counties are ideal because I think the people are strikingly independent."
According to its Web site, half of project members have college degrees, 75 percent are under age 50 and nearly half earn $60,000 or more annually.
The project's political strategy involves making gradual inroads in influencing elections.
"Start small with the state rep and local races for those getting involved in politics," Tomasso said. The Free State Project is not officially affiliated with any political party.
"I don't think you're going to see the porcupines (the mascot for the Free State Project) making a run for governor right away," he said.
New Hampshire already has more than 100 project members who plan to ease the transition for the others with an "Explore New Hampshire" tour and by pointing Free-Staters to real estate offices.
"Just this morning, we started an e-mail discussion group for people to network on real estate and jobs," said Michelle Dumas, the project's state media coordinator and vice chair of the state Libertarian Party.
"I think the first thing people are doing is moving in and getting to know their neighbors," she said. "No free-staters are under any illusion a (political) change will happen immediately."
Libertarians have never won any statewide offices, although they have elected a handful of state legislators.
A 5-percent vote for New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Miriam Luce in 1990 qualified the state's Libertarian Party with ballot status, which it lost when future candidates for governor were unable to reach 5 percent.
Luce became a member of the State Liquor Commission under Republican Gov. Steve Merrill.
In 1996, Libertarian Ken Blevens received 22,265 votes in his U.S. Senate race out of 513,698 total ballots costs. And last November, Babiarz got 13,028 votes for governor, compared with Benson's 259,663.
The state has 1.3 million residents.
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