2023-25 WakeLP Executive Committee: Sean Acton (Asst. Treasurer), Kyle Ward, Michael Oakes (Secretary), Travis Groo (Chair), Chris Mizelle, and Patrick Bowersox (Vice Chair) l. to r.
Thursday, 2 March 2023—Delegates to the 2023 WakeLP Convention elected three new members to their executive committee in Raleigh last night, but narrowly decided to retain incumbent Chair Travis Groo in the only contested race over challenger Dee Watson.
Also re-elected to another two-year term was Vice Chair Patrick Bowersox. The newcomers included Secretary Michael Oakes, and at-large EC members Chris Mizelle and Kyle Ward. All those candidates ran unopposed (except for None-of-the-Above/NOTA, which is always included on WakeLP party ballots).
The delegates also unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the North Carolina General Assembly to permit Wake the option of conducting county and municipal elections utilizing a ranked-choice voting (“instant runoff”) process.
The Groo-Watson election provided most of the evening’s drama. In his pre-vote address to the delegates, Groo emphasized his view that the party should appeal to all voters: “People come to libertarianism from the far left…and the far right, and the middle,” he stated. “As a blue county, in Wake County, we cannot run on straight far right red issues.” Watson focused on her wide experience at the county party (serving as an at-large member of the EC and as the volunteer coordinator) and state party (serving as the LPNC political director and Region 4 county affiliate coordinator): “I am super, super active in the party…I am dedicated to this; I am organized. I gave up a job in industry, working for a Pharma, making a ton of money, to do this! When the Legislature goes in session, I am there during the day because I’m off work: this is what I do.”
Balloting was conducted via a show of hands, and the initial tally for the vote was 19 to 16 in favor of Groo with two votes for NOTA, but one of the guest attendees, Ryan Brown of Granville County, pointed out that only 34 voting delegates were checked in and eligible to vote. The vote was conducted again, and came out 18 to 14 in Groo’s favor.
Bowersox, who has focused on coordinating WakeLP’s charitable, outreach, and speaker events, ran unopposed for a third term as Vice Chair. The Secretary position was open and Michael Oakes, who in 2022 was the youngest candidate for NC House on the ballot in Wake County, ran unopposed there.
Thanks to a WakeLP Plan of Organization change adopted by the delegates earlier in the evening which added a second at-large position to the executive committee, there were two seats up for grabs. Four candidates were nominated, but one (Watson) declined and another (Susan Hogarth) withdrew after nominating herself. That left only Mizelle and Ward—both also 2022 NCGA candidates in Wake for the LPNC—to contend with NOTA for those slots and they easily won election.
Delegates also heard from two record-setting 2022 candidates about running for local office: Christina Aragues, who garnered more votes in Cumberland County in her run for Soil & Water District Supervisor than any previous Libertarian candidate at any level (and lost by only 65 votes out of more than 113k cast) and Brian K. Lewis who ran for Soil & Water District Supervisor in Wake County and also set a new all-time record for the most votes for a Libertarian candidate at any level in the county.
The final item of business considered by the delegates was the following resolution offered by outgoing WakeLP Secretary John Underwood:
Whereas, in multi-candidate races it is common for there to be a “winner” who receives less than a majority of the votes cast, which is fundamentally undemocratic;
Whereas, when a runoff election is held the turnout almost invariably is lower and on occasion the runoff “winner” garners fewer votes than the loser received in the initial election, which calls into question the validity of that result;
Whereas, Ranked Choice Voting ensures the winner(s) will always enjoy a majority of the votes cast without the expense of staging an additional election;
Whereas, the inherent dynamic of and election conducted using Ranked Choice Voting is also healthier than our current election method in that candidates have an incentive to appeal not only to their zealous base but to reach out to other voters who could potentially make them a second or third choice;
Resolved that the Wake County Libertarian Party calls upon the North Carolina General Assembly to enact legislation to allow counties and municipalities the option to conduct local elections using Ranked Choice Voting (a/k/a Instant Runoff).
This resolution passed unanimously.
“WakeLP has experienced remarkable success over the last decade,” commented Groo after the convention adjourned. “Ten years ago, we were a non-entity but now every active political player knows who we are and considers us at least a minor special interest group. Our objective for the next decade should be to achieve significant input to and influence on public policy at the municipal and county levels here in Wake. Patrick and I look forward to working with the new guys over the next two years to get a great start on that.”