Nebraska state senator Laura Ebke joins the Libertarian Party, explains her decision

Laura Ebke


For Immediate Release

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Another state legislator quits GOP, joins Libertarian Party

OMAHA — Laura Ebke, the state senator representing Nebraska’s Legislative District 32, has changed her party registration from Republican to Libertarian, the second legislator to do so this year. Rep. John Moore (Nevada’s 8th Assembly District) also left the GOP for the Libertarian Party in January.

“I’m excited to be joining with the Libertarian Party at this point in history,” said Ebke. “The national ticket of Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld brings a tremendous level of credibility to the table. A pro-fiscal responsibility, small government, plus pro-civil liberties platform respects the Constitution and the taxpayer.”

“At their core, I think most people want to be let alone to pursue their own interests,” she continued. “The libertarian ideal moves us back in that direction.”

Sen. Ebke is one of only 49 senators serving in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature. She was elected for the first time in November 2014 for a four-year term ending in January 2019.

Nebraska is the only state with a unicameral legislature. It is also the only nonpartisan state legislature, although party leaders regularly pressure legislators to “vote the ‘party’ way,” she said.

“As a Republican, the pressure to vote with the Republican governor is significant,” she said.

During her 1-1/2 years in office, Ebke has introduced a bill to prohibit local governments from having more stringent requirements for gun possession than the state has; co-sponsored a bill to legalize medical marijuana; and co-sponsored a bill to partially repeal asset forfeiture (“policing for profit”).

Sen. Ebke played key a role in advancing each of these bills.

In a letter to her donors to announce her switch, Sen. Ebke said she had become increasingly disillusioned by the GOP.

“My view of conservatism has always been [based on] smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, respect for constitutional rights,” she wrote. “And on the national scene, a strong military, but not an overly aggressive one. In other words, I believe in a constitutionalism which looks to the principles of our founders as a guide.”

“This is starting to be a trend,” said Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. “We shouldn’t be surprised to see more small-government legislators, tired of the dictates of party bosses, finding their true home in the Libertarian Party.”

Sen. Ebke holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Nebraska and served on the Crete School Board from 2002 to 2015.

Ebke explained her decision to join the Libertarian Party in a Facebook post today:

A Change of Parties, Not Principles
(NOTE: Today, there has been some media attention–which will show up in print media tomorrow–about my change of political party affiliation, from Republican to Libertarian. Below is the email that was sent to constituents, supporters, and basically anyone who was on my email list–just for clarification)
June 1, 2016

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 31, I sent a letter, primarily to folks in the district, who had supported me financially in my campaign for the Legislature in 2014. The purpose of the letter was to give them the courtesy of a “heads up” before a more general announcement. I am now providing you with most of that letter, because I want you to hear this from me before it hits the presses. Based on phone calls I’m getting, it would appear that rumors are out there, and before I talk to the press, I want you to know what’s going on. Late last week, I initiated a change of political party registration online. I have switched from Republican affiliation, to Libertarian. PLEASE take the time to read my reasons below.My reasons for making this switch are many, and it was not made without many months of consideration. Let me tell you a little bit about the thought process I’ve been through—and assure you that my basic view of the world has not changed.

First, I have always considered myself to be a conservative. I was born into a conservative Republican family in 1962, heard talk of politics from an early age (I’m not sure I believe the family lore that my first word was “Goldwater”). I idolized Nebraska’s late Senator Carl Curtis while I was still in elementary school in Fairbury. For most of my childhood, someone in my family—either my father, grandfather, or mother, was chair of the Republican Party in Jefferson County.

When I turned 13, I joined the then-active Teen Age Republicans (TARs). In 1976, at the age of 14, I watched the Republican Convention in Kansas City on TV with my dad, cried because Ronald Reagan lost the nomination to President Ford, and then went out to the family cars the next morning, and changed the bumper stickers from Reagan to Ford.

By the time I was 16, I was the Nebraska TAR Chair. I’d knocked on doors with Congressman Doug Bereuter in his first campaign. I was a political activist, a proud constitutional conservative, and a proud Republican. I have, as I write this, a collection of about 40 Frankoma elephant mugs, in my home office, which were sold beginning in 1968 until the early 2000’s, primarily as fundraisers for local Republican Women’s clubs. I’m only missing a few in the total collection.

I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and my second one for him in 1984. I voted for George Bush, senior (although I probably would have preferred Jack Kemp as a more visionary alternative); I voted for Bob Dole, even though his approach was not really what I yearned for; George W. Bush got my vote in 2000 and 2004, even though I became increasingly disillusioned with the “conservatism” of the Party and its leaders.

My view of conservatism has always been a Goldwater-Reagan based view:smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, respect for constitutional rights—and on the national scene, a strong military, but not an overly aggressive one. In other words, I believe in a constitutionalism which looks to the principles of our founders as a guide.

By 2008, I was feeling like “movement conservatism” that I’d grown up a part of, was becoming largely absent in the Republican Party. I saw a glimmer of hope in the presidential campaign of Congressman Ron Paul. He was, perhaps, a little too eccentric and even too ideologically pure, for the Republican Party, but after attending one of his rallies in Kansas City in the summer of 2007, I saw hope for a party that could attract young people who actually had a philosophy of government that I could match up with.

A group of Ron Paul supporters (mostly) and I chartered the Republican Liberty Caucus here in Nebraska. The RLC is a national organization, founded in the early 90s, for the purpose of promoting the cause of liberty within the Republican Party. Some welcomed the activism of the RLC in Nebraska—others didn’t. But we persisted, and for anyone who saw the significant crowds of people who walked with me in most of the parades in 2014, most of those folks—in addition to family—were my RLC friends.

Although the Legislature is a constitutionally NON-PARTISAN body, and many would never know—based on election filings or ballots—that I had changed parties, I think it’s important for you to understand why I’ve made the decision to do so at this time. Let me just give you the highlights:

  1. As a partisan activist who was part of an insurgent group of volunteers (the RLC), it was easy to wear the occasional disdain of establishment partisans as a badge of honor; as a state legislator, the pressure to “vote the ‘party’ way”—even if that way is contrary to one’s firm beliefs—is immense. I am happy to discuss and take responsibility for the votes I cast with my constituents and those of you who are getting this letter. We will not always agree, but you deserve to know why I voted the way that I did. But the pressure—sometimes near bullying—by some of my colleagues, and outside forces—to vote a particular way because “that’s the Republican way” has disheartened me. There is no discussion about ideas, and little negotiation—if a bill is controversial, the teams are supposed to split up, and everyone is expected to “fly right.” I believe that’s lazy policymaking.
  2. As a Republican, the pressure to vote with the Republican governor is significant. The truth be told, on the vast majority of issues I agree with Governor Ricketts, and will continue to agree with himBut the notion that the Governor should be able to tell legislators how to vote because they are registered in the same party—or that “good Republicans” would work to keep something “off of the Governor’s desk”–does a disservice to the role of the legislature and to the intention of the founders when they created a republican form of government with separate branches–and guaranteed state governments would be the same. I have no objection to conversations between the branches of government—in fact, I suspect that better policy would be made if there was more conversation and fewer demands of partisan loyalty.
  3. I consider myself a “movement constitutional conservative ”—and while not all libertarians are conservative constitutionalists, many are; and those who would be considered “movement conservatives” almost always have a strong stream of libertarianism running through their veins. As President Ronald Reagan said, “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” As the Republican Party has seemed to ignore constitutional governance; as Republicans have failed to make good on their promise of smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal control…this decision to make a break from the party that I’ve been registered with for 36 years, and active in for most of the 18 years before that, began to weigh heavily on my mind.
  4. My decision to change my registration has nothing to do with a changing philosophy on my part. It has little to do with any particular candidate or candidates. It has some to do with life in the State Capitol, but it has a lot to do with a growing sense that I’ve had that the Republican Party of 2016 is fundamentally different than the Republican Party that I grew up in.
To review more succinctly:
  • I am changing my voter registration, but not my view of the world. If you have mostly liked the way that I’ve voted in the past, you’ll probably continue to like it.
  • To the extent that I’m welcome, I will continue to work with ALL of the constitutional conservatives in the Legislature; and I’ll certainly work with the Governor if he wants to work with me. I will always be open to conversations and negotiations, but I won’t be held hostage to partisan considerations. Those who want my vote on a controversial issue will have to make the case based on solid reasoning—not on manufactured partisan hyperbole.
Finally, while I hope this doesn’t change your view negatively of me, I realize that it could. I have reconciled to the idea that I might not receive the support for future campaigns that I did in the past. I’ve also reconciled to the notion that it’s possible that the Republican Party will seek to “take me out” if I run for re-election in 2018. It’s also possible that I will be looked upon less kindly for potential leadership positions—even though we do not run as partisans, nor do we organize by party.
While serving the people of the 32nd Legislative District has been one of the great honors of my life, the people of the district have every right to vote me out of office if they feel that I’m not representing them adequately—and that includes if they feel that as a Libertarian instead of a Republican, I’m not adequately reflecting their views. Time will tell whether that label will matter to the citizens of the district, or whether they’ll judge me by my actions. I hope that in the next two years, I can prove to my constituents and other supporters that the Party label doesn’t mean anything other than wearing the label which more accurately reflects my political views.
I hope that they can see that by taking the “road less traveled”, I may be able to better serve ALL of our citizens, and not just the Republicans. I remain steadfastly in support of constitutionally limited government, and doing everything I can to reduce the negative impact of government in all of our lives—especially in the taking of our income through taxation.
I am, of course, always willing to exchange email, or talk with you in person about this, or anything else. And, as always, my office staff and I look forward to serving the people of the 32nd Legislative district the best that we can over the next 2 years.


Kind Regards,
Senator Laura Ebke

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