Adrian Wyllie says that the perception of what the Libertarian Party is all about has come a long way in the 20 years since he became a member. He says when he'd tell people his political affiliation back in the '90s, he received quizzical stares and comments like, "You work in a library?" Ten years later he says the image became "a Republican who wants to smoke pot." And now? He says when he tells people he's running for governor and they ask whether he's a Democrat or Republican he responds "'Neither. I'm a Libertarian.' And their whole attitude changes."
Although such an anecdote isn't necessarily reflected in public opinion polling (A survey taken last fall by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that only 7 percent of Americans said they were "consistent" Libertarians, though an additional 15 percent said they leaned that way), Wylllie maintains a positive countenance when speaking to anyone who wants to hear his message. Failing to get that message out to the masses is the biggest obstacle, he says, to the party gaining more popularity.
"We don't have $100 million in this campaign and we never will," he told reporters and a crowd Tampa Saturday night at the Florida Libertarian Party convention, referring to how much Rick Scott is rumored to be spending on his re-election campaign this year. "The reason we never will? Because we're not for sale to the special interests."
Wyllie is running an unconventional campaign, to say the least. Who else would boast about being arrested, as Wyllie recently was by Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies for not having a driver's license. Wyllie said he's been trying to get arrested for the past three years so he'll have legal standing to challenge the state's implementation of the Real ID Act. He objects to the fact that when a citizen renews his or her driver's license, they have to submit an array of documentation, as well as be subject to a bio-metric facial recognition that's maintained in a federal database.
But he also admits that the arrest "gives a really good opportunity to quite frankly get a little more name recognition," as well as fight the cause in court. "So I think it's a tremendous positive and I want to thank the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for their support of my campaign," he said with tongue sort of in cheek on Saturday night.
Although CD13 candidate Lucas Overby has attracted attention in Pinellas County for his rather progressive brand of Libertarianism, Wyllie's take on some issues, such as healthcare, is more classicly Libertarian "The best way to resolve the healthcare crisis in this country is to get back more to a free-market solution." Similarly, he wouldn't have expanded Medicaid under the deal offered by the Obama administration if he were governor. "If we expand it, we will bankrupt the state," he says, maintaining that there's too much waste, fraud and abuse in the system.
Last week fast-food workers in Tampa and across the country went on strike to protest their economic plight, calling for a $15.00 hourly wage, a dramatic increase from even the calls for a federal increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 (It's currently $7.93 in Florida). Wyllie said that such workers would shortly be replaced by "electronic kiosks" and robots were such an increase to occur. "There are market forces at work, and you cannot stop those free-market forces. But you can get the government out of the way," he said, before segueing into his negative take on the proposed craft beer legislation sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Senator Kelli Stargell that would have put more regulations on successful craft breweries (the bill didn't pass in the Legislature).
Like Tea Party Republicans and some progressive Democrats, Wyllie has no appetite for the implementation of the Common Core standards, which Florida and 44 other states have adopted ostensibly to strengthen students proficiencies in math and English. He says other Republicans he's spoken to don't support the plan, but felt pressured to do so.
"I've spoken one-on-one with legislators who I won't name, who say, 'yeah, I hate Common Core, but Jeb Bush is calling the shots on this one. We gotta do what Jeb says,'" Wylie said on Saturday. He believes the reason that Bush — who appears to be testing the waters for a potential presidential run — is so supportive of the measure is because his brother Neil would profit (though, in fact, Bush's calling card has been education reform).
"Neil Bush has a vested interest in one of the two providers of curriculum, textbooks and so forth that are authorized under Common Core," Wyllie says. "It's just another example of the corporation, the cronyism, the good ol' boy network they have in Tallahassee."
That's in reference to Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, which provides interactive materials to schools. Criticism that Bush's company was profiting from George H.W. Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation surfaced back in the mid-aughts.
Wylie says he would cut the state's budget by a walloping 30 percent if elected, and promises a 100 percent Homestead Exemption for all Floridians primary residences. You can read his 7-point economic plan and his entire agenda at his website.