Vinnie Vineyard has been many things in his life. Business owner, bass slapper, pro wrestler, ghost hunter are all things he has been. Now he wants to be your governor. Vinyard, known in wresting circles as Funkmaster V, is running as a member of the Libertarian Party and recently learned that if you were anything but a Democrat or Republican that it is nearly impossible to even get on the ballot.
Patrick Pebley: What are some of the challenges making the ballot if you’re not part of the big two?
Vinnie Vinyard: Not only are the Tennessee Twenty (The 20 Libertarians running for governor) trying to provide a decent choice for governor for the people of Tennessee, we are trying to bring to light the fact that we have a ballot access nightmare in the state. It takes 25 signatures on a petition to run as a Republican, Democrat, and Independent in Tennessee. To be affiliated with another party, (Libertarian, Green, Reform, etc) it takes 33,844 signatures. It’s ridiculous! It took me three hours to get 38 signatures. This is an intentional obstacle that is set up to muddy the waters, eliminate competition, and confuse the voter.
PP: In spite of this obstacle how many of these multiple candidates have made the ballot so far?
VV: We wanted to have 34 (one per every thousand need to make the ballot officially as a libertarian)… at last count 17 have made it officially with a few appeals still in the process. Regardless, there are 30 plus independents running for governor that have been accepted at this point.
PP: As an independent candidate what other challenges do you face?
VV: Lack of money! I’m going up against a lady that has raised 3.5 million dollars to run as governor of this state. If I had millions to run, newspapers would be coming to me to talk about my run, and I wouldn’t be forced to annoy newspapers around the state for publicity. There’s so much wrong in the country and state, in our electoral processes that it’s hard to make a splash in a political race. It is set up to obstruct outside important ideas from getting a say in politics.
PP: Aside from the obstacles we have already discussed what sort of reforms would you like to see in the election process?
VV: Campaign finance reform! Candidates waste so much money on running for a job that pays comparatively little… that should tell us that something doesn’t smell right in Denmark… or Nashville, for that matter. Are we running to serve? Or are we running to become rich, powerful or famous? Are we elected officials or are we pop stars? All of this money needed to make a run eliminates non-rich, regular, decent people from running. We also need to look at this gerrymandered voting zones that are laughable and set up for people to be re-elected over and over again without as much a political knife fight. And that leads into term limits. No more career politicians, anywhere.
PP: Aside from the issues that are involved with running what are three reforms you would attempt to enact of elected?
VV: Healthcare is a nightmare here. I had a friend die THIS WEEK because she couldn’t afford her medicine and treatments. If we lived in a true, free market soceity, she could have afforded to buy her medicine from some other country for pennies on a dollar. Our archaic school systems in the state are failing to educate our kids and are failing to protect them. There should be an option to cyber school kids not doing well in the schools. It would reduce over crowding at schools, provide teachers with more one on one time, and also prepare the students at home with a faster education. Also it would be safer. I also feel like there is not enough representation of different ideas and philophies in our government. From where I stand, elected Democrats and Republicans are almost identical in this state.
PP: Which leads to the next question what would you say the biggest difference between being libertarian is compared to the big two?
VV: We are the party of principle. We believe in peace, self governance, civil liberties, smaller government, common sense governing, and anti crony capitalism for starters Other parties say things like this, but their actions speak louder than words (15 years at war in the Middle East and Trillion dollar spending bills, for example).I believe most Tennesseans are Libertarians, they either don’t know what it truly is or they think it means Liberal b/c it sounds the same. If I spend 5 minutes which each Tennessee voter, I bet you I convert a sizable group. This is why the ballot access problem exists in this state. Lawsuit after lawsuit, the general assembly keeps sliding it to a future session date. Democrats and Republicans don’t want the competition.
PP: Have you seen a lot more interest in the libertarian party and non big two parties in general as of late?
VV: Not as much as I would like. Im very disappointed in the Presidental election, for example. Gary Johnson was a good candidate, but he came off as a goofy guy when I know he was a successful governor and a self made millionare and would have been a great president. Wrong candidate at the wrong time. Democrats exploit the poor for votes, Republicans exploit the religious and patriotic for votes. And those bases are mostly happy being decieved. Most people are now locked into echo chambers and don’t even consider alternative ideas. Too much hostility exists between us all for a productive debate to begin… when truth be told, Americans are much more alike than they are different.
PP: Johnson was a governor obviously. are than any libertarians holding an office on the state or national level at this point or do you feel the ballot restrictions have stopped this from happening.
There have been a few in state assemblies that have switched to being Libertarians… both Democrats and Republicans. Johnson was technially a Republican when he really wasnt. Ballot restrictions are intentional and effective. Most Americans wouldnt even know that there are more than two political parties if it wasnt for Ralph Nader and Gary Johnson. I will be listed as a Independent and not a Libertaian this November. Good luck to the voter trying to figure out who is a Libertarian/ Green/ Socialist/ Reform party member in a sea of Independent candidates. He’ll have to take a guess… or write in “Mickey Mouse” to cast a protest vote.