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A Libertarian Takes Aim at the White House

Could the country's first female president be selected in Colorado? Christine Smith thinks so.

If Christine Smith is elected president this November, she wouldn't be the first published author in the oval office, or the first marksman, or even the first redhead.

But she would be the first woman, the first Coloradan, and the first person to have written a book about the spirituality of John Denver.

And what would President Smith do during her first days in office? Withdraw all troops from Iraq, pardon everyone jailed for non-violent marijuana offenses, and abolish just about any federal agency she could get her hands on. But then, she would also be the first Libertarian president.

The Libertarian Party, which businessman David Nolan founded in Colorado Springs in 1971 as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, will convene its national convention in Denver on May 22, with more than 1,000 delegates in attendance. And unlike the Democrats (maybe), who will bring their much larger convention to Denver in August, the Libertarians will actually use their confab to select a nominee.

The eclectic group of fifteen Libertarian candidates includes Smith, Las Vegas author and businessman Wayne Allyn Root, former Democrat and Alaska senator Mike Gravel, and, as of May 12, former Republican and Georgia congressman Bob Barr, who scored headlines, and ire, by announcing his candidacy.

Yes, that Bob Barr. The one who was swept into office in 1995 with Newt Gingrich and 95 other lock-stepping, Contract With America conservatives, then led the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton. The one who fought for laws against abortion rights, legalized medical marijuana and same-sex marriage; the one who backed the Patriot Act (at least before switching to the Libertarian Party in 2006), stricter immigration policies and an anti-flag-burning initiative — stances that are all anathema to the Libertarian Party.

"This was some of the most anti-libertarian legislation ever passed," Smith says. "I have serious reservations about Barr's belief — or lack thereof — in libertarian principles. I know people can change, and he's saying all the right words now, at least on certain issues...but I don't trust him."

Neither does Lakewood City Councilman Doug Anderson, who became the first Libertarian elected to office in a major city in 1987, when he joined the Denver Election Commission. "I've crossed [Barr] off my list," says Anderson, an alternate delegate who is looking for someone who won't embarrass the party and is "a libertarian in philosophy, not just someone trying to take advantage of a ballot access opportunity."

As for Smith, Anderson has met her only once and plans to talk more with her during the convention, which runs until May 26.

The 41-year-old Smith, who lives in Golden, joined the Libertarian Party in 2006 when she realized its ideals matched her own, and she decided to run for president that same year after concluding that the party was being taken over by people who didn't really espouse libertarian values: personal responsibility, free markets, small government.

Smith is a singer, speaker, model, chess player, whiskey drinker and freelance writer who specializes — under a pseudonym she declines to reveal — in spirituality, technology law and the arts. She says she's given aid to various humanitarian causes and is an avid reader, counting Ayn Rand and Gore Vidal among her many influences. She's also the author of 2001's A Mountain in the Wind — An Exploration of the Spirituality of John Denver. Moved by the late singer's music and his message, Smith used to organize an annual festival dedicated to his memory. "John Denver was very political," she says. "I learned a lot from him about political activism and the desire to make a difference. He was also a peace activist, and I believe in peace."

But Smith is also an avid markswoman who owns a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

Despite her unusual skill set, even before Barr and Gravel joined the Libertarian lineup, Smith wasn't the best-known candidate. Root won a Colorado straw poll in March, says Libertarian state chairman Travis Nicks, and Ron Paul is still the party's biggest heartthrob, despite his switch to the GOP. But Smith still believes that her chances of winning the nomination are good.

"As our past has shown us, anything can happen at a Libertarian convention," she says. And what are a Libertarian candidate's chances of winning the presidency? Smith doesn't like to think about what her chances are — only about what they should be. "The system is tremendously stacked against a third-party candidate," she says. "But if Hillary Clinton receives the Democratic nomination and I get the Libertarian Party nomination, I would apply to be in the debate, because I know I would destroy that woman."

 
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