Ted Brown: Libertarian Wins Seat on San Gabriel City Council (CA)

Libertarian Wins Seat on San Gabriel City Council
By Ted Brown

On March 8, John Harrington, a long-time registered Libertarian, won election to the City Council of San Gabriel, a city of 40,000 people about 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Even though 3 other people ran for this seat and outspent him, Harrington prevailed by building community ties and delivering the libertarian message to high-propensity voters.

Harrington, 40, a Washington native, has lived in San Gabriel since 2004. He is house counsel for a large construction company and is also a real estate broker. He is married and has two daughters, ages 9 and 11. He’s been involved in the community as a soccer coach and a community activist. He succeeded in getting more than 3,000 signatures from residents to prevent closing down a popular park in the city. He has been a registered Libertarian since 1994.

He says that he has had the same philosophy since he was a kid, in a word: “Liberty.” He became part of the bond oversight committee for the San Gabriel Unified School District, where he opposed demands for mandatory union labor on school construction projects. He persuaded the entire committee to oppose this power grab, yet the unions singled him out and succeeded in removing him from the committee.

Our new Libertarian officeholder believes that local government has more direct effect on our lives than state and national government. He will now have input in the process, and he has plenty of good ideas of how more freedom will help his community. He found a lot of apathy in San Gabriel, and said that the incumbent officials, most in place for 10 years or more, didn’t seem to have any goals beyond getting elected. The city has a $47 million budget which Harrington says is so complicated and full of “smoke and mirrors” that he, as a lawyer, couldn’t even read it, nor could friends who were experts in analyzing budgets. He said that no city budget should be beyond the understanding of the average high school graduate.

How did Harrington win, when so many Libertarians before him have failed? He began his campaign with the people who knew him best, and then got his message out to people who aren’t familiar with the concept of smaller government. He walked precincts and knocked on thousands of doors, along with dozens of volunteers, some of whom came from local Tea Party organizations. He and his volunteers covered all 26 precincts in the city, concentrating on people who vote in every election.

He proudly said that of the 4 candidates, he was the one who won the endorsement of the local fire and police departments. He did it by telling them that their pension system was not sustainable, and that they would have to privatize it in order to keep what they had. He won them over, as they recognized that he was being honest with them. “Those police can smell B.S. a mile away,” he said. His hallmarks are honesty, accountability, and disclosure from public officials. He wants people to know what’s going on, and doesn’t believe that public documents should be kept confidential. He is very concerned with government spending. He says, “I hold tax dollars sacred. It’s not my money.” He also doesn’t believe in eminent domain, especially when the city takes property from one private citizen and gives it to another. Instead, he wants to get property owners involved in local development projects, rather than throwing them to the curb in favor of politically-connected developers.

San Gabriel was one of the first cities in Los Angeles County to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Harrington would vote to allow them to open there, but doesn’t anticipate a vote any time soon. He knows that he needs three votes (out of 5 council members) to pass anything, and he is in the process of building those relationships. He also strongly urges Libertarians to seek local office in San Gabriel and other cities as well. Kudos, John Harrington! May you have a long and productive political life.

13 thoughts on “Ted Brown: Libertarian Wins Seat on San Gabriel City Council (CA)

  1. George Whitfield

    Congratulations to John Harrington for persistence, successs and for showing us Libertarians the way to win election at the local level.

  2. Gains

    This guy can really speak to an audience. He has some really intelligent advice on how to get into local office and how to guide local government.

  3. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I agree with Gains. Mr. Harrington looks rather ordinary, certainly not very lawyerly, even in his suit. He started out speaking well, but rather modestly. Within a few minutes, it became apparent how very intelligent he is. I admit I haven’t thought that much about city government, and he made me want to pursue it.

    I’ll also share with IPR readers, for what it’s worth, that Mr. Harrington is active with our local tea party.

  4. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    We didn’t videotape him, Michael, because we had no idea he’d do such a great job! I’ll suggest it to anyone else in LA County who has him out to speak to them.

  5. David Colborne

    Well done! Local races really are the low hanging fruit for libertarians, and they’re also the level of government that directly affects our lives day after day, so it’s also where we can do the most good.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Carol @ 8: Yeah Ted, is appropriate, as he booked the speaker. 🙂

  7. Richard Cooper

    @ David Colborne. In CA, local elections are all non-partisan. This is everything below the State Legislature. Not only are the elections non-partisan but there is the option of a filing fee instead of petition signatures.

    In NY, village elections have these Mickey Mouse village parties with the exception of Westchester where Republicans and Democrats run as such. In Rochester, the school board is a partisan race.

    Special districts have very low turnouts which might make an interesting option.

    Filing fees unfortunately are not an option in NY.

  8. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    At least someone else should have him speak so it can be recorded.

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