Below is an interview provided exclusively for ATPR with Nicholas Hensley, the National Secretary of the Reform Party National Committee.
Question: So tell me a little about yourself. Who are you? What do you do for the Reform Party?
Answer: My name is Nicholas Hensley. I am a North Carolinian. I was born in Seattle, Washington, but when I was six, my family moved to Raleigh. I have a strong family connections to Weaverville, North Carolina, Hampton Roads and Southern Virginia.
I currently own and operate Lason Media LLC, a small but growing full service marketing firm that specializes in Spanish language marketing.
Currently I am serving my first term as an officer of the executive committee. As the National Secretary, I handle all of the records keeping, as well as overseeing internal and external communication. Before that, I was the chairman of the Reform Party’s communication committee. The communications committee works with the Secretary to handle all of the public relations, marketing and outreach for the national party. I also work in support of some Reform Party campaigns.
On the state level, I am the Chairman of the Reform Party of North Carolina, and will be working with the Rick Kasa Congressional Campaign in the Second district.
Q: At the age of 27, you were too young to vote for Ross Perot, so how did you get involved in Reform Party politics?
A: Technically before I started off in minor party politics, I hadn’t been a member of any political party. I did however have a strong Democratic leaning and consider myself to be center left. After voting for Barack Obama in 2008, I watched as the Democrats poorly addressed the recession and its underlying issues. I started looking for alternatives, and after a stint with a startup party, I joined the Reform Party.
Q: Talk about your quick rise through the Reform Party ranks. How did you move up so fast?
A: It was not easy. When I came onboard in 2010, the Reform Party had just finished a legal dispute over leadership with the Blare Faction. During the initial rebuilding phase, the leadership restaffed the communications committee. Having worked with social media and website design since high school, I had a set of marketing skills, and I was able to make myself vital. I played to my strengths, and moved up.
Q: Tell me about the Reform Party. What is its beliefs?
A: The Reform Party of the United States is a moderate, centrist and populist party. It was founded by followers of Ross Perot in 1995, which grew out of the United We Stand organization. United We Stand, America in turn grew out of Ross Perot’s run in 1992.
The party was founded on the belief that politics was corrupt, and that legislators were not acting in the best benefit of the American people. To briefly sum up the Reform Party’s platform, I will quote Ross Perot.
“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, the public debt should be reduced and the arrogance of public officials should be controlled”.
The Reform Party does not waste time with social issues. These issues have been manipulated by the political establishment to divide and conquer the American people with no progress one way or the other through federal legislation, just judicial action. To change the status quo, the manipulation of these issues must end.
The Reform Party wants to curtail the influence of lobbyists and special interests including PACs with campaign finance reform. We would like to enact further ethics reform, so that legislators will act to benefit America as a whole, and not just certain groups of people.
Economically we want to restore manufacturing to its former glory – as a job creator for the middle and working classes. We wish to end and amend certain trade deals that are draining the United States of its industrial output and outsourcing American jobs.
We also want to end the deficit and pass a balanced budget amendment. In doing so, we can put a tourniquet on the bleeding budget. After that we want to put together a financial blueprint to pay down debts, and restore America’s financial health.
Q: In your opinion, what do you believe is the most important government reform?
A: In my opinion, the most important reform is reforming government, so it works for the people. Washington DC and state governments are full of lawmakers and political appointees that are working to benefit themselves, and in return the needs of many have fallen by the wayside.
I think we can do this by installing term limits, limiting lobbyists, and making elected officials follow a strict set of laws and punishment – and not a toothless set of guidelines.
Q: Many people remember the Reform Party from the 1990s, but how has the Reform Party influenced politics in the last five years?
A: Last year we regained our ballot access in New York. The ballot qualifying Reform Party of New York, under the chairmanship of longtime Reform Party member Dr. Bill Merrell, gave the Reform Party endorsement to over 2,000 candidates. Last year, we doubled the number of officeholders we have nationwide.
Using the fusion ballot endorsements, the Reform Party of New York gave enough votes to more than 238 candidates to create their margin of victory. This gives them influence in the legislating halls of Albany. Bill Merrell told me that if someone wants the Reform Party endorsement in New York, they must pledge to bring term limit reform to the legislative floor.
Outside of elections, we have been working on trade reform. We specifically set our sights on defeating the Transpacific Partnership. In the eyes of the Reform Party, free trade has been devastating to the manufacturing sector. According to government statistics America’s trade deficits have increased due to free trade. Before the start of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, the United States had trade surpluses with most nations involved. Now the United States has trade deficits with all of them, except Panama. The same data shows that since the start of free trade agreements with NAFTA in 1992, America’s trade deficit rose from 39.2 billion dollars to 471.5 billion in 2013. That is an increase of over 1202 percent.
Currently passage of the Transpacific Partnership has stalled out, and I am glad we helped play a role.
Q: The Reform Party has been out of the news recently. What is the current state of the Reform Party?
A: The Reform Party is growing. Of course we had success in New York, and were able to field 2000 candidates, which led to doubling the offices we hold nationwide.
In my home state of North Carolina, and we are going through the process of registering with the Board of Elections, and start the process for ballot access.
The Reform Party of Florida has long been the staple that held the party together. It has added a few good organizers in recent weeks, and we will be fielding a presidential candidate on its line.
We have organizers on the ground in Alabama again. Bill Merrell is working to reorganize the Vermont and Connecticut affiliates.
California is reorganizing its executive board. Just this year, we were able to wrestle control of it away from John Blare. Once we get the infrastructure in place there, it should start growing again. Currently the Reform Party has 11,000 registered members there, and is a third of the way to achieving ballot access.
Q: Will the Reform Party be fielding candidates in 2016?
A: Yes. The Reform Party will be meeting in Bohemia, New York during the last weekend of July. During the convention we will select a presidential nominee for the Reform Party. Right now three people are officially running, and those are Ken Cross, Ed Chaplowski and Lynn Kahn. It is rumored however that Darcy Richardson may step in after he finishes writing his book on the history of the Reform Party. I however do not know if that rumor is true.
The Reform Party of New York will once again be fielding a large number of candidates. Some of these candidates will be fusion endorsements, and some of the candidates will stand alone on the Reform Party line. Mr. Merrell and his team do a good job of vetting these candidates, and I expect the endorsed candidates to be well qualified.
In North Carolina, I am managing the write in bid for Rick Kasa in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. Mr. Kasa is a former small business owner that now works as a metalworker, and grew up on a small farm in Indiana.
Ronald Kimmons is on the ballot as an independent in Texas’s Seventh Congressional District. A few weeks ago Alan Reynolds ran in the California’s open primary for state legislative seat, yet did not progress to the general election.
Q: What is the Reform Party trying to accomplish in the near term?
A: In the long term, the Reform Party is trying to gain fifty state ballot access plus ballot access in the District of Columbia, and all of the American territories. To do that we need to break it down into smaller obtainable goals. Ballot access in Louisiana, Mississippi, Vermont, Colorado and Oregon are obtainable. Those five states are among the easiest. While we work towards ballot access in those states, we are working on putting together a network of people other states, and prepare for when we have the resources to push for access in those.
Outside of ballot access, we seek to gain support by advocating for our platform. We focus mostly on economic issues, because those are the issues that most people deal with from day to day, and they are the issues that bind us together. We are going to continue to advocate against the TPP, and other free trade deals. We are going to work to enhance small business. We are going to work on bringing back manufacturing jobs and fighting for blue collar workers.
Q: What are the largest obstacles that you face as a third party?
A: The biggest problem is ballot access. Ballot access laws are used to rig the system for the establishment. Obtaining ballot access in some states is incredibly difficult, and costs hundreds of thousands – if not millions of dollars. If a minor party succeeds to gain ballot access, it will also have to make sure it has a legal defense fund incase the establishment sues and tries to block them.
Gerrymandering is a major issue. The establishment will pack their people into districts, so a certain party’s incumbents are more likely to be re-elected. In some states, like North Carolina, the ruling party will receive fewer votes, but hold a large majority of the Congressional seats. This adds difficulty to winning campaigns, and allows one party to control the process, even if popular support is against them.
Another place where we have an disadvantage is fundraising and outreach. The Republicans and Democrats have had over a century to build their parties’ apparatus. They each have a national party, fifty state parties, more than three thousand county parties, and each one of those county parties are broken up into precincts that technically have their own committees or responsible organizers. In some states, each Congressional district has its own organizing committee as well. That doesn’t include associated PACs or special interest groups, which count for thousands of more committees.
Each one of those committees has three goals. 1. To recruit and support candidates, 2. to raise money for the party and 3. conduct outreach and advocate for the party’s platform. This structure gives them a distinct advantage with grassroot politicking.
The fourth issue I would like to point out is that there is a media blackout on minor parties. The media focuses on the Democrats and Republicans leaving out the rest for a slow news days. Even the Libertarians, the largest minor party, has trouble receiving media attention.
Despite this, there is still room for minor parties to win. In the last thirty years independents and minor parties have won every type of race except for the Presidential race. Minor party and independent candidates have been elected to governorships, senate seats, and congressional seats. The Vermont Progressive Party is living proof that a minor party can take on and establish itself as a contender for state offices. Between the Libertarians, Greens and Reform Parties, we hold hundreds of county and municipal offices.
Q: What is the Reform Party’s largest need?
A: History shows us that successful political movements are created by a network of enthusiastic people working towards a goal. What we need, more than anything, is organizers and activists that wish to get involved. By getting involved, I don’t mean just for the 2016 elections. We need long term volunteers that can lay the foundation for a good 2018 and 2020 election.
Different people get involved different ways. The most valuable are people that can put in an effort, and do regular tasks. However people should come involved it the way that best fits their abilities and availability. If someone can only donate, even a few dollars, that is beneficial. If someone can only cast their vote on election day, that’s also benefit and we need those people too. All of these people working together, at all different capacities, is what we need to create a successful party.
Q: Why should voters support the Reform Party over the Republican and Democratic Parties?
A: The Republican and Democratic Parties no longer work for the American people. The votes of establishment officeholders have been purchased by special interest groups and large donors that pour hundreds of millions of dollars into their campaigns. This causes them to be puppets. When they don’t dance like the puppet masters want, their campaign funds dry up and they find themselves out of office.
We can represent America much better because we are beholden to the American people, not large corporate backers. Since the Reform Party does not take special interest money, we are funded by the regular, ordinary citizens that donate to us. If we stop representing regular people, our funds dry up and the party will die.
Q: Occasionally the Reform Party is said to be controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans. Would you like to respond to that?
A: Yes I would. For some reason, which I do not know, the Democrats sometime refer to the Reform Party in New York as being controlled by the Republicans. In North Carolina, there is a rumor among Republicans that the Reform Party is controlled by the Democrats. Those claims contradict each other, and reveal the illusion.
The best tool that the establishment uses to control the electoral process was to convincing the average voter that there were only two points of view, liberal or conservative. Furthermore they convinced the average voter that the liberal view was the Democratic view, and the Republican view was the conservative view, thus marginalizing every other party and every other viewpoint.
The Reform Party is neither conservative nor liberal. The Reform Party is neither Republican nor Democrat. The Reform Party Stands on its own two feet and has its own voice in politics.
As a North Carolinian, I am not a member of the Reform Party of New York, and I do not wish to step on their toes or speak for them. This answer is to the best of my knowledge, but the Reform Party of New York may correct me later, and is welcome to do so.
The Reform Party of New York State was formed when stop Common Core and the New York Reform Party merged.
The Chairman of the Reform Party of New York State is Dr. Bill C. Merrell. Dr. Merrell was a member of the Independence Party of New York, an original Reform Party affiliate, in 1995. I have a great deal of respect for him, and a look up to him as a mentor. He is a well respected teacher and business owner, with a resume that I could harp about all day. The personal risks he has taken over the last few risk for the Reform Party as a whole has been more than anyone else.
Dr. Merrell has a long history with the Reform Party, and is the Vice-Chairman of the Reform Party National Committee. He is in the running to be the next Chairman of the National Party, and I plan on voting for him – if not nominating him. He has served at the National level since 2010, long before the Reform Party of New York merged with Stop Common Core.
Mr. Merrell was also active in United We Stand America, which was the precursor of the Reform Party. He voted for Ross Perot in 1992. His creditability as an anti-establishment crusader is not in question.
I would also like to point out that the Reform Party of New York won several races against Republican nominees last year. This included two victories for Lake George Supervisor offices. It has a history of opposing both Republicans and Democrats in New York State.
If you live in New York, and want to change the status quo, the Reform Party is the best vehicle to do that, and I encourage you to join.
As for the Reform Party of North Carolina, my affiliate. We do not endorse other party’s candidates in partisan elections. We endorsed a number of independents that were not attached to any party, and run candidates against both established parties. In nonpartisan races, this year we are endorsing Democratic endorsee Mike Morgan for NC Supreme Court, but two years ago we endorsed Republican endorsee Matthew Overby for Wake County Soil and Water Board. We endorsed both, because they were both qualified for the job regardless of their political affiliation. When we make these endorsements we look at a candidates resume, and not affiliation.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: I would like to thank you for allowing me to do this interview. I appreciate the chance to speak with you, and hope that it was as enjoyable for you as it was for me.
In 2016, the American voters will go to the polls to find that the political establishment has given them two bad choices.
As much as I have respect for Secretary Clinton, she is a long time member of the Democratic elite that brings more of the same to the table. Secretary Clinton will not change the system, and is as reliant on the special interests for her campaign donations as any other Washington politician. Those donations make her the puppet of large special interests.
Donald Trump is wealthy man that admitted in speeches that he bought and paid for politicians. As much as Secretary Clinton is a puppet, Donald Trump is a puppet master – and that makes him worse. Why would someone that has spent decades investing in a broken system for political and personal gain change it now?
Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton offer true change for America. In order to change the political discussion in America, American voters should look elsewhere.
If you are looking for Honest Leadership, and Real Solutions, you should check out the Reform Party at www.reformparty.org. We are a moderate, centrist and populist party that offer common sense solutions to today’s problems, and fight for those that feel left out of the political process. If you want reform, vote Reform.
(Originally published today at American Third Party Report)