SALEM — A reconciliation is in the works between the long-splintered Libertarian Party of Oregon.
Since 2011, there have been two organizations calling themselves the Libertarian Party of Oregon. One is officially recognized by the Secretary of State’s Office. The other group is not.
Kyle Markley, the recognized party’s chairman, says that “tensions have eased considerably” since last summer and the leaders of both groups have met several times.
“Our board of directors has already agreed to accept some of their members as delegates to this year’s Libertarian National Convention, and their board of directors has already agreed to cooperate with our primary election and nomination process,” Markley wrote in an email to the EO/Pamplin Capital Bureau. “There are still difficult details to negotiate, but we are making progress.”
Though there had been divisions in the party for years, in 2011 they came to a head when the then-chair of the party adopted new bylaws, in what the unofficial party characterizes as a “coup.”
The official party views the 2011 move as an effort to limit “undue influence” of party members who didn’t live in Oregon or register as Libertarian voters.
“I think it’s fairest to say that it began with a basic disagreement as to what the nature of the Libertarian Party ought to be,” said Lars Hedbor, a member of the board of the recognized party. “Should it be an organ of the libertarians of Oregon, in other words should it be basically owned and managed by the libertarian voters? …Or should it be basically a paid membership club open to anybody anywhere as long as they wanted to belong to it?”
Richard Burke, who is on the other side of the split and serves as that group’s secretary, sees it differently. He says people who may identify as libertarian register as either Democrats or Republicans to be able to vote in primary elections. (Both the Democratic and Republican parties in Oregon hold closed primaries). He notes that Oregon’s unofficial party is recognized by the national party and its judicial committee.