Libertarian Candidate Remains Most Qualified for Illinois Comptroller

by Kitty Testa

Claire Ball has spent the last year criss-crossing the state of Illinois campaigning as a Libertarian candidate. Her husband, traveling companion and DuPage County Libertarian Chair, Brian Lambrecht, estimates that they’ve traveled 8-10 thousand miles.

She’s a 34-year-old accountant running for the chief accountant’s job in Illinois, the Comptroller’s office. The office has never actually been held by an accountant. As she has said many times, “This position has been used as a political reward or career stepping stone by the people running for the entirety of its existence, and that needs to end.” She uses the hashtag #QualifiedNotConnected.

It’s a pragmatic message that she brings to the voters: one that makes a lot of sense. Illinois is a state with 12.8 million people and a $7 billion budget deficit. Illinois pays its bills late. Those who contract with the state wait months, sometimes over a year, to be paid what they are owed. The Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner, and the Democrat Speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan, cannot come to terms on a budget, so many of the state’s payments are mandated by judicial decree. There is no transparency to see how the decisions regarding payments are being made. Illinois has an Auditor General, a political appointee named Frank Mautino, who brings no accounting expertise to the role, and was almost immediately mired in corruption accusations right out of the gate. Illinois is a financial mess.

Claire Ball’s message of “Qualified, Not Connected” should resonate with Illinois voters who are frustrated with the state’s finances.

Ball Banner

I spoke to Claire today as she was in between work and a candidate’s forum. She sounded incredibly energetic and enthusiastic for someone who has been slogging on the campaign trail for well over the past year.

This is her second campaign as a Libertarian candidate. She ran for the Board of Trustees for College of DuPage, another Illinois institution mired in financial misconduct. She did not win the seat, but she got enough votes to encourage her to keep pushing toward public office. Like many Illinoisans, Ball was frustrated with the state government’s lack of transparency and the flouting financial standards. A former Libertarian candidate for Comptroller encouraged Ball to run for the office, and she went for it.

Ball in Woodstock

Claire Ball on the campaign trail in Woodstock, IL

The first challenge for any Libertarian is ballot access. Like many states, in Illinois “recognized parties,” aka Republicans and Democrats, can get their candidates on the ballot easily. But the Illinois Libertarian Party had to accumulate 25,000 signatures in order to be included on the Illinois ballot, and those signatures were not just for the state-wide candidates of Claire Ball and U.S. Senate candidate, Kent McMillen, but are also the signatures that enabled Gary Johnson to be on the ballot in Illinois.

I asked Claire, other than ballot access, what has been the greatest challenge in running as a Libertarian? Her answer was immediate: getting the attention of major media.

Ball says her campaign has reached out to the major news outlets, especially in the Chicago area, where the bulk of Illinois voters live, but few were willing to run feature stories about her candidacy. She was included in a question-and-answer session with the Chicago Tribune editorial board, but the session quickly devolved into a discussion about the major party candidates’ political ties. As a footnote, the Chicago Tribune reported:

Libertarian candidate Claire Ball stressed her background as an accountant, saying the office lacks transparency and does not follow the highest accounting standards. Green Party candidate Tim Curtin called for a financial transaction tax to raise billions of dollars. The idea has had little support in the legislature.

As Libertarians all across the country howled at Gary Johnson’s exclusion from the presidential debates, state and local Libertarians often met the same fate. To their credit, WTTW, Chicago’s public television station, gave all of the candidates two minutes of “Candidate Free Time,” and Ball was able to make her case to the voters, albeit quickly.

But when it came time to be included in the actual debate for the Comptroller’s office, Claire was denied. She protested the decision, and WTTW said her campaign wasn’t viable.

“They asked me if I was even campaigning,” Ball said.

The debate went forward with only the Republican, Leslie Munger, and the Democrat, Susana Mendoza.

Yet a virtual media blackout of parties not “recognized” by the state hasn’t kept Claire from reaching out to people across Illinois. I asked her how the Libertarian Party was received by the voters she met along the campaign trail.

“They’re aware of the Libertarian Party,” she explained, “but they don’t know the specifics.” She uses a quote repeated by Austin Petersen, saying, “We want a world where gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns.” She quotes Matt Kibbe saying, “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.”

While some Libertarians decry what they call “bumper sticker” libertarianism, the fact is that the Libertarian Party needs an elevator speech, a communication that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride up a few floors, without digressing into the merits of Austrian economics and the finer points of the non-aggression principle. Claire Ball on the campaign trail has been making Libertarianism accessible.

And she reports that voters are receptive to the ideas of liberty. She finds that young people especially are receptive to libertarian ideas of limited government, personal freedom and personal responsibility.

“They’re sick and tired with what they’re seeing,” she said.

Ball DuQuoin State Fair

Claire Ball campaigning at the DuQuoin State Fair

I asked Claire that in the event that she should run again, or for the benefit of others considering running for office as Libertarians, if there was anything she would do differently.

“Start asking for donations sooner,” she said. “Nobody likes to ask people for money, but it’s necessary. And prepare more content early on. Get your platform down. People want to know, ‘What are you going to do for me?’”

While we often talk about engaging non-Libertarians to vote for LP candidates, I also thought it was only fair to ask what things Libertarians could do to help LP candidates.

She was quick to answer, “Come out to the events.  Even if it’s just for an afternoon. You would be surprised at how hard it can be to get people together just to march in a parade. But we have to show numbers. Show people the numbers. We’re growing.”

It’s true that corralling Libertarians is a bit like herding cats, but Ball has a point. If we want the media to pay attention to Libertarians, Libertarians need a show of force that makes our candidates worth covering.

Ball and Petersen

Claire Ball with Austin Petersen at the Illinois Libertarian Convention in March

Ball has several more campaign events through next few days prior to the election, including a rally in Chicago this Saturday for Gary Johnson. I asked if she was excited about that, and she told me that she and Kent McMillen had not actually been invited. They had reached out to the Johnson campaign, but there’s been little communication between the Johnson campaign and the Libertarian Party of Illinois as to coordinating Johnson events with the state-wide candidates, which I think is a shame. She’s still going to be there, however, supporting the party and supporting the nominee, and urging people to vote for her. “I’m an accountant running for the accountant’s job,” she said.

Claire had praise for the LP of Illinois and its assistance in getting her campaign off the ground, and she encourages anyone who is considering running as a Libertarian to reach out to their state parties to get started.

So I had to ask, “Are you going to run again?”

She had a simple answer: “You haven’t heard the last of me.”

Ball at Wheaton 5K

Claire Ball on the campaign trail in Wheaton, IL

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