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More Details Emerge In New York Libertarian Primary Controversy

Last week, I published an in-depth article that attempted to best answer the question “Did Jacob Hornberger rig the New York primary?” The short answer is that, based on the information I received from multiple venerable sources, Hornberger and his campaign did nothing to rig the primary or get other candidates kicked off the ballot. The article does point out plenty of things that simply don’t add up, most of which can be attributed to a New York State Board of Elections (NYS BOE) that seemed to have no interest in helping a third party achieve ballot access.

But in trying to find truth among conspiracy theories (which have frankly become commonplace in libertarian circles), the article published on Wednesday came off to supporters of the Hornberger campaign as a “hit piece” or part of some smear tactic. Even though the article clearly states that there is absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing on Hornberger’s part, some have called for the article to be retracted.

Given that none of the information contained in said article is incorrect or misleading, it will not be retracted. However, there is new information that has come to light since that article was published, and accordingly that information is being reported here.

While most of the responses to the initial article have focused on either Hornberger’s role (or lack thereof) or Ken Armstrong’s role in the New York primary that wasn’t, there was also some information from two different sources, one on the record, that some officials within the Libertarian Party of New York (LPNY) were vocally against Vermin Supreme’s campaign, and even debated on whether or not to hold a primary out of fear that Supreme may win.

But it turns out, that there were also some issues stemming from someone who at the time was a volunteer on the Supreme campaign. As with most controversies in the Libertarian party, it unfolded on Facebook when, on Friday, John Frum posted a picture of a handwritten letter allegedly sent to the NYS BOE from Matt Peterson-Volz.

 

The full text of the letter has been transcribed below:

To whom it may concern,

We are challenging Libertarian candidate for President Ken Armstrong’s signature petitions to be on the presidential primary ballot on April 28th. He did not receive enough signatures, the requirement was 750 signatures for any Libertarian presidential candidate and/or a submission of paperwork that proves a candidate can qualify through the “Nationally Known Clause” due to national name recognition. Ken met neither of these criteria so we believe it is in the best interest of the Board of Elections to follow election law and disallow Mr. Armstrong from appearing on the primary ballot.

– Matt Peterson-Volz
Representing the NY Libertarian Party

First of all, the letter is inaccurate when it refers to 750 signatures being the required mark. As mentioned in the initial article, candidates who wanted to attain ballot access through signature collection had to collect signatures equal to 5% of all registered Libertarians in New York. That figure comes out to roughly 630 signatures, not the stated 750 signatures.

What’s worse is that it turns out this letter was not actually written by Peterson-Volz. In fact, the letter was written by Luke Wenke, current chair of the LPNY’s Cattaraugus county affiliate. According to Wenke, Peterson-Volz was once the vice chair in the Cattaraugus county affiliate and had taken a role as a state coordinator for the Supreme campaign. The bias from the LPNY against the Supreme campaign apparently caused Peterson-Volz to leave the Libertarian party altogether, at which point Wenke took over as the state coordinator for the campaign. As for the decision to write the letter and sign with Peterson-Volz’s name, Wenke told me this:

“Matt was still around rooting for Vermin and he wanted all the candidates to follow election law, so he wanted Ken’s signatures challenged. Matt was too busy all week to write the letter to the Board of Elections, so I told him I would do it for him. I wrote his name on the letter in the mindset that ‘this is his fight so I will tell him I’m putting his name down on his behalf’, and he and I didnt think twice about it.”

Peterson-Volz (the real Peterson-Volz, that is) denied having given such permission to Wenke to write the letter, and added in a Facebook comment that he has been “uninvolved from the LP completely… for a few months now.” In other words, Peterson-Volz wouldn’t have even been around to know about Armstrong’s signature collections in the first place. And since Peterson-Volz denies giving permission to write the letter on his behalf, this is strictly speaking a case of forgery in addition to an attempt to suppress the Armstrong campaign.

However, the Supreme campaign was very clear that this letter from Wenke was in no part a sanctioned action on behalf of the campaign. Desarae Lindsey, the Vermin Supreme campaign manager, wrote the following two comments on Facebook:

“Vermin and his team are actually quite fond of Ken Armstrong and his staff. We also did not in any way authorize a challenge to Ken appearing on the ballot. That letter was NOT written by Matt Peterson-Volz. It was written by someone who was acting rogue and did NOT have authorization from the campaign to do so.”

“Anyone who has had ANY dealings WHATSOEVER with Vermin and his staff would know we would never have authorized a challenge to ANY Libertarian candidate. ESPECIALLY given that Ken Armstrong has become a personal friend to Vermin and many of his staffers, not to mention the fact that his CM has been a friend and colleague of mine for several years.”

Armstrong himself chimed in, adding the following comment:

“Desarae is absolutely right. Vermin is my friend. We will compete with honor, but I love the guy. This was a rogue action, and I’m certain not approved in any way by any of the fine people on that team.”

Wenke, on the other hand, seemed not to consider it a big deal, leaving various comments like “This is still a controversy?”, “Nobody cares dude,” and “This is a dead issue.” It may very well be dead in some level, as it seems that the letter had no actual bearing on the NYS BOE’s decision to reject Armstrong from the ballot, but the implications of Wenke’s actions are sure to be a point of lengthy discussion for some time.

In the grand scheme of the LPNY’s first ever presidential primary, one that was already marked with plenty of unanswered questions and potentially shady dealings, this is yet another black eye on the whole process and serves as a reminder that there is still plenty of growth to be had for the LPNY as they progress into uncharted waters.

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