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Exclusive: Interview with congressional candidate Rick Vandeven

Rick Vandeven
Rick Vandeven

2014 is an election year in Missouri, and is sitting down with some of the candidates for key races so that the voters will be able to make informed decisions. The next in this series is a phone interview with congressional candidate Scott Vandeven, the Libertarian Party nominee for Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District.

Rick Vandeven is the Libertarian Party candidate for US Representative from the Missouri 8th Congressional District, a rural area in southeast Missouri. He is 42 years old, and resides in the little town of Chaffee, MO with his wife of 21 years, three daughters, cat, and dog. Rick is a 15 year employee of the paper industry, and a musician. He enjoys spending time with his talented family, reading, making music, and “tinkering” on his 1968 Oldsmobile. You can find Rick on Facebook and Twitter.

We spoke with Vandeven regarding his run for the United States Congress.

Why are you running for office?

This is actually my third time running for this office. I ran in 2010 and in 2012. The first year I had lofty ambitions, I was optimistic about the way things were going and I thought I had a chance. At that time the Tea Party seemed like it would turn into something positive, over the years it’s just turned into another outlet for the GOP. The second time was actually because the congresswoman in my district, she’s been in for several years, she voted for several things that I did not agree with, so I ran against her. Ironically, she resigned two weeks after the election to take a lobbyist job. This time I did not want to run, but the party asked me to run because of my name recognition and I knew the ins and outs and logistics of running. This is our system, for better or worse, and I want to give people like me, that are libertarians, someone to vote for. The libertarian party is small out here in Missouri, this will be my last time running unless I win.

What are your qualifications?

Well, I’m legally qualified under the constitution. There’s not a lot of criteria to run, I used to joke that you can run for congress easier than you can rent from Blockbuster, but now that Blockbuster is gone that doesn’t really work anymore. If you’re asking if i have several papers on my wall or letters after my name, I don’t. I’m just a paper maker from Southeast Missouri, I’ve been in that industry for several years. We’ve got a lot of “qualified” people in office now, and the approval rating has been below 10 percent for a long time. Maybe we should start sending “unqualified” people and see what happens.

Third party candidates have a reputation for being spoilers for the two major parties. Do you agree with this assessment?

Actually I wish this was true. We’d be taken a lot more seriously if we did spoil some races, that would be a victory, This is a heavily republican district, I think they won it first in 1980 and since then they’ve won the local, county and state office in this area. If I somehow took away enough votes for them to lose, or if libertarians, Constitution Party, Green Party, if we actually take those votes away I think the duopoly parties would hear our voices a lot more loudly.

Why do you think that you have a better chance than past third party candidates?

The Libertarian Party in Missouri is not huge, but our election results are growing. In the last election I had five percent vote for me, which is massive for a libertarian in this district. The numbers are growing, that was the most libertarian votes for this office ever since we got ballot access in 1992. I also have a little bit of name recognition from running before

Same-sex marriage appears to be heading toward legalization in most states.I believe that it’s an individual choice and the government should stay out of the marriage business altogether. Really, about the only thing the government should be involved with as far as marriage is concerned, is the enforcement of a contract, prenuptials, divorce, things like that. As far as laws prohibiting people from getting married, I’m strictly against that.

If elected, how will you ensure that the LGBTQ community will gain equal rights?

Doma has already stopped being enforced by the justice department, at least under the Obama administration. We should get the law off the books, that’s all you can do at the federal level. In Missouri it looks like it’s going to federal court, which is obscene for some people here in the Show-Me State. I’m a Gen Xer, my kids views are totally different from my generation, which was more lenient than my parents’ generation. It’s time for the government to change with society. Society moves government, not the other way around despite popular belief. There are a lot of positive things going on in this country, despite all the chest thumping and browbeating by the conservatives, and this is one of the good things.

What is your opinion on oil fracking? Do you have any environmental concerns about it?

It’s really not much of an issue here in Missouri, so I don’t know a lot about it. As long as the laws and regulations protect private property, and we need to make sure we protect the environment and drinking water, if we mess that up we’ll be in dire straits there. I’ve read reports of some peoples’ groundwater getting polluted, as long as the courts decide where the properties boundaries actually are, and the fracking process isn’t invading property owners’ mineral rights, as long as the laws protect private property in that regard I have no issue with fracking.

Do you support an increase in alternative forms of energy, including green energy such as solar and wind?

Yeah, I do support it, as long as it’s not federally subsidized. I think the marketplace of ideas is the best way to revolutionize those forms of energy out there. I’ve notice a lot of people going to geothermal in this area, it seems to be getting a lot of acceptance in the market. I’ve also noticed a lot of people having solar panels on their houses, I think that’s fantastic. I would not support any federal subsidies, picking of winners in that marketplace.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana?

Yes, absolutely. That’s actually something that when i sat down and started campaigning, libertarians have a habit of trying to solve all of the issues, I tried to narrow my list down to things people will support and have it be a positive thing for the country. I think marijuana is one of those things. Look at the polls, a majority of Americans support ending prohibition. If the feds say to the states “it’s up to you what you want to do,” most states would do that. Why would they spend millions of dollars fighting it, especially when public opinion is on is way down on it.

Do you have any any lasting concerns about the regulatory and safety of marijuana?

At the federal level there will be some kind of legal consumption age, just like alcohol, that’s the primary concern there. You can make sure that when it happens, and it’s a “when” not “if,” it will happen, we make sure that people using marijuana for medicine have access to cannabis in whatever form they use. There is scientific evidence that it helps for depression, cancer, whatever. We need to make sure that those people have access to their medicine, I wouldn’t want them getting crowded out by those getting high, not that there’s anything wrong with getting high either.

What is your opinion on gun rights?

I believe that everybody has the right to defend themselves. I don’t think you need permission from any level of government for possession of a firearm. I’m an open-carry advocate, but if a private property owner, like a Target say, doesn’t want me to carry, I need to respect their rights also.

What, if anything, will you do in order to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to your constituents?

It’s a tough sell in Missouri, we’re one of the states that prohibited or eliminated the federal Medicaid subsidies. The feds are running our health exchange, I don’t believe that’s going as well as other states where they are running their own exchanges. I’m not really interested in making it more palatable, medicine is one of those areas where the government has overstepped its boundaries. If we can disconnect the workplace from providing insurance, I don’t mean prohibit it. If we look back at medical costs and access, it really started when the employers started providing to employees. Maybe if we can find a way to disconnect that, maybe by providing tax breaks for employees providing their own. Employers enjoy that and citizens don’t. We should make prescriptions over the counter, that will help increase access. Ending the war on drugs will help this. The FDA has a monopoly on prescription drug licenses, I’m not so much against agencies saying that some drugs are unsafe, I just don’t like the monopoly. Get the AMA away from the monopoly on medical licenses. Medicine is expensive and there’s never enough, we really need to make sure people have more access. The ACA is a big boondoggle, the insurance companies like the ACA because it heavily subsidizes them. We need to get away from subsidizing health insurance, that would go a lot further than any new laws.

Do you support school choice in the form of vouchers?

My children all attended private school, Catholic Parochial school, so I have a little insight. One of the reason I sent them to private school is to kind of get away from a lot of the state regulations. We have a lot more parental and school board control at the local level. Once you let the vouchers in, it’s like letting vampire at the door, once you let them in you can’t get them back out. Once you let the vouchers in the state will want to regulate what they’re subsidizing.

Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?

On the federal level, I do not. If minimum wage laws work we would never have to raise the minimum wage.

What about the state level?

On the state level, I don’t support it either. I really believe that wages are an agreement between the employer and employee, that’s not the government's business at any level.

How would you handle the current immigration crisis?

, I may even be a little more radical than my libertarian counterparts, I believe that peaceful people have the right to cross borders. The reason something hasn’t been done is that the politicians haven’t had the courage to do something. From a pragmatic stance, an increase in work visas will go a long way. I live in avery agricultural district, they only hand out 5,000 work visas a year, we could use that many in my district alone. That, to me, would go a long way. The whole notion that people are coming here to soak up welfare benefits has been disproven. A vibrant economy demands an unskilled workforce, and a lot of that comes from immigrants. I know it’s different in Missouri than in a border state, but all of my experience with immigrants have been positive ones. I can’t say that about the police or other government. Last week congress filed a lawsuit against Obama for exceeding executive authority, then on the way out the door they asked him to exceed his authority on immigration. Our current immigration laws are outdated, and actually encourage illegal immigration.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

I really think society is changing. I look at my daughters and their generation and some of the things they come up with and talk about, they’re very libertarian. We don’t really talk about politics, we talk about music and living life, we’re a very musical family, more than dwelling on politics. The next generation, I they’re really very libertarian and I hope that holds true. The Baby Boomers were promising and they changed over the decades. Today we have the ease of doing business and finding things out, I think it’s positive that it’s going that way. Two of the issues we talked about, libertarians were at the forefront of these two issues. We were supporting gay marriage and marijuana way before it was cool. I’m more interested in changing society than I am in winning a political race.

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