CORNING | Libertarian candidate for governor Larry Sharpe made a stop Wednesday in Corning as part of a statewide tour speaking to voters about his candidacy.
Sharpe, personable and animated, was clearly focused on the voters, as he made television and print media wait while he answered questions from residents about himself and his party at Cugini Cafe and Market.
He said the tour, eight months before the election, would hopefully serve to engage and energize those “early adopters” who are politically engaged now, and who he hopes will be talking to their family and friends about Larry Sharpe right up until election day.
“It’s about grassroots, it’s about shaking hands -- it’s about going to Buffalo in the winter,” he said.
Sharpe, a New York City businessman and former Marine, recognized that Libertarian candidates face a challenge, in that their policy positions might be more difficult to understand for people who are entrenched in the left vs. right politics that currently dominates the conversation in the United States.
At the same time, he said, it doesn’t have to be a challenge.
“The people who are going to vote for me, a very small percentage of them are going to come from Democrats or Republicans,” Sharpe said.
He said the groundwork has been laid by President Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, neither of whom were traditional candidates in their parties, but who managed to motivate large numbers of people, including young people, looking for a change.
He said at the most basic level, Libertarianism is simple.
“The idea of Libertarian is not no government at all, the idea is, government should be there when people are being hurt,” he said. “If someone is robbing, stealing, defrauding you, of course there’s a place for government. Government is there to protect individual rights.”
But that focus on individual rights and deregulation, for Libertarians and for Sharpe, goes beyond what either major party would likely embrace.
When asked about the opioid crisis in the Southern Tier, Sharpe pointed to the “war on drugs” as the main problem.
“We are actually making it worse,” he said. “The first thing you do is decriminalize marijuana. When you do that, people who are choosing opioids to deal with their pain, some would choose cannabis products. If farmers want to grow hemp, if they want to grow cannabis, let them. Allow farmers to grow what they want to grow.”
When it comes to reducing overdose deaths, he pointed to changes made in other countries.
“We should take our cue from places like Portugal, places like Switzerland,” Sharpe said. “The second Portugal decided, ‘we’re going to make this stuff legal,’ (there was a) two-thirds reduction in opioid overdose deaths.”
He also spoke extensively on education.
“Right now we are deciding that success is what some kid gets on a test,” Sharpe said. “Tests mean nothing when it becomes a success.”
He said success should be decided by the individual and their parents.
He also said something that might be more controversial: that traditional “K-12” education should end at grade 10.
Sharpe said that’s because students should be able to choose their direction at an earlier age, and move to an environment focused on the decision they’ve made, whether that’s college or trade school or directly to the workforce.
“Maybe if we actually got kids to make big decisions at 16, 17, 18, they’d be adults faster,” he said.
Sharpe has a number of proposals that might seem novel to voters used to hearing the same things from the two dominant parties, on issues from prisons and bail to gun rights and the SAFE Act to a strong support for local government control.
More information about him and his platform is available online at www.larrysharpe.com.