Sixteen Libertarians learned how to run an effective election campaign at the free 2023 Libertarian Party of Colorado Candidate Training. They gathered on Saturday at the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.


“Most of those who attended the training were interested in running for office, or at least finding out what it takes,” said trainer Jacob Luria, Campaign Director for the state Libertarian Party, “or they’re looking into board and commission positions.”

Luria was the sole presenter. He kept to a steady pace, taking questions between sections. Half the people joined on Zoom.

Luria addressed the choice to be a candidate in Colorado, discussed the realities and responsibilities of any candidacy, and then reviewed the standard campaign roles — treasurer, campaign manager, social media manager, graphic and website designer, volunteer coordinator, and press secretary — covered in that order.

Luria said in an interview that some candidates serve double duty as their own campaign manager, but every candidate for office in Colorado must have a separate campaign treasurer. The candidate and treasurer are accountable to the Colorado Secretary of State and local county elections officials.

“We did a training for campaign treasurers last year,” Luria said, “and four of them went on to work with candidates. Two of them were at this 2023 training. Most of those interested in managing campaigns have already run for office in the past, and they would rather help others run than run for office again.”

“A Couple Dozen Seasoned Candidates”

Periodic trainings by the Libertarian Party of Colorado (LPCO) aim to build the pool of Libertarians in government at all levels, especially local.

“We currently have in Colorado a couple dozen seasoned candidates,” Luria said. The party also has “about ten campaign treasurers, a few campaign managers, and a few seasoned at writing press releases.”

The Colorado Libertarian “battle plan” for the next couple of elections, Luria said, focuses on “the winnable races where we can make a difference. Overall, 2022 gave us a good direction to go in, especially for nonpartisan races where party affiliation does not appear on the ballot.”

Currently, two Libertarians hold elective offices in Colorado. Aron Lam last year was elected as mayor for the Weld County town of Keenseburg, which proclaims the official motto, “Home of 500 happy people and a few soreheads.” Lam will serve as mayor until 2026. The other Libertarian officeholder is Paul James, elected in 2019 to the town council of Craig in Moffat County; his term ends this year.

Luria said the 2023 Libertarian candidate for Mayor of Aurora is Scott Liva. A visible “defund the police” advocate and supporter of open-carry gun permits who opposes red-flag gun laws, Liva previously ran unsuccessfully for Arapahoe County Sheriff in 2022 and Aurora City Council in 2021.  Another Colorado Libertarian Party candidate is Eric Mulder, who ran for Arapahoe County Sheriff in 2018. He’s served as the LPCO Vice Chair, Fundraising Director, Arapahoe County Chair, and in other leadership roles. Mulder teaches the party training for campaign treasurers.

Luria himself in 2022 ran for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives. He got about 1,100 votes out of nearly 40,000 votes in House District 27, which encompasses urban and rural parts of Arvada, Westminster, Golden, and Evergreen. For funding his race, he said, his campaign raised about $3500 overall with $1200 of that coming from him personally. He said the campaign spent about $3200.

40,000 Libertarian Voters in CO

“Winning the mayor’s race in Keenseburg shows that Libertarians do have the opportunity to win in Colorado,” Luria said. “Now we just need to capitalize on it.”

Luria predicted that Colorado Libertarians can win more offices by focusing on races with fewer voters, races that need less money. “A county treasurer campaign needs less funding than a mayoral race, like in Denver, where you have to raise millions of dollars. That’s not worth our time.”

Running for offices like a county clerk is “a little easier,” he said. The party also is looking at paid and unpaid seats on various boards and commissions. LPCO wants Libertarian candidates for three water districts in Arapahoe County, he said, “but no one has put a hat into running for those races.” The party has more registered voters in Arapahoe County than anywhere else in Colorado.

Luria added, “Colorado presently has more than 40,000 registered Libertarian voters.”

Finding races where Libertarians can win is Luria’s primary job as the Campaign Director, he said, followed by finding people willing to run. Even if there’s no hope of winning, running for any office offers a chance to spread Libertarian ideas.

Before becoming a candidate, Luria advised his trainees, “Talk to your family and friends. Make sure they would support you.” Next, think about time management in terms of time now devoted to employment, hobbies, social life, and other activities. “Make sure you have the time to run a serious campaign.”

Next, look realistically at finances. How much money will the campaign cost and where will the funding come from? Candidates must know the filing process and deadlines set by the county and the Colorado Secretary of State. They must meet all paperwork and financial reporting deadlines and know other requirements.

Another critical step for potential candidates is checking their online reputation. “Google yourself. Look for skeletons in your closet. The voters will find out, and anything negative will come back to bite you.’

“Know Why You Are Running”

Most of all, he said, “Know why you are running. Develop well-articulated positions that you can state clearly in 90 seconds.” Voters won’t read long position papers anymore, so it’s critical to distill ideas to their essential points.

Also, limit the campaign to three or four major issues that voters can identify with easily. Show how larger issues, like state policies, have a direct effect on local voters’ lives.

“Know the legal bounds of your office,” he cautioned, “You can have an opinion on topics like immigration at the southern border, but it’s super important that you don’t make promises you can’t keep. Unless you are running for the U.S. House or Senate, local candidates in Colorado have no control over federal policies. Avoid saying you are going to accomplish anything without the actual means to do so.”

Luria next spent considerable time talking about campaign financing. “Always be fundraising,” he said. “At every opportunity, ask supporters to pledge donations and follow up on the pledges.” Have a donation page on an attractive website. Use only trusted e-commerce portals. Generate a QR code that goes on all print and digital campaign literature, or an easy URL, taking people directly to the donation page.

At the same time, he said, “always be growing your email list.” Make it easy for people to subscribe on the website, and have signup sheets at all events, same as when out canvassing. Use the mailing list to get donations and recruit volunteers, such as for campaign door-knocking.

Door-to-door canvassing is crucial for any successful campaign, Luria stressed. “Targeted door-knocking is the very best way to have one-on-one conversations with likely voters.” Counties are required to make their voting records available to certified candidates, he said, and these should guide which households to visit.

When canvassing, focus first on recent voters who declared as Libertarians followed by independent and unaffiliated swing voters who may be willing to flip from the two major parties who oppose expanding “big government.”

A campaign has the greatest chance of success, he said, when the candidate or surrogates can knock on the doors of 75 percent to 100 percent of the registered voters. This means smaller local races are the most “winnable.”

The new Libertarian mayor of Keenseburg won because he made direct contact with every voter he possibly could, Luria said. “That’s much harder to do in a large metropolitan area.”

An average candidate in Colorado needs to run at least three times before winning an election, Luria asserted, “but it’s worth trying if only to get out the message of liberty to more people, regardless of whether they become registered Libertarians” 

Luria defined “liberty” as “being the master of your own destiny. It doesn’t mean following rules or hierarchies that only serve those in power. Liberty means that you should be able to do whatever you want so long as you don’t harm others.”

Tipping Elections to Democrats?

Is Luria concerned about the Libertarian Party being a spoiler in close races?

For instance, in Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District, Democrat Yadira Caraveo at 48.4 percent of the vote barely defeated Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer at 47.7 — a 0.7  gap.  Libertarian Party candidate Richard Ward garnered 3.9 percent of the voters, most of it apparently from the right.

“No I don’t think we are spoilers,” Luria said. “Libertarian candidates mostly attract voters who do not feel represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans.” Libertarian candidates appeal to independent, unaffiliated, and third-party voters, he said, citing switchover voters from Green Party progressives to Constitution Party conservatives.

“We find there are plenty of situations where, if we put up an honest and serious Libertarian candidate who speaks to voters at their own level, we can win,” Luria claimed. “Liberty is a fire. One started, it’s hard to put out.”

CORRECTION 2/17/23 — The Libertarian mayoral candidate in Aurora was misidentified. The Libertarian in the race is actually Scott Liva.