As the 2014 midterm elections are quickly approaching, a large amount of the nation’s attention has turned to North Carolina, a state that many consider a swing state after it flipped from blue to red between the 2008 and 2012 elections. The battle has mainly focused on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. There is, however, a third player in this traditionally two-party game: Libertarian Sean Haugh. The Durham pizza delivery man has gained a fair amount of attention thanks to his multiple YouTube videos, and currently has five percent of polled North Carolinians supporting him. Haugh previously ran for the US Senate in 2002 and had served as the national political director for the Libertarian National Committee.
I went to Durham to sit down with Haugh and discuss why he thinks he can win this race. In the second part of my two-part interview with him, Haugh and I talked about the problems surrounding his two opponents, the episode in Ferguson, Mo. and his main method of campaigning: YouTube.
If you have not yet read Part One of this interview, you can find it here.
Alex Thomas: Let’s talk about your opponents. The race has mainly been focused on Speaker Tillis and Senator Hagan, with neither side being able to confidentially secure a majority of voters. A September 10th poll by Rasmussen has Senator Hagan up over Speaker Tillis by six points, while a month ago a similar poll by the organization had Speaker Tillis up by five points. Why do you think neither of them can get a majority of people on their side?
Sean Haugh: Because the majority of voters see them for what they are: people who represent corporate special interests and not the people. I found it amusing that Senator Hagan had commissioned a poll that she was touting a couple of days ago, and right there in the stuff that she was trying to point out, her negatives still outweighed her positives. But, her negatives are closer to her positives than Speaker Tillis’ are.
I hold the opinion that Speaker Tillis is completely unelectable. He has no point being in this race. He’s just out there to fly the flag of his party. He has no chance because he has lost such significant demographics. So many people have looked at his performance in the General Assembly and want to reject him.
I’m getting a lot of support simply because I’m not either of them.
AT: You are currently situated around five percent. That is according to a Civitas Institute poll, which, unlike the previously mentioned poll, did actually mention your name directly —
SH: I don’t consider a poll legitimate unless it mentions me by name. That Rasmussen poll that you mentioned is worthless because it’s “some other candidate”. It’s so bizarre to me that the political class and a lot of media are so wrapped up in the Washington game, that they, too, have lost any sense of reality.
One thing that really amazes me about this race and the lack of legitimacy of media coverage of it is that they are all focused on control of the Senate. That seems to be the only thing that matters to them at all.
A lot of the times, they really just don’t know what to do to me. I just don’t fit into their conception of reality.
AT: Why do you suppose you don’t fit into it?
SH: Because I’m actually talking about issues that matter to people. You watch this news coverage, and there’s almost nothing about how this election is going to affect the people of North Carolina. It’s all about how it’s going to affect what happens underneath the dome in Washington, DC.
I think that is one of the reasons why more and more people are getting their news from Twitter and Facebook instead of the mainstream media. They can actually get real news. Like a lot of people who live in the 21st century, that’s how I get my news.
I talk to people who just watch cable news, and just wonder how they hardly know anything that’s going on in this world. They certainly know plenty about sharks and the Kardashians, but not much about, for example, what happened in Ferguson, Mo. a month ago.
AT: Since you mentioned Ferguson, let’s say a similar incident occurred here in North Carolina. If you were Senator, how would you address a Ferguson at home?
SH: We do have Ferguson here at home. The only difference is that we didn’t shut down the city and protest over it.
There are three cases here in Durham alone since our current police chief, Jose Lopez, took office. Situations where people died through interacting with the police, but not necessarily in confrontation. One in particular is the case of Jesus Huerta, who was shot in the back seat of a patrol car. They still maintain that he managed to sneak a gun in and shoot himself, even though he was handcuffed in the back of the police cruiser.
Overall, the police really have changed over the last few years to really be opposed to protecting and serving the people while having a good community relationship. These kind of things have happened all across the country.
One thing that really concerns me is the militarization of police. To me, that’s a sign of just how opposed to the people the police have become. Why do you need this big, mine resistant armored vehicle for local police work? It’s completely unnecessary unless you want to go to war with the people.
What happened in Ferguson is really a national problem. One thing I would like to do as a Senator is stop this 1033 Program of giving police department and local law enforcement military weapons.
But, I’m not sure how much else I could do besides being supportive of local groups who can really address their local issues. The only way to restore that relationship between the public and the police is for the public and the police to work it out themselves.
AT: So far, your campaign efforts has consisted of around 30 YouTube videos explaining your positions on a variety of issues, ranging from immigration reform to Israel. Have you found this method of campaigning to be successful in attracting support?
SH: Absolutely. It is so easy to share videos and it’s incredibly inexpensive. It costs me around $50 to make each video, and I’ve been able to get my message out to a very large number of people.
In addition, I’ve been able to establish a larger social media presence than either of my opponents because I actually use it to engage people, talk to people and listen to people. They [my opponents] don’t seem to understand Facebook and Twitter in particular. They just use it as a bullhorn to get people to listen to them.
People being able to talk to me and get to know me as a real human being really sets me apart from my two opponents. I mean, you call up Senator Hagan’s office now to try to get some help with something or ask a question or state your opinion. More often than not you’ll get a busy signal. To me, that’s an insult in 2014. Nobody needs a busy signal anymore. You can at least put up a voicemail saying, “I’m sorry we’re so busy. We can’t take your call right now, but you can leave a message or we can call you back in a little bit.”
Getting back to YouTube, it is certainly a lot of fun. It really gives me the opportunity to present myself and my ideas in the exact way I want to. Since government is still kind of locked in the 20th century, it’s a lot less regulated than if I was making TV ads. If I was doing TV ads, I would have to include a lot of other language, so YouTube is very liberating.
I’m really enjoying this campaign a lot more than 2002 for exactly that reason. I can just be myself, say exactly what I want to say in exactly the way I want to say it. The technology makes it easy for me.
AT: You did not get a chance to participate in the September 3rd debate with Speaker Tillis and Senator Hagan. Do you think you will get an opportunity to debate them on a public forum?
SH: I am invited to a debate on October 9th sponsored by the League of Women Voters and WCET-TV. It’ll be down in Wilmington, and at various points all three of us had accepted that offer, but now everything is really in flux.
Once it was pointed out to my opponents that I would be there, all of a sudden they were a little bit less certain they would be there, too. They are incredibly afraid to face me at all. I really see these debates that don’t include me as them auditioning for their corporate special interest masters instead of actually trying to address the people.
There has been not only just my supporters but voters who want a real debate and don’t necessarily support me putting pressure on groups like WRAL and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters to include me in a future debate.
Having been down this road before in 2002, I hope I’m being too cynical when I suggest that that’s the last thing either of them want. They [his opponents] are the ones controlling the process. I don’t blame debate organizers at all when I’m excluded because it’s not their call. It’s totally up to Hagan and Tillis, and they have both made it very clear that they don’t really want to face me or the people.
Things change every day. I’m still planning on going to Wilmington on October 9th, and we’ll see if either of them have the guts to show up.
AT: If there was one thing you could tell the people of North Carolina that could convince them to vote for you, what would that be?
SH: I’m the only candidate that wants to stop all war. We’ve been in the state of perpetual war for over fifteen years now. There are people in this country that are about to become a voting age that have known nothing but war. The majority of Americans and North Carolinians look at this and know that it’s untenable. We have to do something else other than just more bombing.
It’s not radical or extremist anymore to talk about libertarian issues like stopping all war or spending money that we don’t have. Everybody knows this debt we have is unsustainable, and yet my Democratic and Republican opponents promise nothing else but increasing that debt.
The main thing is if you’re voting for either the Democrat or the Republican, even though there are differences between the two, you are also voting for more war and more debt. It’s time that we send a message to the Democrats and the Republicans that we want something different.