Nick Chen doesn’t sound like the usual politician, let alone the usual Libertarian. In fact, he even jokes about the Libertarian stereotype: that the vocal ones are typing up manifestos. But he says if Oregon had a taste of libertarianism, they’d agree with him that it’s what Oregon needs.
Chen, 33, is a logistics specialist living in Wilsonville. He’s running as the Libertarian candidate for Governor.
This is the first time that Chen has ever ran for office, and he threw his name for nomination as a joke.
He says he told his friend that he was going to run for the Libertarian nomination because all the party does is share memes online.
Instead, he wanted to push for the party to get focused, thus encouraging the Oregon’s version of a Gary Johnson (former New Mexico governor) or Ron Paul (former U.S. Texas representative) to run for office.
Thanks to all of the political infighting, the withdrawal of another candidate and ranked voting, he says he won the nomination.
When the joke became a reality, he had to think about whether he really wanted to run. His co-workers all encouraged him to do it. But he says he got truly serious about the race when he got a call that his grandfather was going to pass away.
He says his grandfather, who was in hospice, told him to commit to the race and run hard because America isn’t healthy right now. Chen was encouraged to run a good campaign and leave a positive example in a gubernatorial race that has set the record of most money spent.
Chen agrees that maybe he’s a little biased in his distaste for socialism. He says his grandparents fled China during the Cultural Revolution. But he says he wouldn’t immediately have the free market step in.
“I’m not a wrecking ball,” he says.
If elected, Chen says he wouldn’t turn Oregon into an overnight Libertarian state. He’s not pushing for an agenda like something of an anarchist-capitalist society where the state’s public lands would be handed over for privatization.
For the first year, he’d work to stabilize the state and pay down the debts that past leadership has put Oregon in. If there’s a spending bill, it has to be audited for waste. He’d also start pushing down inappropriate expenses.
Then, he says he’d start to look at implementing more free market ideals to cut down on waste.
His platform wouldn’t be an ideology immediately imposed on the state.
“If I was forcing [Libertarianism] on people, then I’d be worried,” he says. “I don’t need to railroad my agenda, just a taste.”
But he is proud to point out that his Video Voters’ Guide, a series organized by the League of Women Voters, has had more views than the other gubernatorial candidates.
However, he does believe that there are certain aspects of the state that should still be supported by the government. This includes health care and education, but he would just let free market ideals find ways to make it more cost-effective for the state.
Don’t let this make it sound like he’s just a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat because he doesn’t speak highly of either party.
“One side wants to be racist and save money and the other spends money to be inclusionary,” he says.
So far, early ballot returns show that 4,370 of registered Libertarian party members have turned in their ballots. It pales in comparison to 352,399 Democrats or 253,935 Republicans. However, Chen says he feels that at least the one or two percent of voters in Oregon he’ll most likely get on Election Day will be from voters who actually like him.
Chen, a grappling champion, also has a stance on Joey Gibson. He openly states that he could take on Joey Gibson in a fight. Gibson is a right-wing political activist and founder of Patriot Prayer. Gibson and his group frequently hold protests in Portland and, of course, this attracts a counter-protest and a huge police presence. Gibson ran for a senate seat in Washington state, but he only received slightly more than two percent.
To clarify, Chen says he’s not willing to just start a fight immediately because he identifies as a pacifist and fights should only happen when communication fails. But he says that people like Gibson and Patriot Prayer supporters are overreacting about losing their First Amendment rights — because they haven’t lost them, not even close.
Chen says he doesn’t want people to think he’s a savior for Oregon. In fact, he says he doesn’t understand how a politician like Knute Buehler can keep saying how he’s the right man for the job.
But then again, he says he’s just an everyday Oregonian running for governor.
“The stars aligned,” he says. “This isn’t God saying, ‘This is my chosen candidate.’ I’m just a crazy asshole who signed up at that moment.”