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'I Believe in Liberty': A Conversation with Austin Petersen

I had the pleasure of speaking with Austin Petersen, a Republican candidate for the Senate from Missouri. You may remember him from his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination for president last year.

Petersen isn't what you immediately think of when you think of a Libertarian. He's thoughtful, engaging, and intelligent, and I believe he has a bright future ahead in politics. We had a terrific conversation, touching on issues like religious liberty and the right to life — and we talked about the future of small-l libertarianism. Here's my chat with Austin Petersen:

Chris Queen: What is your political background?

Austin Petersen: I started as volunteer in 2007 for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, where I mobilized 1,200 activists and raised $1 million for the campaign. That led to a job in Libertarian National Committee for a year, which led to a position with the Atlas Foundation, part of the Cato Institute.

At the Atlas Foundation, I worked on a project behind the scenes, which was to get Judge Andrew Napolitano a show on Fox Business Network. I served as a producer on the show, and when it was canceled after two years, I worked as director of production at Freedom Works.

After a year, I decided to stop preaching about capitalism and practice it, and I started a small business. I ran for president in 2016 and did well, coming in second at the Libertarian Party Convention. Now, I’ve decided to put my efforts into repealing and replacing Claire McCaskill.

CQ: How did your love of individual liberty come about?

AP: I’m originally from Independence, Missouri, and raised on horse farm Peculiar, which, believe it or not, is a short drive from a town called Liberty. Missouri’s motto is that it’s the “Show Me State,” and we’ve always been skeptical of big government.

I believe that the opportunity to advance liberty in my home state is a good one because I believe in liberty, libertarian values, self-ownership, and the individual. My attitude toward social issues is stay the hell out.

CQ: After your 2016 bid for the Libertarian Party nomination for the presidency, what prompted you to run for the Senate in Missouri?

AP: I saw that Claire was up for reelection, and I just wasn’t confident that a Republican candidate would reflect Missouri values. So I started polling my supporters, made 4,000 phone calls, and the overwhelming consensus was that I needed to run as a Republican.

CQ: Do you think Claire McCaskill is beatable in 2018? Why or why not?

AP: I do. I think she is. I recently read a poll that showed her losing by double digits to anyone, and I’m anyone. She’s bad on the issues that Missourians care about, she didn’t support Neil Gorsuch, and she did support Hillary Clinton.