This Mr. Smith most likely will not be going to Washington.
And Keith Smith is cool with that. Such are the perils of being an little-known Libertarian candidate for Congress in a race for the 11th District seat held by a rich former football player (Heath Shuler) and challenged by a maverick Republican who has an uncanny knack for making front-page headlines (Carl Mumpower).
The 49-year-old Smith, who hails from the hamlet of Bostic near Forest City, can’t even get his own party to assist him much, he complains, and the media hasn’t helped matters either.
Further, Smith tells Xpress, he wasn’t even notified of an upcoming debate between Shuler and Mumpower to be broadcast on WWNC-AM 570 on Oct. 30 (though he does note that the station has at least interviewed him). Another station, WCAB-AM in Spindale, gave him the cold shoulder when it recently offered to interview candidates for the 10th and 11th district seats, but declined to offer a spot to Smith, he says. The station, he notes, did offer to sell him airtime, but he reckons that at this late stage, “it’s kind of like driving down the road and just throwing [money] out the window.”
After a life of working jobs such as truck driver, construction worker and security guard, Smith now runs his own freelance advertising and Web-site design business. He says he’s new at this, having never run for office before, and that he never thought he’d win anyway.
But despite the seemingly insurmountable task of winning, Smith isn’t throwing in the towel. And he’s more than willing to engage anyone who will listen on the issues that matter most to him in this race.
But first, there is his own party, whose principles he supports, but whose management he disdains. “They’re totally useless,” he says, noting he would like to steer Libertarians to major-party status. “If you’re not in their clique, they ignore you.”
All that intraparty stuff aside, on matters of import to voters, Smith says that if elected he would focus on drilling for more oil, reforming health care and bringing new jobs and industries to the district. He looks to the late South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell as a role model in that last respect, noting how Campbell spent considerable time overseas recruiting industry, such as BMW, which now bases its North American plant and headquarters in Spartanburg County.
He’d also take on the standard Libertarian cause of getting government out of people’s lives. For starters, with all the safety features now built into automobiles, do we really need to have mandatory seat-belt laws? No, says Smith. And the country doesn’t need any new laws that infringe on people’s rights to live freely, he maintains.
The main beef he has with Shuler is on oil drilling. Shuler has stated that he opposes merely drilling for the sake of drilling, noting that oil companies already have drilling rights that they are not using. Shuler prefers alternative-energy approaches, such as wind, solar and natural gas, among others.
Under new offshore-drilling legislation, “the drills have to be 50 miles offshore,” Smith says. “That’s just ridiculous. And I heard on Rush Limbaugh that after the election [the Democrats] were even going to pull that proposal back.
“My main difference with Mumpower is he’s against earmarks,” Smith continues. “That’s just your tax money. I would ask the counties what programs or what [development] would help them the most and use those earmarks to help the people in those counties.”
For more on Smith candidacy, visit www.electkeithsmith.com, and see his survey answers in Xpress’ Voter Guide elsewhere in this issue.