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Five Questions for Brian Kresge

By Jordan Bailey | Aug 22, 2017
Photo by: Jordan Bailey Brian Kresge

A software programmer and member of the Maine National Guard, Brian Kresge recently moved from Pennsylvania where he was the Democratic nominee for the state House races in 2014 and 2016. He then changed parties and worked on Gary Johnson's presidential campaign. He is now running to represent U.S. Congressional District 2 as a Libertarian. Reporter Jordan Bailey spoke to him Aug. 15 at his home in Winterport.

Looking at the last presidential election, in our coverage area of Waldo County we had 10,433 votes for Clinton 10,376 votes for Trump, and 1,219 for Libertarian candidate Johnson. In that race there were factors pushing people to vote either Democratic or Republican, but we do have a large proportion of voters who are unaffiliated with either party. First of all, what would you say to conservatives and registered Republicans about why they should vote for you?

Well, you know, it’s funny, since moving here we’ve met a lot of Waldo County Republicans, and we’ve really enjoyed talking to them. They seem to favor a lot of Libertarian principles in general. Gary Johnson did disproportionately well in the 2nd Congressional District compared to most of the rest of the country. In fact, I think we did better in Maine than anywhere else percentage-wise.

The conservatives I’ve met in general have espoused a lot of small-government-type mindsets when they vote and they look for candidates that espouse small government, less tax intrusion than down South. They’re a little more independent than other places in general. And I would say to conservative voters, in making that appeal, that the incumbent has voted for big government, and has voted for principles that I think aren’t either conservative or Libertarian.

It’s a tough wall to climb because people reflexively vote for their parties. The Libertarians are here, they’re committed to these principles and generally will give better bang for their buck than you would with a Republican vote.

What made you decide to leave the Democratic Party and what would you say to Democrats and liberal voters about why they should vote for you?

That’s a complex answer. I spent 24 years as a Democrat. I was a Young Democrat in high school. I was really into things like unions, new democratic principles, deregulation, things that have disappeared off the party portfolio. With the appointment of Hillary Clinton, and some of the things I was seeing where I was from in Pennsylvania, the party has left behind things like civil liberties, and is not so good on things like the 2nd Amendment. If you’re not for gun control, you’re pretty much told there is no place for you in the party. I think the Democrats, too, when they did their grandstanding on the 2nd Amendment — the sit-in they were doing in regards to gun control — the legislation they were pushing for a vote on would have taken away due process for people of color. That inconsistent approach to civil liberties is something that has really vexed me and part of the reason that fueled me leaving.

But they’re also not a party talking about GDP (gross domestic product) growth. Here in Maine we’re held hostage by two opposing ideologies, neither of which do anything for the middle class. We have friends of ours who are paying twice their mortgage for health insurance. Obamacare did nothing for them and the repeal that Poliquin was pushing for did nothing for them either. And in fact the whole imbroglio just drove up their rates by double digits for next year. Neither party has a solution. The Libertarians do.

Along that line, what would you see as the best way to regulate health care in this country?

Less is probably more. I think the mistake we keep making is we’re playing a shell game with the fact that we’ve got five groups actually paying out, a limited number of insurance companies and a limited number of set rates. We’re not letting the market drive things. But the other problem we have here in Maine is the question of scarcity. Democrats like to talk about “health care is a right,” but what do you have a right to? If you don’t have access to care, it’s really not doing anything to have a right to care.

In a lot of ways, getting the government out of health care would really help. Loosening restrictions with the FDA, the cumbersome process of having drugs approved, would go a long way to drive down costs. We see the push to bring in drugs from Canada, but they have Canada’s supply, they have less regulatory compliance than we do in terms of inspections — they have a longer schedule. That’s not really a solution because the drug companies here have the power to adjust rates and markets that Canadian drugs would make a difference in, so we keep pushing solutions that really don’t solve the problem.

I think (we should move) the government away from health care as much as possible. We have to make sure there’s tort reform, we have to do things to drive down cost, but those are best affected by market. And possibly in Maine — and this isn’t purely a Libertarian solution — (we should be) looking at solutions that do socialize to a certain degree. We can’t make a health care market appear and we can’t make care appear in places like Presque Isle or Fort Kent. We can’t make clinics open, and they still have to go through government hurdles anyway ... It’s clear that what we have been doing hasn’t been working.

Repealing Obamacare is appealing to the conservative base, I’m sure, but I think we’re at the point where repealing something is of less value than doing something positive for driving down health costs and getting access to care. Medicaid for all I don’t think is a great solution, because it definitely doesn’t overcome the issues of scarcity we have with provider care and coverage and the cost of care. It just means that we’re going to be paying for a lot of nothing. But maybe there is an opportunity. There are places where expanding Medicaid to cover Maine seniors might be an answer and I don’t think it’s something we should shy away from. Forty percent of all libertarians are OK with departing from party purity on that, and I’m OK with that, too.

Congress is marred by gridlock a lot of the time; how much of a compromiser would you say you are?

I was Gary Johnson’s director for Jewish outreach. That was how I came to the Libertarian Party. I was an active Democrat and I was recruited by the campaign to do this. One of the things I admired about Gary Johnson was, as a two-term governor in New Mexico, ... he was probably one of the best compromisers in recent history, along with Bill Weld, working with the Republican governor and the Democratic Legislature to get things done. I think the Libertarian Party is filled with Rothbardian purists, but it’s also filled with pragmatists, like Gary Johnson, and, like I’d like to think of myself, who are willing to talk turkey on everything.

I’m not beholden to any caucus if I get elected. I’m not beholden to the Democrats, I’m not beholden to the Republicans. I’m beholden to my conscience and the Maine voters. Subsequently, I’m free to align myself with just about any caucus on any legislation that’s to the benefit of Mainers. That’s where I would go. I’m willing to compromise on a lot, but it would always be influenced by — can we do this with minimal footprint? And can we do this with minimal cost to the taxpayer, and there’s flexibility around that.

You say you’ve moved here in the last year; how would you say you could relate to Mainers?

You know, it’s funny. This state has a profoundly independent spirit. I transferred from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard to the Maine National Guard. One of the things I immediately noticed is there are far more blue collar people in the Guard here than I was necessarily accustomed to in Pennsylvania. We had a broad range of professional and blue collar workers in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard; people here are more accustomed to hard work generally across the board. They’re less interested in government intrusion in their lives. I love that! That recent resolution they passed that allows locally grown produce to be sold, those kinds of things just wouldn’t happen where I came from. That’s what makes living here so awesome.

We found our place in Maine, we were always Mainers at heart. Moving here was the best choice we made for our kids and for ourselves. I think relating to voters is easy here, 'cause they relate to us.

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