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National Libertarian leaders gather in St. Louis this weekend

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 17, 2009 - About 20 top members of the national Libertarian Party will be in St. Louis this weekend to, in effect, check out the city's accommodations and amenities for next year's national Libertarian Party convention.

The contract already has been signed to hold the national gathering next May at the Renaissance Grand hotel downtown, said Tom Knapp, chairman of the St. Louis County Libertarian Central Committee. Up to 1,500 Libertarians are expected to attend that convention, including 500 delegates

The Renaissance also is where the 20 members of the party's national committee will stay this week. The two days of meetings on Saturday and Sunday general will focus on internal party issues, including the installation of a new national executive director.

But the key point of this weekend's gathering, Knapp said, is to "tour the facility'' and make sure that the hotel will be adequate for next year's convention. "This particular meeting is the 'dog and pony show,' '' he explained.

The Missouri Libertarian Party is one of two third parties (the other is the Constitution Party) that have automatic ballot access in the state, because some of those parties' candidates have met the necessary threshhold of garnering at least 2 percent of all the votes cast in their particular contest. That means a Libertarian or Constitution candidate can automatically get on the ballot, just like a Republican or Democrat.

Knapp and his wife, county Libertarian committeewoman (and former congressional candidate) Tamara Millay, estimate that there are several hundred active Libertarians in the St. Louis area.

Libertarians generally believe in smaller government, lower taxes, and also fewer laws governing personal behavior. The national party's platform states, in part, "we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings..."

Knapp credits Libertarians in neighboring Illinois with kicking off the national wave of "Tea Parties'' to protest the federal bailout and other hefty government spending in response to the nation's economic downturn. Now, he added, Libertarians are upset about the prospect of more government spending on health care.

"We're always critical of both (major) parties," Knapp added. "But we're more critical of the party in power."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.