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Fall City offers two Libertarians in 5th dist.

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FALL CITY - While most voters will be wringing their hands this election season on which of the two major parties to throw their support behind, Fall City residents Keith Kemp and Beau Gunderson want to offer a third choice.

Kemp and Gunderson, who are 21-year-old roommates, are the Libertarian Party candidates for the state Legislature's 5th district. Both know they are going to fight an uphill political battle, but believe they have a message that needs to be heard in this big election year.

"Part of the libertarian concept is bringing the liability that we put on other people to the government as well," Gunderson said. "We have the personal freedom of the democrats and fiscal freedom of the republicans."

The two have developed their political leanings in recent years after becoming more involved in politics. That political blossoming began when the two discussed different political philosophies and took a short, online quiz called "The World's Smallest Political Quiz," that identified them as libertarians.

The duo even attended the Washington State Libertarian Convention last year, which they said was a bit strange but a good experience for their burgeoning political life.

The two were approached by the Libertarian Party, who had Kemp and Gunderson's names on its mailing list, which recruited them to get on the ballot this year. In the past, there have not been many Libertarian Party candidates running for office, but this year around 90 percent of the races in King County have a candidate from that party.

As for what the Libertarian Party platform is, Kemp and Gunderson summed it up as a classic appeal to the freedom of the individual. Less government is the key. They mentioned the county's Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), a proposed set of development regulations, as an example of how government should not be involved in people's lives. For education, vouchers and charter schools are good, while the proposed 1-percent sales tax increase is bad. Kemp said there should be no limit to the amount of malpractice practice suits, emphasizing that a doctor should be held responsible for their actions.

"You can have this generic sense of freedom that applies to everything," Kemp said. "Freedom to choose, freedom to live. That applies to every situation."

There are not too many nationally-known libertarians to give the party a public face. With the exception of a few writers, television actor Drew Carrey and radio talk show host Tom Leykis, the two couldn't think of any prominent party members.

Despite having a low political profile on the national level, there are libertarians who hold public office in Washington, including mayors, city council members and school board members around the state.

In a close election year, Kemp and Gunderson scoff at the idea they are taking away crucial votes from the two parties that have better chances of winning. Kemp said today's generation is too used to the two-party system and is unaware of how politics were in the past, when more than two parties had viable chances of getting on the ballot. Getting votes is just indicative of the frustration people have with the two dominant parties, the two said, and the libertarians' ability to attract voters.

"If people really want their vote to go to a libertarian, why should their vote go to a democrat or republican?" Kemp said. "Obviously there is something we are doing right that they aren't doing."

In fact, they think some moderate candidates from the main parties seem more libertarian than not. After hearing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speak at the Republican National Convention last week, Kemp said he sounded more like a libertarian, since he had a more conservative view toward budget and taxes and a more liberal view toward personal freedoms.

"I think a lot of the libertarian republicans get labeled as moderates because they are over to the left a little bit," Kemp said.

Just being old enough to drink, the two don't have much experience in the political world. Neither have met any of the current state legislators or those running against them. The closest either have gotten to rubbing elbows with a politician was a trip Kemp took to Washington D.C. in the eighth-grade, where he met Sen. Patty Murray.

Both are ready to leave Fall City and move to Olympia to represent their district, but all earnestness aside, the two acknowledge that they are "paper candidates." They can't even make it past the primary next week if they don't get at least 1 percent of the vote.

They are enjoying, however, the chance to get their message out and be involved in politics. Friends and family, who had previously never been interested or involved in politics, have talked to the pair and become more aware of the issues facing the nation, and maybe even registered to vote.

"It's been a really good opportunity to get my friends a little more into politics in general," Gunderson said. "Once they see [me] running, it's kind of random, but at the same time they think, 'Wow, I'm at that age, maybe I should know what is going on.'"

* The "World's Smallest Political Quiz" can be taken at www.self-gov.org/quiz.html.

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