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Libertarian party names Lark chairman

The Libertarian Party elected a University professor to be the party's national chair earlier this month at the party's national convention.

On July 3 at the Anaheim, Calif. conference, delegates elected Systems Engineering Prof. James Lark to chair the party, whose platform touts small government and individual liberty.

Lark, who has been active in University Libertarian groups and the regional chapter, described himself as a realist, saying he wants to use focus on raising national awareness about the party - which has just under 211,000 registered members.

"We want to be a presence on the national level within two to four years," Lark said.

One of the barriers in this quest for national recognition is voters' perception that a vote for the Libertarian Party is a wasted vote, according to Lark.

The party is trying to overcome the perception that if you vote for a Libertarian candidate, "that miserable bastard from one of the other two parties will be elected," he said. "That's still a problem on a national level, but is becoming less so at the local level."

In addition to this difficulty, Lark mentioned other difficulties inherent in Libertarian politics.

"A lot of Libertarians don't look to politics as the solution to big problems," he added.

Also, Lark said voters can be wary of parties with different solutions to old problems.

"When people come forward with what appear to be grand schemes, people are naturally cautious," he said.

Despite these difficulties, Lark said the Libertarian Party has made considerable gains and hopes to have more candidates on the ballot over the next two years.

Lark also mentioned several local issues that the Libertarians have been involved with in the past several years.

In addition to opposing several tax measures, Lark helped the party successfully lobby in 1998 to block a measure that would have required Albemarle residents to obtain permits before building at elevations over 750 feet above sea level.

Lark criticized the measure saying, "the Mountain Protection Ordinance would have required Jefferson to jump through hoops before building Monticello."

Lark said he hopes to bring several Libertarian speakers to the University this year.

"We hope to at least bring the vice-presidential candidate, Art Olivier - and hopefully [presidential candidate] Harry Brown," Lark said.