The “Ultimate” Outsider

This is a relatively unflattering article on a Libertarian perennial candidate who finally got elected to something. It’s my feeling that these types of personalities actually turn off most people from involving themselves in a party and help to keep the LP (and other parties) marginalized.

It’s really unfortunately since he’s probably a nice guy and he even be right on some of these issues… but you can’t expect to make any progress if you act like this.

From The San Mateo Daily Journal:

He is the ultimate outsider who somehow got his nose under the tent.

All it took was more than a dozen attempts at elected office, thousands of dollars of his own money and an apathetic electorate for Libertarian Jack Hickey, 71, to make the switch from perennial candidate and also-ran to member of the Sequoia Health Care District Board.

Some people hate him, some respect him and nearly everyone — enemies and friends alike — say he marches to the beat of his own drummer. For some, that drumbeat is as annoying as they come.

“Basically, he wastes a lot of our time. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands in legal fees and he’s never been correct,” said Art Faro, who sits on the Sequoia Healthcare District Board and has often sparred with Hickey. “We’re wasting money like crazy and we’re wasting time like crazy.”

Last year, records requests by Hickey cost the district approximately $20,000 and required 60 to 80 staff hours, said district CEO Stephani Scott.

Many of his requests are centered on his belief that the district should not collect and distribute tax revenue. He has serious concerns with the approximate $8 million the district board doles out for charity care and other health needs in the community.

“Philosophically, they are socialists,” Hickey says of the board members who vote in favor of the funds. “They’re secular humanists and as a state religion that’s pervasive. It’s socialist, communist.”

Last year, the district gave $1 million to the hospital foundation for capital expenditures and provided Sequoia $3.75 million of a $25 million commitment for its reconstruction project. It also gave $500,000 to the Samaritan House for its free clinic and $1 million for a joint nursing program between San Francisco State University and Cañada College. Approximately $100,000 was sent to Redwood City schools for elementary school nurses.

As a Libertarian, Hickey believes the district should be dissolved and the money it collects returned to voters. That was his platform when he was received 14,607 votes and came in third place behind Faro with 20,649 votes and Gerald Shefren with 20,210 votes in the November 2002 election. That year, Board member Ed Katz stepped down since he was working with Sequoia and may have had a conflict of interest, Faro said.

The election drew little interest from candidates with similar views and instead drew a crowded field of Libertarians who ran on Hickey’s platform. The only problem was that a miscommunication with the state Libertarian Party packed the ballot with six Libertarians, only three of which were local — Hickey, Warren Gibson and Harland Harrison. Two state Libertarians dropped out just before the election but their names remained on the ballot.

Gibson knew someone had to win and was disappointed the Libertarians could not gain more traction.

“The fact was there was a slot open since an incumbent was not running which meant some outsider had to get in,” Gibson said.

That outsider was Hickey.

Since 2000, Hickey has run for public office multiple times — including state Senate, San Mateo County Board of Education, San Mateo County Community College District, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. In the recall, he recieved 97 votes in San Mateo County and was the 20th highest vote getter.

Though he seldom recieves more than a fraction of the votes, he said he runs to help spread the Libertarian message of less government, less taxes and more freedom.

Originally from New York, Hickey got interested in politics in the late 1970s and campaigned for performance vouchers for schools. He ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by S.I. Hayakawa. In 1984, he ran against U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who he called a “socialist.” He is a retired research scientist but also works part time at Office Depot and has been married to his wife JoLene for 27 years. A mellow and soft-spoken man with an Amish-style beard, he lives in a sprawling and well-cobbled house in Emerald Hills, in unincorporated San Mateo County, which keeps him from running for Redwood City Council or other local school boards.

A former Republican, he joined the Libertarian Party approximately eight years ago and said he spends about $5,000 to $10,000 a year on politics.

“He’s done a good job by being a rabble-rouser and getting the public’s attention,” Gibson said. “He hasn’t played ball with the good old boys.”

The boys Hickey does play with however, leave a few people with a bad taste in their mouth. Ross Foti, known throughout the community as the man whose truck is covered with posters of aborted fetuses as a way to discourage women from having abortions, counts Hickey as one of his truest supporters. The two are even featured in a photo together on Hickey’s Web site with their arms around each other in front of large posters of aborted fetuses. Foti said Hickey supported him when two women fought to keep him away from a health clinic that performed abortions and keeps him in the loop about issues at the Sequoia Healthcare District.

“Jack Hickey is a good man and acts on what he believes in. He is very sincere,” Foti said. “I think the world of him. I think he should run for higher office.”

And that is just what Hickey intends to do. Though he is setting his sights on his own re-election in November, he is getting ready to take on Rich Gordon for the Third District seat of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. He took on Gordon once before and received 26,970 votes — or 29.83 percent — to Gordon’s 63,448 votes — or 70.1 percent. Though his chances this time around may not improve, Malcolm McLaughlin, who sits on the Sequoia Healthcare District Board, said his chances for re-election may be strong.

“He’s an activist and can get out the vote. People will vote for a dead man,” McLaughlin said. “Most people have no interest in these things.”

Lennie Roberts, San Mateo County legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills, agreed and pointed to the long-ago campaign of Olive Mayer, who ran for the Board of Supervisors just so there would be an election. Roberts said Mayer told people not to vote for her and still received 15 percent of the vote.

“There’s a strange thing with people running for office. If a name is well known or familiar, people will vote for them,” she said.

Though Roberts and Hickey never sparred directly, their philosophy on open space is diametrically opposed. A golfer, Hickey believes open space should be used for golf courses or other revenue producing activity. Roberts believes open space is too valuable not to be preserved. However, she believes Hickey will never gain the support he needs to change the county’s current policy of acquiring land for open space preservation.

“Not in this county. Support is very strong for parks and open space,” she said.

Converting open space to golf courses is not Hickey’s sole controversial belief. He also touts performance vouchers for schools in which parents get economic incentives if their child does well in school, private philanthropy, decriminalization of drugs so his son could grow marijuana on his property, the decriminalization of prostitution and the limitation of taxes. He believes in the abolition of all regional governments like the Midpeninsula Open Space District and Association of Bay Area Governments. He opposes the war in Iraq but believes Samuel Alito would make a fine Supreme Court Justice. He drew fire for his contention that the people of New Orleans should rebuild the city themselves without federal assistance after the devastation of Hurrican Katrina. He also wrote a letter to the editor contending that a teacher who had sex with her student should be commended for not having an abortion rather than vilified for the inappropriate relationship.

Hickey accepts that his views are in the minority and acknowledges that the Libertarian presence on the mostly liberal Peninsula is small. He is chair of the San Mateo County Libertarian Party and counts membership at approximately 2,000.

“We haven’t had major growth but we have solidified members,” Hickey said. “There are a lot of Libertarians out there that like the way I’m doing things and like the way I talk.”

His outspoken ways, however, have sparked some tension on the Sequoia board. He once walked out of a meeting to cause its abrupt end and has no problem quibbling over details with other board members. McLaughlin believes he is learning to play well with others and is seeing some progress.

“Sometimes he shoots without loading his gun with the right ammunition,” he said. “If he was more thoughtful people might listen to him a bit more, but he’s mellowed a little.”

Still, others believe he represents a very narrow constituent base and only manages to stir the pot without enacting change.

“He’s not in the mainstream but rather in some backwater eddy,” said Roberts.

For Hickey, making waves to make a point is his method of operation and he has no intentions of slowing. He is principaled yet strident and one thing is sure — he loves being in the public eye.

9 Responses to “The “Ultimate” Outsider”

  1. Otto Kerner Says:

    So, he had them spend $20,000 in an effort to save $8,000,000? That sounds okay to me.

    Granted, he’s doesn’t sound very persuasive. But, most normal people aren’t. That’s “citizen politicians” for you.

  2. Tim West Says:

    I didnt know Secular Humanism was a commie plot. Hickey sounds like a typical LP guy who runs for office as a hobby.

    I wonder if he’s ever pondered into why Jesus didnt believe in private property, and how that fits in with libertarian thought.

  3. Joe Says:

    I’m not sure why Austin believes Hickey is the kind of candidate that turns people off. I’m not sure what a “health care district is” but his wanting less taxes sounds good by me. I agree with him that secular humanism is a “state religion that’s pervasive. It’s socialist, communist.” I find this story and the fact that he was ultimately elected a great encouragement. If at first you don’t succeed . . .

  4. George Whitfield Says:

    I have read about Hickey before in more objective articles from California news sources and the reason some of his opponents get irritated with him is that he has been correct sometimes and they now have to at least defend their spending of other people’s money.

    I don’t see anything wrong with a fellow whose hobby is running for public office as a Libertarian. There are some people who criticize Libertarian candidates as a hobby.

  5. Stuart Richards Says:

    Hickey seems odd, but perhaps he’s doing good. I’d want to see some more coverage on him before deciding.

  6. undercover_ararchist Says:

    As a secular humanist, I can vouch for the fact that secular humanism is not a religion. The word “secular” should tip off morons like this particular handjob. I’m also not a “socialist,” but I’m probably more of one than this idiot (and most others in the LP) are “libertarians.” The LP is in fact a statist organization that wants just enough government to keep poor people down. The thugs of the state are to be used in order to protect their royalist “property rights” and nothing more. Word up to Tim West, RE: the Jesus comment.

  7. undercover_ararchist Says:

    And while I’m not in favor of taxes, it is important to note that money is never yours in the first place. It is a fiat currency, an artificial statist construct. Your legitimate claim is limited to what you can create and defend for yourself. If you want a regime to print money, protect your “property,” etc., then you’re no more against the existence of government than Chairman Mao was.

  8. Tim West Says:

    Actually, I am just fine with government, as long as it is restrained to the contract called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as is supposed to govern it’s operations.

  9. S.F. Gregory Says:

    What this guy and others like him don’t understand is that while people don’t want a communist government, neither do they want one where people are left to the whims of good or bad luck. Government is meant to serve and provide for the people to a certain extent. The city government doles out money because people like things like police protection, paved roads, and traffic lights. This guy is a tool.

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