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Norman man seeks Libertarian Party's presidential nomination

R.J. Harris is running as a Libertarian Party candidate, who also is working on a signature-gathering drive to get the Libertarian Party recognized as a political party in Oklahoma so voters in the state have the opportunity to vote for him next year.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: October 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm •  Published: October 1, 2011
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“We're doing really well out there,” he said.

Harris, a chief warrant officer in the National Guard who served two combat tours in Iraq, a combat tour in Afghanistan and a peacekeeping tour in South Korea, made his first bid for public office last year when he opposed U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, for the 4th Congressional District seat.

Harris filed as a Republican, and won 23 percent of the vote in last year's GOP primary. Shortly before the primary, he was activated to serve in Afghanistan. He returned from Afghanistan in July.

Harris calls himself a constitutional libertarian and has been involved in the nationwide grassroots Liberty Candidate movement, which supports candidates that defend individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

He said his presidential goals are restoring liberty and freedom as well as defending the Constitution.

“We're trying to restore the economic freedom, the economic liberty, the personal freedom and the individual liberty that made this republic the greatest nation in the world,” Harris said. “That has been a little bit deteriorating ... through socialist economic policies and infringements on people's individual and personal liberty.”

Harris said he opposes the federal health care law and the Patriot Act, which reduced restrictions on law enforcement agencies' ability to search telephone and email communications, medical, financial, and other records as well as eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the U.S.

Harris graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a philosophy degree and is in his third year at OU's law school. He hopes to graduate in May, a week after the Libertarian Party has its national convention in Las Vegas.

Because convention delegates will choose the party's nominees for president and vice president, Harris said he plans to appear at Libertarian state conventions, where delegates to the national convention will be chosen. Conventions are held on weekends.

“That's very conducive to my school schedule,” he said. “We can do a lot of this through technology.”

Harris, who raised about $68,000 in his congressional campaign, conceded it will be difficult to raise money to wage a campaign against an incumbent Democratic president and the Republican nominee.

“We're definitely going to be competing in the millions of dollars range,” he said.

“As folks begin to see that they have an alternative, we will be able to compete with the fundraising dollars out there,” he said. “They look and they see what they're getting from President (Barack) Obama, they look and see what they're getting from the GOP and it just seems more of the same old bickering, most of the same old left-right paradigm. ...

“We're trying to show everyone that we can fight a race that's leaner and more efficient and still get the message out. One thing I've begun to learn is that if you have the message, the money will follow.”