Mariner Durant promises progress, fresh ideas.
Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson may not have won the race last November. But in the process of earning more votes than any other candidate in the party’s history which began in 1972, he obviously raised awareness and opened the door for more candidates nationwide.
One such candidate is Mariner Durant who is seeking the office of Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi. He is the first member of the Libertarian Party to do so–and is raising local awareness in his own way through the process.
“I’m in this to win,” Durant says, “and I think I have a good shot. But I’ve also been working hard for some time in strengthening the Libertarian Party here in Lauderdale County.”
“Strengthening” may be an understatement: Durant actually started the Libertarian Party of Lauderdale County and waded through what he calls “endless bureaucracy” to get the LP general ballot access in the county. Durant also served as the first Chairman and has, of this writing, already recruited one other Libertarian to run in Meridian’s City Ward #5.
“I am hoping to get a Libertarian on the ballot in all five City Wards,” Durant says–all while acting as the manager of his own mayoral campaign. Just a typical day’s work, he says in jest. But there is a deep seriousness behind the 23 year-old’s historic bid for office that quickly surfaces when he relays his reasoning for going, literally, where no Libertarian has gone before.
“I have dedicated my life to serving the less fortunate,” Durant says, contrary to the erroneous assumption that libertarianism is only about me, myself and I. “At the age of 14 I read the book, ‘Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?’ By Richard J. Maybury which I had seen recommended by the late William Simon, former U.S. Treasury Secretary,” Durant says, explaining his odyssey. “It is a book demonstrating how a free market is clearly superior to government-run economies and does a masterful job debunking Keynesian economics which are so dominant today.
“It became clear to me,” he continues, “that the more wealth people have, the higher the standard of overall living–and increasing the standard of living mixed perfectly with my goals of serving the less fortunate, because under a free market there would be less poor people and everyone would live a happier, healthier life with greater opportunities.”
Of course, economics and politics are much more complicated than that, Durant says and knows. But he singles out specific problems that he thinks would lessen poverty, reduce debt and have an overall net-positive effect.
“As but one issue, let’s take victimless crime,” Durant explains. “The ‘War on Drugs’ is a glaring example of total failure where I believe the government is wasting valuable time and resources in pursuing and incarcerating people who have harmed or violated no one else, except perhaps themselves–but then that becomes a medical or psychological issue–it should not be a criminal issue. That is but one of the issues I feel very strongly about. Libertarians do NOT condone drug use. They do, however, realize one’s right to their own body and the high financial and moral costs of jail time, especially for minorities,” Durant notes. “Is marijuana use really worse than five or six glasses of straight whiskey or all of the tranquilizers and opiates so widely prescribed today?”
That is only one aspect of what drew Durant to the philosophy of libertarianism and to the Party itself.
“The Party shares my values as opposed to the other dominant two that continue to erode our freedoms and increase taxes on a continual and regular basis. I consider myself a person of principle so, for me, the choice was clear: I should do everything in my power to grow the Libertarian Party.”
This he has obviously done and is doing.
When asked what a Libertarian mayor would do differently, or better, for Meridian than the typical Democrat or Republican Durant immediately reeled off a list.
“Plenty. As Mayor of Meridian, I would be on top of the food chain, in a manner of speaking, since our city uses a system of government known as a ‘strong mayor-council government’: this would give me enough leverage to reverse the clear cases of crony capitalism, open up the free market to competition, slash taxes, do the most I can to end corruption and work much more closely with our business and civic leaders. These are not mere cliches or ‘talking points,’ either–regulations are not all set in stone.
“Reducing poverty would also be one of my top priorities,” Durant continues, “because it leads to high crime which Meridian experiences as do too many of our Mississippi towns and cities. I would help to end poverty by slashing taxes, removing burdensome business regulation and decriminalizing drugs. I would actively work with the police department and help them to focus more on crimes where there are actual victims. Obviously, the police officer has a job to do and must carry out what is on the books; therefore, I would like to change the books.”
It’s early in the campaign, but Durant says he is enthusiastic about the work and enjoying the challenge.
“So far everyone I have talked with in person and via social media has been very supportive,” he says. “I officially announced I was on the ballot on January 23rd and the response has been heartening thus far, to say the least. I’m in this to win and bring attention to the libertarian message to the citizens of our great city. And make no mistake: Meridian, for all of its problems, IS a great city. I want to do my part to make it even better–for everyone, not just the well-connected or the well-to-do.”
A Savannah, Georgia native, Durant moved to Meridian, MS in 1998. He was homeschooled and then went on to Meridian Community College where he earned his degree in Associate of Applied Science in Computer Programming Technology. Upon graduation, he got a job at the Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library which, he says in retrospect, “was my first government job and where I, unfortunately. learned firsthand of the waste that exists–and it can be corrected and will be under my administration.”
Assuming he wins the election, we asked Durant this hypothetical question: What would be the greatest accomplishments of his tenure when looking back?
“My greatest accomplishment would be turning Meridian from a city with a poverty rate in some areas as high as 76.9% to an economically-healthier city with victimless ‘crimes’ a thing of the past,” he predicts. “As Mayor I would immediately pardon all people currently being held by the city for victimless crimes and work to put more business-friendly policies in place. But not only would I look back at a Meridian with new businesses; I would look back at a Meridian that also took care of its longstanding businesses and industries. Too often political leaders spend entirely too much time and energy trying to entice or bring in headline-garnerng new businesses and, in the process, ignore or neglect those already in place.”
As the campaign is in its infancy, Durant promises he will be seen just about everywhere in Meridian.
“I’m not going to just knock on the doors of the wealthy or the business owners,” he explains. “I need these people and I will work with and assist them in my administration–don’t get me wrong. However, I want to meet with as many diverse people as I can, getting their feedback and trying to win their support. I truly believe my candidacy will be unlike any other seen in the history of Meridian.”
Bold words from a bold candidate. But in talking with Durant, the earnestness, seriousness and knowledge he brings to the conversation underscores–and brings credibility–to his courage.