Editors note: This article has been updated from its original to reflect party representatives stating that all paperwork is up to date and Mark Wicks is a legitimate candidate.
Montana Libertarian Party Chairman Ron Vandevender has resigned.
He said vice chairman Elinor Swanson will take his place.
“For my own sake and my family’s sake, I need to back down,” Vandevender said Monday morning.
“I’m not giving up Libertarian ideals.” He’s been state party chairman since the October 2016 death of Mike Fellows in a car accident north of Missoula. He lives in Craig, where he intends to run for election in House District 80 in 2018.
“After all this time, it’s just kind of catching up with me,” Vandevender said. “It’s just a combination of things, a little too much physical strain.”
He cited health problems facing him, his wife and family members as factors in his decision to resign.
The Montana Libertarian Party launched a massive reorganization after Fellows’ death, Vandevender said, including organizing more local and county groups and making the state group, which had been loosely organized, more cohesive.
“We’ve never hid that fact,” Vandevender said. “We’re not the best organized.”
“In a short period of time it’s really been a major step forward,” he said. That new direction will not change, he said.
“I don’t think it will,” he said. “I don’t see why it should.
“There’s been Libertarians who disagreed with me,” he said, which he attributed to the “wide tent, so to speak, that the Libertarians are in” with many points of view.
In an email to party members obtained by the Yellowstone County News, Vandevender said the party’s efforts were hampered by a “lack of support, actions and input by others we needed done to solidify things at the state and county levels,” although he is thankful for “countless hours of effort put in by a very small number of people.”
On Monday, Vandevender said about 140 to 150 people are on the state party membership list.
“I know there’s a lot more people that’s work with it,” he said, but some who are registered at the national level are not registered with the state party.
The Libertarian Party will continue untied support of its candidate Mark Wicks in the special election to replace Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House of Representatives, Vandevender said. Wicks, Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist are all seeking the seat Zinke vacated to become Secretary of the Interior.
Other sources told the Yellowstone County News, on condition of anonymity, that the chair resigned amid an investigation about Libertarian Party not filing appropriate reports and C2s. In addition, some feel that Mark Wicks is not the legitimate candidate for the party, but Vandevender said his resignation was due to family and other personal reasons.
Elinor Swanson, highest-ranking officer for the Montana Libertarian Party, said in an email to the Yellowstone County News that “All of the Montana Libertarian Party’s paperwork is up to date. Mark Wicks is the legitimate Libertarian candidate. The Party is unaware of any complaints, by any party member or by anyone else, as to either the party’s paperwork or as to the legitimacy of Mark Wicks Candidacy.”
The Montana Libertarian Party will meet later this summer or fall to begin work amending its constitution, said Vandevender.
“The board will be meeting probably here real soon,” Vandevender said, “to decide which way they want to push things. The more we have, the more conversations we have as far as a set of ideals,” the more clear the path will become.
“There’s a lot of opinions in there,” he said.
Here is what Vandevender sent out in an email to party supporters. He wrote,
Let me first state that I hold my Libertarian ideals to heart and believe firmly in them. There has been much said and done since September after the death of Mike Fellows to keep the Libertarians going and moving in a positive direction. There has been countless hours of effort put in by a very small number of people and I thank them for their effort. At the same time, lack of support, actions and input by others we needed done to solidify things at the state and county levels which I was under the impression were being done, coupled by family health issues (mine included) caused oversight on things as we moved forward. Any mistakes I may have made were not done intentionally to mislead or cause problems, yet I do not feel comfortable as I feel that may be the case. I have never been one to sit back and do nothing with a wait and see attitude nor to keep my mouth closed and tow the line just because. I’m sure there are questions from both in and outside the party which I may and may not be able to answer but I will be the first to admit that I am not perfect and make mistakes. If people want that they need to forget politics and wait for the second coming. Less government, taxes and control imposed on us is of great importance and I will never give up on that. Neither can aggression and rudeness be tolerated. People being put down because of where they were born or not born or someone else’s ideal of another’s education level can not be accepted either. Especially by a party official, candidate for office or office holder.
This all being said, It is with great sorrow that I must respectfully submit my resignation as Chairman of the Montana Libertarian Party effective immediately.
The election for U. S. Representative in Montana is May 25th.