|Gary Nolan is a radio talk show host from Cleveland, Ohio.
He switched from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party in January
1999. Nolan has been campaigning full time to be the LP's 2004 nominee
for president since he formally filed with the Federal Election Commission
on January 17, 2003. In subsequent months he has appeared at more
than a dozen state LP conventions around the country.
Interview: "Seize the day; don't wait
for the government."
Q. Your biography says you were a small businessman from Cleveland...
NOLAN: I owned a security and alarm company and the family business was the tavern business, so I know what it's like to be regulated.
Q. How long did you do those?
NOLAN: Well the family business is still the tavern business. My sister's running it currently and it's three generations of tavern owners. I was in the security and alarm business from 1984 'til 1990, about 1990, that's when I sold the company.
Q. And how did you get into radio?
NOLAN: I always wanted to do radio, and I watched Phil Donahue doing his television program. Phil Donahue's also from Cleveland. And he went to a high school that was my rival. I went to Cathedral Latin; he went to St. Eds (phon.). And I thought there's got to be a counter for this guy. And I wanted to be it.
Q. A lot of people want to be on radio. How did you actually make that first step?
NOLAN: I found a small radio station out in Chardin, Ohio, WCDN. It was a daytimer -- I think they're still on the air -- and they let me do news on weekends. So I'd go in and do the news, rip and read, re-type dome things, run the computer, make sure they stayed up. And then as the summer dwindled, daylight dwindled, the job disappeared. Daytimers they call 'em. And then I went on to Willoughby, Ohio, and I got my first full-time job on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Then up to Syracuse, New York -- I ended up doing morning drive, and I finally made the switch to talk radio, which was my goal from the get go. And we were very hot. We were so hot that the program director at the AM station we were competing with called Ed Shane Media in Houston, Texas and told 'em to get me a job out of town. We went national in Dallas with USA Radio; went to Radio America after that.
Q. When did you go national?
Q. Why did you stop doing radio?
NOLAN: I can't run this campaign and be on the air. I stopped
doing the show last November right after Election Day.
Q. Your first political memory; what's the first memory you have of politics?
NOLAN: My first memory of a politician or of politics was the
Nixon-Kennedy race and I was only, I was just a kid. I had no idea
what it was about, but at the time I thought I liked Kennedy. I didn't
know what he stood for. I had no idea what Nixon was running for.
It was just you're talking about a six-year old kid's impression of politics.
The next time that I really got involved in politics was when Nixon ran
for president in '72. I voted for him; it was my first vote, as an
18-year old. I was the first class of 18-year olds that got to vote.
Let me add I feel like taking it back after that vote.
Q. Who are a couple of people who have really influenced you as you've progressed through your career?
NOLAN: Gene Burns. [>]
... Gene Burns is a radio talk show host. I used to do the
morning show at HEN [WHEN] up in Syracuse, New York and after I got through
with my show I had to engineer tape-delayed Gene Burns shows. And
that was the first time I'd heard the word libertarian. And you've
never heard a more eloquent speaker. Not only does he have a great
set of pipes, not only does he have a booming and clear voice, his command
of the English language, the way he puts words together, his phraseology
and his logic is almost unflappable, so when he debates, he wins.
And if I've got an idol out there, it's Gene Burns.
Q. Your transition [Republican to Libertarian] in January of '99, what triggered that?
NOLAN: Well by then I'd had Harry Browne on the show, I'd had
George Getz, who's from the LP, lots of LP members, lots of CATO people,
and it was, at that point there was no way I was going to remain a Republican.
It's not easy to make that change; it's like you find that you've been
worshipping at the wrong altar all your life. It's not easy to change
religions. Eventually I think if you have any gray matter at all
you say I have to do what's intellectually honest and the LP is it.
Q. How do you come to be a candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination for president of the United States; when did you first get this notion--?
NOLAN: I was toying around with this idea from more than a year. In fact I made a speech in front of the Virginia LP better than a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago. But the network is a (c)(3) [501(c)(3)] and then you have the--the radio network I was working for is a (c)(3) and they couldn't let me do an exploratory commitee because it might endanger their tax exempt status and then if I do pursue this I can't do it with equal time laws.
So this is my opportunity to pick up a musket; this is part of my revolutionary war--it's to go out and inform the American public that the Democrats and Republicans not only don't have the answers, they have most of the problems and they've provided most of the problems.
Q. But what was it that triggered you to start thinking along these lines...?
NOLAN: Because I thought I could communicate libertarian philosophy
more effectively and because I have an opportunity to get more media, more
earned media that libertarian presidential candidates had in the past.
I've been on television; I've had a lot of guests that host TV programs
on my radio show. I think there's an exchange there I can take advantage
Q. Have you talked with some of the people who have done this before--Harry Browne or...are there any major points that they say over and over, themes you get, lessons learned...?
NOLAN: They've offered their advice, much of it is sage-like. They've gone through the mill, and I've got to tell you they're all very generous with their opinions and--
Q. What are two or three things, recurrent themes, that you hear from those folks?
NOLAN: They're going to write a lot of bad things about you.
Don't take it to heart; it's just politics. And they all acknowledge
it. Some political advice that I can't--until you run for president
I can't give it to you.
Q. Getting your message out... Have you developed...a written plan--25, 50, 100, 500 pages?
NOLAN: We're not going to do a white paper. The issues that we're going to deal with primarily are the issues the American public are concerned with. And the solutions are much simpler thatn the Democrats and Republicans would have you believe.
Q. Right, but in terms of communicating your message. There are always high expectations to start and it just doesn't pan out. Do you have any creative ideas or somehting that you're going to do differently--
NOLAN: Yes. First thing we're going to do is take advantage of my media credentials, my media background. Something that Harry [Browne] couldn't do. Harry didn't have the background. I've already been on ABC World News, I've been on MSNBC, I've been on Fox; I've had these guys on my show. I've had--Bill O'Reilly's been on my show, Chris Matthews--been on the show. So I have an opportunity that they didn't have, and we're going to take advantage of that. So that's going to help to get the message out.
Next the message is going to be upbeat and positive. No more negative
messages. I don't think that gets anybody elected. And if you
look at the American political arena, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, all
the guys who won, they won by painting a positive picture. The difference
between them and us, as Libertarians, is that we can deliver. I don't
think they can. I don't think they ever could, but we can.
Q. When this is all over, assuming you do succeed in getting the nomination, how would you define success?
NOLAN: Are there more people involved at the local level?
Are there more people at the state level? That's how we know that
I've been successful. If the numbers are flat or they go down, I've
not been successful. It's not a matter of do I get a million votes
or two million votes or a half million votes, it's a matter of what do
we do for the party.
Q. Where are you in this endeavor, in this whole process? You've been going to the various state conventions... 1
NOLAN: We've done, I don't know, maybe 15 state conventions, a couple of smaller conventions; we're doing some outreach now--we're hitting college campuses, we're doing radio, we'll be doing some TV, so we're moving along I think very well.
Q. Fundraising, are you at the point where you can do direct mail? 2
NOLAN: We're about to do some mail. Our fundraising has been very
good. I think we've raised more than twice what our opponent has
raised, so I think we're doing very well.
Q. Any other words you would add?
NOLAN: Yeah. Carpe diem. Make it happen. Seize
the day; don't wait for the government.
1. Florida (Feb. 1), California (Feb. 16), Oklahoma (Feb. 22), Illinois (Mar. 1), Iowa (Mar. 1), Wisconsin (Mar. 22), Minnesota (Mar. 29), Pennsylvania (Apr. 6), Massachusetts (Apr. 12), North Carolina (Apr. 26), Indiana (Apr. 26), Georgia (May 3), Ohio (May 10) and DC (May 31).
2. In the first quarter of 2003 Nolan reported raising $11,600 from 37 individuals and spending $10,918.08--a $200 contribution was returned.
Copyright © 2003 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action