Down to earth, literally a meat and potatoes kind of guy, Austin Petersen, a 1999 graduate of Ray-Pec, will officially announce his run for the Presidency of the United States tonight on John Stossel’s program that will air at 7 PM on Fox Business news. Petersen, who will run on the Libertarian ticket, took time out of his busy schedule to set down with his hometown newspaper for an interview.
Majoring in Music Theater at Missouri State University, Petersen had no inclination for politics initially. “I never really wanted to be a politician,” he said. At the encouragement of a growing grass roots group of people likeminded with him, Petersen decided to run. “If we look at the options we have right now, they are pretty dismal. I’m intensely interested in the ideas of freedom and liberty. I thought maybe this would be an opportunity for me to articulate to the American people what it really means to believe in limited government, constitutionalism, free markets and capitalism.”
Petersen grew up on a local farm in Peculiar, spending his summers growing chrysanthemums with his brother that they would then sell in town during the holiday season. Learning the financial benefits of hard work stuck with him when he struck out to New York City where he eventually landed a TV producer role for Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News. While there, he became utterly disgusted with the high amount of taxes he paid, upwards to 40%. “As someone who was struggling at the time, it made me upset and angry. Instead of sitting down and taking it, I decided to stand up and get active,” Petersen declared. Currently a small business owner/entrepreneur, Petersen works as a professional consultant and producer of an online news magazine. While only 34 years old, Peterson will turn 35 in February thereby meeting the legal requirements under Article II Section I of the United States Constitution.
Having a few connections with people who followed his work both in New York as well as with Ron Paul as a grass roots activist in 2007, Petersen has a solid base of 800 supporters. “Now that I’m running they have galvanized,” commented Petersen. But it’s not only grass roots support that has him excited about his prospects, but also his relationships with “esteemed economists, defense experts, military experts, environmental experts” which have garnered some institutional support as well. Petersen has also gained political experience in the past decade working for both the Tea Party and Libertarian Party. Petersen’s political idols include Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. He enjoys quoting Coolidge saying, “The business of the American people is business.”
As with anyone running for a political position, there are key points that define the campaign. For Petersen it is exposing and reforming government corruption. With a recent Gallop Poll revealing that 75% of Americans see widespread government corruption, Petersen’s message may resonate well with many voters. There are five primary targets on his radar including the IRS, Veteran’s Affairs, and the EPA. Petersen is currently organizing a think tank to work on a reform plan for these agencies. He wants to “suggest to the American people that it is time for us to reform our system of government. The founders wrote into the Constitution plenty of options for us to take advantage of. If we cannot reform those institutions through the general processes, I think it is time for us to push for an Article V Convention.” Petersen acknowledges that doing so can be dangerous but also points out that it has been used before as motivation for government leaders to pass reform on their own before a convention could be called, specifically in the Progressive Era. For those unfamiliar with Article V Conventions, they are formed by representatives from each state that can make amendments to the Constitution circumventing the elected leaders. A lot has to happen to bring a convention to fruition. The Constitution says that legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof. Trying to get that many states to agree could be difficult, but with the current climate of distrust of Washington D.C., not out of the realm of possibilities.
Being somewhat of an underdog when it comes to financial resources for his campaign, Petersen has a two pronged strategy on how to fund it. First is to involve the grass roots supporters with small donations and volunteering. Second is reaching out to institutional donors in New York and Washington D.C. to support the first Millennial to run for the Presidency thereby engaging a whole new generation of voters. “Someone has to represent the true, capitalistic, free-market, constitutionalist view point of things. There are people who have a vested interest generationally in seeing a movement grow,” noted Petersen. He also says that his campaign will operate on a principle that he has used in his own life. “The best people take small amounts of resources and do great things with them,” he stated.
Calling the Midwest home, Petersen wants to represent the American Heartland and get his area excited about his campaign. “If the American voters want to vote for someone who embodied the American Dream, a boy who was born in Independence, raised in Peculiar, who went to the big city and made it big – that’s the American Dream. I’m hoping that I can convince the American people that I’m worthy of their vote.”