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A spirit that is not afraid

Libertarian Auburn student announces candidacy for House seat

In a race full of five Republican real estate brokers, lawyers and a businessman, an Auburn economics student is in the process of collecting signatures to get on the ballot to run for Auburn's House District 79 as a Libertarian.

Gage Fenwick, a junior at Auburn studying economics, announced his plans to run for the Alabama House of Representatives seat formerly held by Auburn Republican and media executive Mike Hubbard.

Hubbard served as the speaker from November 2010 until June 2016. He was removed from office early last month after being found guilty of 12 felony ethics violations. His sentencing is set for Friday, July 8.

Fenwick said after Hubbard's conviction, along with impeachment proceedings against Gov. Robert Bentley and a judicial ethics trial against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the people of Alabama's faith in their government has been destroyed. But he doesn't want to repair it.

"I do believe people have absolutely lost their faith in the Alabama state government, and the thing is: I don't want to restore people's faith in government," Fenwick said. "I want people to question their government everyday. I want it to be a situation where people are always questioning their representative on how they voted — always calling them out on why they made certain decisions."

Fenwick said that in a state in which many public officials face no challenger for their election, corruption can quickly show its face.

"When you have a situation where people are safe and feel faith in their government, that government feels the ability and the power to control and put more pressure on the people," Fenwick said. "Then the government doesn't fear the people."

"I don't want that, I want a government that is constantly in fear of the people," he said.

Fenwick is from Pell City, Alabama, but graduated high school in Daytona Beach, Florida. He served as an Alabama state coordinator for the Student for Rand Paul campaign before the libertarian-leaning Republican senator dropped his presidential bid earlier this year.

Fenwick said after Paul left the race, he felt lost. He supports conservative fiscal policy, but when it comes to many social issues, he's more liberal. Neither of the two major political parties, the Republicans nor the Democrats, seemed like a good fit.

"I fell in limbo, I didn't really know where to go as far as politically," he said. "I've always had libertarian ideals, but I never really looked at the party."

He said he found his home in the Libertarian Party, and he went on to serve as a delegate to the Libertarian convention this year for one of the presidential candidates Austin Petersen.

"He was the one who made me realize I should join the Libertarian Party," he said. "It's really for one major reason. It's because of the Liberty movement — this movement to push freedom for the people [and] to take away that authoritarian rule of government."

A professor at Auburn inspired him to run as a third-party candidate in this election cycle.

"I just realized that within the current two-party system, the people are limited with their choices," Fenwick said. "I want to give the people another option. I don't want it to be whoever wins the Republican primary that's the de facto representative."

Bentley set the special election for Auburn's seat for Nov. 29, barring the need for a run-off in the Republican primary. In the case of a run-off, the general election would be moved to Feb. 7, 2017.

He needs 276 verified signatures by Sept. 13 to get on the ballot in November.

"I think this election [cycle] has sparked a lot of intrigue amongst people of all ages," Fenwick said. "With Bernie Sanders' campaign, he's brought so many of the youth and millennial out for his campaign. I feel like Auburn students are beginning to realize how important politics is in their daily life — especially now that they have a chance to choose a state representative, someone who is going to affect this University more than any other individual other than the president of the University."

"I believe they deserve a voice," he said. "As a student running, I could help inspire them to get out and get active and make their voices heard."

In his first 100 days in office, Fenwick said criminal justice reform would be one of his first priorities.

"With Medicaid, the next largest portion of our budget would be our state prison system," Fenwick said. "I'm not saying that justice is wrong and I'm not saying putting criminals away is a bad thing."

"What I am saying is when you have an individual who has enacted a crime where he or she has inflicted no harm on any individual, property or anyone's liberties, it's wrong to put them in prison," he said.

Fenwick said he would push to decriminalize marijuana and other certain drugs. In a socially conservative state like Alabama, he said he realizes the transitions will have to be slow.

"I would want to enact change where non-violent offenders are no longer put in prison, but we just slowly transition away to where we work toward a system where they're not put in prison, and they go back to being productive members of society," Fenwick said.

Check out The Plainsman's comprehensive coverage of the House District 79 election

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