From Lake County to the Libertarian ticket: Presidential candidate says both sides want change
Legalize all recreational drugs, let individuals decide about wearing face masks and end all foreign military entanglements, Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen says.
That's the "issues" side of the candidate, who recalls some of her views taking shape as she was growing up in Grayslake, participating in 4H and marching in her high school band in the 1970s.
Jorgensen, 63, now lives in South Carolina and has a doctorate in industrial psychology, was a tech entrepreneur and teaches college students.
She dove into the 2020 race with Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden because "government's too big, too noisy, too intrusive. It hurts those it tries to help," she told the Daily Herald.
She cites as an example the Food and Drug Administration, which is "so bloated by red tape," Jorgensen said. "It creates huge obstacles in bringing new drugs to the market" and is costly, hampering efforts to fight COVID-19, she said.
Jorgensen was born in 1957 at Condell Memorial Hospital in Libertyville and grew up in Grayslake.
"We were typical 1960s 'free-range' children," she said, recalling riding her bike to Woodview Elementary School and cutting across the frozen lake in winter. "I literally walked through a cornfield to get to Grayslake Junior High School."
At then-Grayslake Community High School, Jorgensen was "anti-political," objecting to student council because it reminded her of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" -- "an elite making decisions for everybody else."
She said that's the problem with America now, adding, "I don't care if it's Trump or (Speaker Nancy) Pelosi."
But she engaged at the grass-roots level, serving as president of the French and 4-H clubs and marching in the high school band as a drum major.
"Part of that was because I could fit into the uniform," she said.
While she was a freshman, the band performed at graduation, where the valedictorian caused a stir with a speech calling it "hypocritical for someone to drink a martini and tell others they couldn't smoke marijuana."
The speech struck a chord with Jorgensen, who has never used illicit drugs but wants them legalized, arguing that government interference exacerbates addiction and related problems.
"If R.J. Reynolds and Seagrams sold drugs, you wouldn't have these shootouts where innocent children are harmed," Jorgensen said.
Congress has been wrestling unsuccessfully to come up with a new aid package for Americans beset economically by COVID-19. Jorgensen opposed its predecessor, the CARES Act, because "a lot of bailout money went to large corporations. If someone isn't doing that good of a job maybe they shouldn't be bailed out. If people kept their own money (less taxes) it could help the mom-and-pop stores," she said.
Jorgensen opposes mandating mask-wearing to prevent COVID-19 spread, although "business establishments have the right to set whatever rules they want. (Like) 'no shoes, no service.' I don't think the government should do that."
On foreign relations, Jorgensen advocates turning "America into a giant Switzerland. Armed and neutral," she said, adding European countries are wealthy and should pay for their own defense. "There should be no foreign military aid."
Asked how she'd provide for millions of uninsured Americans, Jorgensen opts for a system such as the Healthy Indiana Program that offers health insurance to low-income residents at reduced prices with an annual deductible.
In late July, Jorgensen returned to her roots, making a campaign stop with voters in Green Oaks.
"I have extremely fond memories of growing up in Lake County," Jorgensen said, which include sailing on Grays Lake and skating after her father, a concrete company owner, had cleared off a section of frozen ice.
That experience translated into her love of hockey but Jorgensen can also whip out a needle and sew a French seam. One of her handmade garments made it to the Illinois State Fair finals when she was a teenager, although "to be honest, I didn't get any blue ribbons for my cooking."
She graduated in 1979 from Baylor University and in 1980 from Southern Methodist University with an MBA. She worked as a marketing representative for IBM, later owned a software duplication company and worked as a business consultant. Now, Jorgensen teaches psychology at Clemson University.
Libertarians haven't made a dent in Illinois' presidential elections. Candidate Gary Johnson received 3.8% in 2016 and 1.1% in 2012.
Jorgensen says all conventional wisdom is off in 2020 and she's optimistic.
"The myth is we mostly draw from the right; we actually draw people from both sides," she said. "However, the people who tend to give us their vote are people who are independent or who have never voted."