Libertarians shun Chief Wana Dubie.

Critics say he's just blowing smoke.

Jan 30, 2008 at 4:00 am
The stunning news that Governor Matt Blunt would not seek re-election this fall left Chief Wana Dubie pondering his electoral future. The kooky, pot-smoking political wannabe from Salem, Missouri, had high hopes of running for governor with a one-for-the-ages campaign slogan: "Dubie vs. Blunt '08."

Finding a new call to arms isn't the only thing Wana Dubie is in need of these days. Last week he learned that the Missouri Libertarian Party will decline his $200 filing fee, which is necessary to officially declare his candidacy and secure a place on the ballot. The 50-year-old Dubie, who answers the phone, "This is the Chief," says he was devastated by the news that his filing fee would not be accepted and has since abandoned his ambitions to run for governor as a Libertarian. "I don't know what to think about it. I've always felt like a man without a country. Now I feel like a man without a party," he says.

Twice before, Dubie has run for office as a Libertarian. In 1994 he appeared on the ballot under his given name, Joseph Bickell, as a candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives in the 112th District. He received just 1.8 percent of the vote. In 2006 he tried again in the 150th District in central Missouri, this time under the moniker Chief Wana Dubie. Though handily defeated, he did manage to snag 4.5 percent of the vote — not too bad for a man with a pot-leaf tattoo that covers most of his forehead.

The decision not to accept Dubie's filing fee has sparked controversy among party leaders who feel that it is at odds with the party's pledge of individual freedom and a hands-off government. But Greg Tlapek, executive director of Missouri's Libertarian Party, says many party members are opposed to Dubie and the baggage that accompanies the tie-dyed hippie. Support for Libertarians is at an all-time high this year owing to the success of presidential candidate Ron Paul — a Republican who has pronounced Libertarian sensibilities.

"The party did not take official action to keep him off the ballot, but there are some who did not want him to be a candidate," Tlapek reports. "That's not how we want the Libertarian Party to be represented to people who don't know the party's platform. He took his own action. It was his own decision not to run as a Libertarian, but it does not displease a lot of people in the party."

Though legalizing marijuana and all drugs is an integral part of the Libertarian Party platform, it's hardly surprising that the party might distance itself from Dubie.

"My great-great-great grandfather was Chief Santimaw. He was like the last of the Mohicans, but the court says I'm not enough Indian to be Indian," Dubie says, recalling how he chose his name. "I wanted to be Chief Joseph, but my friends said I can't have that name, it's already taken. Then one time my buddy came by and threw down bag of weed and rolled up a doobie. It was getting passed around and he said 'Hey Chief, want a doobie?' Right away I knew that was it."

Dubie says he went by the nickname for seventeen years before making the change official in court in July of last year.

Dubie says he has a long history of pot-related arrests, most notably in 1994 when he planted 135 marijuana plants in the front yard of his Salem home and then "seceded from the United States and declared pot legal." The rebellion, though, was short lived. State police arrested Dubie, who eventually spent five years in prison. His political views, as stated on his Web site, cover everything from various conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination to his claim that the popularity of the National Football League is a sign the U.S. government will crumble like the Roman Empire.

"In 2006 he was the one Libertarian candidate that got front-page coverage in the Post-Dispatch," Tlapek adds. "It sucks. It blows. It's all about what the media chooses to cover, and we get screwed by the occasional weird candidate."

The only other time Libertarians in Missouri refused a filing fee came in 2006, when Glenn Miller, a white supremacist, attempted to run for Congress. "I'm personally against the idea of refusing even the white supremacist's fee," Tlapek says. "It sets a bad precedent, that party insiders get to decide who they vote on. That's the whole purpose of a primary: to get the decisions out of a smoke-filled back room."

Last week, incidentally, the U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold precisely such a policy in a similar case, New York State Board of Elections v. López Torres, which dealt with the partisan process of selecting judicial candidates in New York state. "Party conventions, with their attendant 'smoke-filled rooms' and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a twelve-page opinion on the decision.

Not everyone in the Libertarian Party is opposed to Wana Dubie running. In a meeting in spring 2007, the Libertarian state committee voted down a motion to reject Dubie's filing fee if he decided to run in 2008.

"Returning his filing fee would not only be stump-stupid, it would also be at least close to an abuse of power," Thomas Knapp, a St. Louis County native and a representative on the Missouri Libertarian Party executive committee, wrote to Tlapek in an e-mail that was later posted on Dubie's MySpace page. "If we want press," wrote Knapp, "I suppose that publicly repudiating the MOLP candidate who turned in the best performance in a three-way race in 2006, and who arguably achieved not only the most, but the most positive, publicity for the MOLP in that year, is one way to get it."

The Libertarian Party isn't the only natural ally that doesn't want any part of the Chief. Dan Viets, an attorney who coordinates the Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says his organization can't endorse candidates owing to its nonprofit status. But if it could, Wana Dubie would be NORML's last choice.

"I guess I could call myself Chief Wana Abortion and declare myself a candidate and try and to get Planned Parenthood to help me, but they'd stay a mile away from me," says Viets. "[Wana Dubie] doesn't do anything to further the debate on [the issue of medical marijuana]. I can't see that he does a goddamn thing other than bring attention to himself."

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