Kentucky voices: In Galbraith, we lost a strong advocate for liberty

The author, left, an engineer and land surveyor who lives in Jackson, was Gatewood Galbraith's running mate for the 2007 Democratic primary for governor.
The author, left, an engineer and land surveyor who lives in Jackson, was Gatewood Galbraith's running mate for the 2007 Democratic primary for governor.

During our 2007 primary run, Gatewood Galbraith shared the observation that occasionally someone would enter a conversation with him assuming that he held the same beliefs as they. He said they seemed to feel they knew him or identified so well that they would project their beliefs onto him.

He must be a bit of an enigma, he said.

With that in mind, I'll mention that my perspective here comes from a small corner in the libertarian wing of the "Gateworld." In my view, Galbraith's legacy has been his lifelong labor for liberty.

It has been comforting, to a degree, to see and hear respect paid to Gatewood in media coverage of his passing. He was obviously appreciated by many. The coverage has been largely respectful, appreciative and positive. I have noticed, though, the little disclaimers, qualifiers, and open questions tacked on by some who opine.

It's fair, most would say, that they offer these critiques since Gatewood became a public figure by running for office. People are certainly entitled to their opinions. And there may be some accuracy or validity to these detractions. But the man does deserve a defense.

I've seen questions recently such as: Did he want to be taken seriously? How serious was he? Did he really want to win?

I can assure you he did want to win. He did try to win. He was, as I heard him say many times, a serious man. He proposed thoughtful and innovative solutions such as his Commonwealth Incentive for education, Kentucky-owned (as opposed to private) casinos for revenue, and Kentucky hemp for agricultural and industrial development.

One could disagree with those proposals, but they were serious. Yet, the first question one newspaper editorial board asked at our endorsement interview was: Who's endorsed you and how much money have you raised?

There have been the comments such as: He was the perennial candidate. He just ran because he enjoyed it. Someone else noted Gatewood embraced the perennial candidate label, pointing out, "Kentucky has perennial problems."

Yes, he enjoyed campaigning, but not as much as some seem to think. He suffered physically. I traveled the state with him and shared hotel rooms with him. He was often exhausted and in pain. Campaigning is work and he toiled. Does standing at an intersection in the wind and snow to get your message out sound like fun?

Promoting a message statewide with limited funds may be impossible. Politicos have said Gatewood might have won an election if he'd played in the system. Maybe if he had been more of a conformist he could have raised more money along the way. But being obligated to too many probably didn't seem all that liberating to him. Don't misunderstand. He wanted campaign donations. He believed (lack of) funding was all that kept him from winning. Gatewood did poll relatively well around home in Central Kentucky, where he was known. I wish he could have been known better elsewhere. Fund-raising would have helped. But I don't think he valued money as much as most people.

Gatewood valued liberty. He sacrificed wealth to pursue and live it. Many prominent in the legal profession have highly complimented his courtroom skills. It's been stated that he could have had a more prosperous legal practice had he been more focused on that. But he saw his mission as trying to promote change and solutions for the people of this state. He sacrificed in other ways too.

Nothing makes me want to defend my friend more than knowing he literally stood against the United Nations when they were foolhardily allowed to lead the Independence Day parade in Lexington. He went to jail for that (charges dropped). His allegiance was to the Constitution.

Gatewood was a great speaker. I heard every one of our opponents remark that they hated to follow him speaking at the forums. We have now lost a powerful voice and great advocate for liberty. It was a voice of intellect, courage and conviction.

We may not want to follow or speak after him, but if we want his legacy of a lifetime's work for liberty to grow, we must.