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Libertarians drop Calif. governor hopeful who spat on radio host

Robert Jablon
Monday September 16, 2002

LOS ANGELES – California’s Libertarian Party voted Saturday to drop its candidate for governor because he spat on a radio talk show host. 

The party’s 15-member executive committee voted to rescind its endorsement of Gary Copeland’s campaign and to censure him for “repugnant” and unprofessional conduct. 

The Libertarian Party has about 98,000 registered members in California. 

The committee’s resolution also called on Copeland to apologize and to withdraw from the campaign. The state Legislature was urged to allow the party to remove his name from the November ballot. 

“There was just a lot of anger over what he did,” party chairman Aaron Starr said Saturday. “Everybody was quite appalled.” 

Copeland, 46, said he will continue to run. The radio host “deserved to be spat upon,” he said, and discounted the committee’s resolution. 

“It means absolutely nothing. They were not the people who voted for me in the primary. They were not the people ... who nominated me,” he said in a telephone call Saturday night from his Orange County home. 

The controversy has resulted in at least two death threats, Copeland said, but it also has given him “more press than I can handle” and donations have increased his campaign warchest from $6,000 to $20,000. 

“Now people know who I am,” he said. 

Copeland said he spat on KABC-AM radio host Brian Whitman after a Sept. 8 interview at the station’s Los Angeles studio. 

Copeland said that Whitman had applauded U.S. immigration control efforts. Copeland said he compared the efforts to the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans. 

The radio host then switched off his microphone, and when Copeland got up to leave, he heard Whitman make what he considered an insulting remark, so he spat on him. 

“He had just stepped over my line,” Copeland said. 

“Anyone who would strip the rights of minorities and espouse the greatness of government while disallowing our First Amendment rights deserves to be spat on.” 

Copeland won the party’s nomination in the March primary. The party had initially supported another candidate whose name wasn’t on the ballot after a judge ruled he didn’t qualify. 

The candidate, former Bellflower mayor Art Olivier, was barred from running for office because he failed to indicate a party affiliation on his voter registration form. 

The executive committee’s resolution asked voters to cast write-in votes for Olivier. The state Legislature also was asked to allow the party to choose future candidates at its annual convention rather than a primary election. 

“We want to be able to select the candidates who represent us,” Starr said. “Why does the state have any business telling us who we think our candidate should be?”