Governor Appoints Libertarian to Liquor Commission

From Eric Werme:

On August 24th, 1993, Governor Steve Merrill (R) of New Hampshire announced his intent to appoint Libertarian Miriam Luce to the state's liquor commission. She will replace a Democrat who was forced to step down for using his influence as a member of Manchester, New Hampshire's police commission to get a liquor broker's arrest for DWI reduced to speeding.

The state liquor board has three commissioners, and state rules mandate that the board must not be composed of members of a single political party. The other two commissioners are Republicans, and all the speculation on who would be appointed to the spot centered on Democrats.

The early coverage I've seen has been positive from politicians, including the Democrats. This may have something to do with the Democrats saying that the commission should be privatized (I assume because they've always been in the minority on the board), and Luce also has supported privatizating the board in her gubernatorial campaigns in 1992 and 1990. The head of the state employee's union and some of the liquor brokers are more concerned about what Luce's impact may be.

Luce promises to leave her philosophical views are the commission door. Candidate Luce: "State government has become the supreme vice lord of New Hampshire, running liquor stores and lotteries.. It is time these industries were allowed to rise and fall in the private sector." Nominee Luce: "I am not a revolutionary. ... I was a candidate then, I have been nominated for a position now and that position is managerial. There is no preconceived notion about what can or should be done and I mean that."

Governor Merrill: "What I would like to do is take a fresh look at how we can deliver more for less."

As for commissioner Luce, that requires approval of the five-member executive council which will decide in two weeks. The only councilor to speak against Luce in public was Raymond Burton(R), who said that the nominee should have come from the North Country. Burton's district is northern New Hampshire.

Luce is a management consultant and a graduate of Dartmouth's Tuck Business School. Her management background includes a multimmillion dollar operation in New York City, which she left to return to the friendlier confines of New Hampshire.

Libertarian to Join Liquor Commission

August 26, 1993, from David Eagle:

Concord, NH - In what has been heralded by state Libertarian leaders as the biggest single breakthrough for the party thus far, two-time Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Miriam Luce of Windham has been picked by New Hampshire Governor Steve Merrill to replace a scandal-tainted member of the state's three-person Liquor Commission. If confirmed, Luce's nomination would mark the first appointment of a Libertarian to a statewide office in the United States.

"I'm choosing a woman of talent and ability," Merrill said at an August 24th State House new conference, one day before officially nominating Luce. The official nomination will take place at the August 25th meeting of the state Executive Council, which approves or rejects all gubernatorial nominations. Merrill called attention to Luce's interest and expertise in marketing, her managerial skills, her MBA from Dortmouth's Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, and her "outstanding integrity and outstanding competence." Merrill said he got to know Luce during last year's gubernatorial campaign, when he had "debated her, and on occasion been whupped by her."

"One of the hardest calls I ever made was the call to Miriam Luce to ask if she would accept this nomination." Merrill said he realized that Luce was "not necessarily the greatest spokesman" for state bureaucracy. "And I have an idea that Miriam Luce's high school yearbook has no caption under her picture which says 'hopes to grow up to be a liquor commissioner'."

Luce said she "was genuinely surprised" nearly two weeks earlier when she got a call from Merrill. "After due consideration and consultation I decided to accept the Governor's nomination." Luce said she would enter the position, if confimed, "with no preconceived notions," and would apply herself to learning the job. She said her nomination "endorses the notion that we have brought to the marketplace of ideas some concepts that have merit, and are worth examining and possibly implementing." She called New Hampshire "arguably the most Libertarian state in the country."

Luce, who ran against Merrill and Democrat Deborah "Arnie" Arneson in 1992, first won major party status for New Hampshire Libertarians with her 5% vote showing in the 1990 race for Governor. The fact that during her two campaigns for Governor Luce said repeatedly that the state should get out of the liquor business, calling state government, with its liquor and gambling monopolies, "the biggest vice-lord in the state," led some in the media and in state government to suppose that her nomination is intended as a first step toward privatizing state liquor stores. But state Libertarian Party chair Doug Harrigan said people must realize that Libertarians have no illusion that their philosophy can be implemented at once. "Pragmatically, you have to have consensus before you can effect change," he said.

Luce, 44, is a former International Paper Company manager and commissioned securities dealer. If confirmed, Luce could begin serving her 6-year term as Commissioner soon after out-going Roger Boisvert's planned September 17th departure from office. The full-time, business-heavy workload of the $45,088 - $57,824/yr. post might leave Luce no time for either of her two current weekly radio talk shows. Reporters suggested the commission job might also serve to conveniently keep Luce from mounting another campaign against Merrill for Governor next year. But in spite of her growing and politically valuable radio listenership, Luce had previously said she would not run again for Governor.

Although Luce's nomination to a previously Democrat-held office might understandably have disappointed them, leading House Democrats gave a ringing endorsement of Merrill's choice. Assistant Democratic whip Peter Burling called Luce "extraordinarily competent, intelligent and introspective -- a really good appointee. She would fit well into our look at downsizing the commission." House Democratic Leader Rick Trombly called on Merrill to "retain Ms. Luce as the sole liquor commissioner once [Democratic] legislation becomes law. We firmly believe that he should have his appointee in office when the streamlined liquor commission comes into being." Trombly also said he "would like to welcome the Libertarian Party into their new active role in the administration of state government. They have proven themselves as legislators. We look forward to their success in the administration."

Not all had good things to say about the Luce appointment, however. Chris Henchey, chief negotiator for the NH State Employees Association said that while Luce is certainly qualified, "our concern is one of privatization. We need to get a real close look at this nominee, given the Libertarian foundations -- their tendency to want to dismantle government. There's some real question about balance -- the Tuck MBA versus the strong campaign stands she took."

State Libertarian Party spokesmen were clearly elated by Luce's nomination.

"I think the Governor made an absolutely brilliant move in appointing Miriam," said House Libertarian Leader Don Gorman (L-Deerfield). "This action is sending out more damned messages to more major players than you can believe. The fact that the Governor recognizes the usefulness of a Libertarian in this role demonstrates not only his political savvy, but the fact that we have advanced in stature to the point where a governor would feel comfortable associating with us in this fashion. Miriam's appointment should certainly be the death-knell for the word 'bi-partisan' in this state, and we can thank Steve Merrill for recognizing that New Hampshire is truly tri-partisan'!"

Harrigan said Merrill had "simultaneously shaken up the political establishment, helped legitimize the Libertarian Party, and put legislators on notice that he thinks the Libertarian small-government philosophy has a place in state government. It's a big day for us -- at least as big as placing an official Libertarian delegation in the House in last year's election."