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GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy talks about Libertarian past, eminent domain

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GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy talks about Libertarian past, eminent domain

Dec 09, 2023 | 6:01 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
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GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy talks about Libertarian past, eminent domain
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Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy spoke and answered questions at a Pizza Ranch campaign stop in Primghar Dec. 9, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said he is no longer a Libertarian – but told a crowd in Primghar Saturday afternoon that he still holds many of the same values as some Libertarians, including opposition to the use of eminent domain in building carbon-capture pipelines.

Answering questions from a group of more than 40 people gathered at the Primghar Pizza Ranch, Ramaswamy addressed a claim from Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who said that Ramaswamy voted for former President Barack Obama. The Ohio conservative said that he has never been a Democrat, but did vote for a Libertarian presidential candidate in his first election in 2004 – voting for Libertarian Michael Badnarik instead of former President George W. Bush or Democrat John Kerry.

In college, Ramaswamy said he was a “Libertarian rapper,” but has changed in the years since. The 38-year-old said that he still stands by the belief that government needs to “get the heck out of our hair,” but that he believes the government – and the president – still has a role to play in Americans’ personal lives.

“I think half the job of not just the president, but all of us, is to revive our sense of purpose in this country,” Ramaswamy said. “And I think bringing back faith and family, not by government force, but through the example, as we said is also important for our revival. And so, that’s not Libertarian anymore.”

On Friday, the Libertarian Party of Iowa sent out a news release acknowledging an “approach by the Ramaswamy campaign” about potentially running for president as a Libertarian. Libertarian Party of Iowa Chair Jules Cutler said in the news release that the campaign’s inquiry is a “testament to the growing recognition that the spectrum of American political discourse must encompass diverse perspectives,” and praised the candidate’s recent focus on carbon-capture pipelines.

“Mr. Ramaswamy’s recent stance on the issue of eminent domain echoes the ideals held by many Iowans,” continued Cutler, “The Libertarian Party of Iowa has proudly collaborated with thousands across the state, from all parts of the political spectrum, united in the fight to protect property rights against the abuse of state power.”

Ramaswamy opposes government using eminent domain for private construction in cases such as Summit Carbon Solutions’ and Navigator CO2 Ventures’ pipeline proposals in Iowa. Navigator withdrew its pipeline permit application in October, while Summit is awaiting a permit decision from the Iowa Utilities Board.

At an Iowa event in late November, he called for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to publicly voice her stance on the use of eminent domain in these cases.

In Primghar, Ramaswamy criticized other Republican presidential candidates for not talking about issues like the use of eminent domain in building carbon-capture pipelines, which he said was unconstitutional.

“Why am I the only candidate who’s able to even say these things to you?” Ramaswamy said. “It’s because every politician dances to the tune of their biggest donor, like a fact of nature.”

Ramaswamy, who polled at 4% in the October Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll, has said he hopes to defy expectations in the Iowa Republican caucuses by bringing in first-time caucusgoers as well as groups from typically underrepresented communities in the Republican contest, such as young voters.

Janna Rounds of Primghar said she is planning to support Ramaswamy on caucus night – and said that she believes he will do well with Republicans regardless of previous Libertarian affiliations.

“He speaks his mind and, you know, will be a platform for the rest of us that are saying the same thing,” Rounds said. “… I think he will do well, I think he will do wonderful.”

The candidate told the crowd he expects to deliver a “major surprise” at the Iowa Republican caucuses on Jan. 15, 2024, and called for Iowans to help by supporting him in the caucuses.

“We’re trusting you to tell the difference between someone who comes in and reads you poll-tested platitudes and someone who’s telling you what they actually think,” Ramaswamy said.