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When Shelby Mood got to the part about legalizing marijuana, he confronted his own past head on.
Mood, the Libertarian candidate for 117th state House District, is an Army veteran with combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army let him go with an "other than honorable discharge" for smoking pot, he said.
"I accept what has happened. I don't blame the Army," he told party members at the Henderson County Libertarian Party Convention Sunday afternoon at the Best Western motel on Sugarloaf Road. "But I don't think the nation's marijuana policy benefited either me or the Army. They lost a decorated veteran" who served two tours of duty.
It was one of the contradictions of the county's Libertarian Party convention that its state House nominee had an otherwise honorable military career while its U.S. Senate nominee, Sean Haugh of Durham, pressed a campaign to end all wars.
Thirty-two people turned out for the convention, which featured tables stocked with campaign material on everything from gun rights to marijuana to taxes to Ayn Rand's books.
Mood, 34, was born to parents who worked in civilian Defense Department jobs in Germany. After high school, he earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from Clemson University and immediately joined the Army. He served in the nurse corps from 2004 to 2011, reaching the rank of captain before his involuntary discharge. He and his wife, Sandra, and their three children — ages 14, 10 and four months — live in Edneyville.
Why did he want to run for the Legislature?
"To be blunt, I didn't," he said in an interview. "I wanted to spend more time at home with my family. But looking at my children I wanted them to live in a better world and I decided to be the change I wanted to see."
How's the campaign going?
"As far as I know, it's going well," he said. "Money's always an issue, so if you want to donate feel free. ... People are starting to recognize that more of the same is not cutting it."
Introducing the candidate, Sandra Mood called her husband "the most caring, compassionate man I ever met."
Mood explained that the Libertarian philosophy can be summed up with the saying that "the government that governs best governs least."
That translates in his campaign to expanding Second Amendment rights, ending the state income tax and legalizing pot.
"Our neighboring state to the west, Tennessee, doesn't have an income tax," he said. The eight other states without one lead the nation in economic growth, he added. "Abolishing the state income tax is a reasonable goal and I would be happy to work with conservatives — real conservatives — to implement it," he said, triggering applause. "This state doesn't have a revenue problem. Like so many other states it has a spending problem."
Mood criticized two-term Republican Chuck McGrady for his record on guns and taxes.
"My opponent doesn't have a problem with taxes," he said, adding that McGrady had voted to tax tickets to attractions like the State Fair.
"The next time you're enjoying the rides or enjoying a funnel cake and some cotton candy, remember that North Carolina is going to be putting its greedy little hands in your pocket," he said.
He reserved his harshest attack for McGrady's record on gun rights issues.
"He was given a grade of zero by Grassroots North Carolina," a political group considered even more aggressively pro-gun that the NRA. The organization "called him one of three weasels in the North Carolina House. ... He voted to make it a felony to have a gun in your car while your child is at school," he said.
Other speakers were Haugh, who polled at 7 percent in a campaign survey by the Civitas Institute, a Raleigh-based conservative organization, and Windy McKinney, a Libertarian nominee for a seat on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.
"Stopping all wars is my main issue," Haugh, 53, said in an interview. "We're in perpetual wars and growing tremendous debt to pay for it. I think most people are tired of perpetual wars and we're in a situation now of bombing our own weapons we left behind in Iraq."
Haugh has a night job delivering pizza. He said by using social media he can campaign more effectively than he did 12 years ago, the first time he ran for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian. He's using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (@emperorsean) to get his message out.
"I'm going for the win," he said. "There are only three people that can possibly be elected and I'm one of them."