: This was the first in a series of interviews with Libertarian TheLibertarianIdentity-Squarecandidates from around the country. Our next interview was with Ruben Corvalan of Texas, who is once again running for the U.S. House seat in District 23.

This summer, Paul Stanton—a Libertarian candidate for current Senator Marco Rubio’s seat in Florida—talked with The Libertarian Identity writer Brian McLaughlin about his background, his most spirited positions and what he would bring to the table if he was elected. Stanton won the first statewide Libertarian primary in late August, receiving 74 percent of the vote.

Stanton, 31, was born in Oklahoma and spent parts of his childhood in Arizona, Illinois and then finally in Fort Wayne, Indiana—where he graduated high school. He was taking the military’s ASVAB test in high school the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 … with the media center TVs showing the footage live while the testing took place. When he watched the second plane hit the tower, it was then that he knew he wanted to serve his country.

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His first “postsecondary degree” came from the School of Hard Knocks—in Baghdad, Iraq in the Army. Those experiences would set the table for the strong beliefs he espouses today, something that seems to be a theme with many military veterans who have joined the ranks of the Libertarian Party.

When Stanton finished his six-year tour in early 2009—as an E-5 Sergeant—he went back to school at Indiana University-Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW). His chosen career path is computer programming and data analytics, and he works for Frontier Communications—and was able to relocate to a company branch in Florida a year ago.

The reason for the move? “To be closer to my family,” Stanton told TLI. “People tend to move to Florida when they get older and my family is no exception.”

He resides in DeLand: Home of Stetson University, nestled between NASCAR and the Mouse King—Daytona Beach and Orlando. Stanton has been a contributing member with the Libertarian Party since 2013 and has voted Libertarian since returning from Iraq in 2008.

: “Paul, in talking to you before, it seems your military experience in Iraq is one of the driving forces behind your political activism. Can you talk us through what happened and how it affected you?”

STANTON: “Do you mind if I share a story? I was overseas in Iraq and we were in a rural area southwest of Baghdad. I was with a bomb squad, and if people would find a roadside bomb, they would call us to go out to it. When we got there, I ordered the gunner to pivot to the direction we’d most likely be attacked. It happened to be this house. And a bunch of kids came out of the house and we gave them candy and toys like we always did. And my gunner looked down at me and said, ‘You know, if they were in our country aiming guns at my house, I’d want to blow them up too.’ And before that I’d never really thought about it at that level. It was really a profound moment, and as the tour continued, I realized more and more that a lot of their actions were actually very understandable, and that’s really unfortunate to say.”

RELATED: Three more key endorsements come to Stanton, one week short of primary

TLI: “So in effect, your strongest stance is the ‘Anti Nation Building’ issue that so many Libertarians tend to agree with?”

STANTON: “Yes, ultimately what I’m against is the government initiation of force and coercion and the most blatant example of that is war. Whether it is war overseas, the war on drugs or the war on the poor. With the wars overseas, it’s a clear example of where we’re killing many innocent people for reasons many times they don’t even understand. And domestically with drugs and the poor, we have a situation where even with the best of intentions it isn’t working. Why ruin a kid’s life just because he tried something his friends asked him to try? It’s a ridiculous miscarriage of justice. Look at the war on the poor—we have a situation where we have poor people with safety nets, yet we also tax them and when we give that money back to them, it comes with strings attached. I think with all three—the war overseas, on drugs and on the poor—we need to remove the paternalism and use of force, because the government is doing horrible things.”

TLI: “So when you were out of the Army, how did the ball begin to roll with your activism. What was that first step, so to speak?”

STANTON: “Well, back in 2009 when I got out, I moved back to Fort Wayne and moved in with my sister for a while to get readjusted. I went to college at IPFW and while I was in college I became an Anti War activist—Students Against War. We tried to show people how horrible things were … Initially it started out with me and another veteran, but she didn’t end up being as active so it ended up that I was the only veteran with the group. Some of them were a little older but most were 18 to 20 years old. It was mostly Libertarians and Socialists. The Anti War Democrats were no longer interested because Obama was already in the White House and they seemed to think that struggle was over now. The problem is, having ‘hope’ for something and actually having the confidence it will happen are two different things.”

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TLI: “So anti-war is clearly your No. 1 priority. What’s No. 2 on the Stanton list?”

STANTON: {Laughs} “You mean I didn’t give you two or three already? It’s really what we talked about earlier, the war on drugs. Look at the war on drugs—the stop-and-frisk policies. People get shaken down and then have to prove their innocence. It’s an awful system we’ve created where people are subjected to government force. And just to make it clear, this is not the police officers’ fault. They are not to blame.”

LibertarianIsmTLI: “That is a hot-button topic right now, for sure. I know police officers who privately will tell you they wish they could stop chasing marijuana-related crimes—users, small-time peddlers, growers—and start chasing what they call ‘real’ criminals. Tell us more about what you think of how the police are being treated right now?”

STANTON: “Well, while police officers are agents of the state, they’re also victims of the state. They have a really, really tough job. How can you hate a brave guy, really? But we need to change the system so the police officers don’t have to go after people because of a plant, so they aren’t wasting their time going after these victimless crimes. Some Libertarians have different views on this, but I don’t think the overall dialogue in our party is anti-police by any stretch. Johnson and Weld are anything but anti-cop. Or Peterson, or (past LP presidential candidate) Bob Barr. They don’t blame the police, they blame the system. Let’s be honest, you have some Democrats who think police officers are all horrible and some Republicans who say cops can do no wrong. Come on! I don’t think either side is totally true.”

RELATED: Democrat applauds Stanton, blasts Invictus during debate closing remarks

TLI: “OK, I’m glad you brought up Johnson and Weld and some of the other big names in the party. Let’s pivot a second to the horserace. I think we all know that 2016 is about to be the ‘Year of the Libertarian’. The writing seems to be carved into the political façade already. How blessed do you feel running this year with all of the attention the party is getting?”

STANTON: “It definitely is a good time. I’m actually a little bit disappointed this year in the low number of Libertarian candidates actually running in Florida. That’s rather unfortunate. But this is an amazing opportunity. Not only might we actually have a Libertarian President, the up-ticket surge is going to be a huge boost for down the ticket. If we don’t do well in this election, it will be shocking.”

PAUL-STANTON-WITH-MCAFEETLI: “You received video endorsements from John McAfee and Darryl Perry and you did the official nomination speech for the late Dr. Mark Allan Feldman at the LP National Convention. Gov. Johnson has also verbally endorsed you.What was it like to receive those votes of confidence?”

STANTON: “It’s deeply flattering. It really is. Some of these people are personal heroes of mine. I’ve supported them in their endeavors and now they’re supporting me in mine. And it’s a big responsibility. I of course need to keep true to the message, the message of liberty. And I need to ensure that the endorsement wasn’t made in vain. It’s sort of amazing to think that I voted for Johnson and Gray in 2012 for President of the United State, and now they’re behind me. They’re all wonderful people.” EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanton also received endorsements from 2012 Vice-Presidential candidate Judge Jim Gray mentioned above and 2016 LP Presidential candidate Kevin McCormick, as well as six Florida Libertarian affiliates- Volusia, Collier, Pinellas, Broward, Palm Beach and Northwest Florida (Pensacola-Fort Walton Beach area). 

StantonSmilingTLI: “Just like with Gov. Johnson and Gov. Weld, it’s important to be in polls and hopefully the debates too. I think for the U.S. Senate position, they called it the ‘Snitker Paradox’ back in the 2010 U.S. Senate race because no entity consistently included Alex Snitker in their polls—and only Rubio, Crist and Meeks were acknowledged. Do you get the feeling that will be different for you this year? And what would you do if you were able to win the primary and then get into that debate forum with the Republican and Democrat nominees?”

STANTON: “That would be amazing. I would definitely bring a different message to the table. I don’t have the same baggage of the Democratic and Republican frontrunners (as of early August, Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rubio, respectively). I would have a very strong showing and get the message of liberty and peace out there. That’s one thing lacking with the other party frontrunners. The ‘old’ parties, I guess you’d call them. Ultimately, the duopoly is going to continue in Florida and nationwide until we have election reform.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stanton officially “qualified” to be on the ballot in June, as did his primary opponent Augustus Invictus. There was a $10,400 qualifying fee to get on the ballot, and both met the deadline and set up the first Libertarian primary in Florida history for a federal election. Only three states had Libertarian primaries for a federal election, the other two being in Missouri and Alaska.