POLITICAL AND LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE: Joe was elected to the Executive Committee of the Volusia County Libertarian Party, and is the Chairman of the Legislative Review Committee of the Volusia County Libertarian Party.
HOBBIES: Joe enjoys Volusia County’s beaches. “Going to the beach is always a good way to get away from life and the stress of life. I love the idea of open access to the beach.” As a lover of astronomy, he enjoys — when he gets a chance — visiting Embry-Riddle’s telescope, one of the largest in Florida. He also enjoys playing chess. Gathering petitions was a pretty big past time in the past year or so.
QUOTABLE: “I’m a regular Joe, an honest Joe. I’m just like you. I’m a regular person willing to volunteer my time and do the leg work to put myself out there for you and for all of us who no longer feel like our voices are listened to … I’ve been an attentive voter on the sideline for long enough, and in 2016 looking at the choices on my ballot, I decided that I was going to be the change that I myself have been looking for. The two old parties don’t represent the majority of the people anymore — just special interests. It’s time to get involved and put the rights of the individuals ahead of the big money interests and government … I actually think not running for office before is a good thing.”
KEY LINKS TO JOE’S CAMPAIGN AND HIS STANCE ON THE ISSUES:
If you live in Volusia County, you may have met Joseph “Joe” Hannoush over the past two years. A friendly guy who was willing to stand in the rain, dodge thunderstorms and sweat in the Florida sun so that you don’t have to endure a two-dimensional ticket this November.
Hannoush, 38, is the Libertarian Candidate for Florida State House District 25, and he’ll be on the ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 6. He’s the alternative candidate.
Hannoush started collecting petitions to make a point — he would get on the general election ballot through hard work. Instead of just paying the filing fee, as his Republican opponent did, he would earn his way onto the ballot by gathering the 1,247 qualified petitions needed to bypass the fee. He gathered more than 1,500, and 1,255 qualified.
After declaring at a Libertarian regional coalition meeting in April 2017 that he had the intention of running, he began that petition drive — usually working by himself. If you followed Joe’s campaign page on social media, it never seemed a day went by for a year without Joe being at a local library or county office, adding to the stack.
“People began seeing that, and started to help out,” Joe said. “It was a snowball effect … Sometimes it was cold, or rainy. I’d just find a spot where I could stand and stay dry and away from the wind.”
That effort he put into grinding through the Florida elements just to make the ballot is the same effort he swears he’d put into representing residents of Volusia County in Tallahassee. As a Libertarian, Hannoush has issue stances that will resonate with both Democrats and Republicans. While Americans continue to get louder about having a “down the middle” type of candidate, that’s exactly what Hannoush thinks he is.
“I didn’t know that I was a Libertarian until 2011 when I took a political quiz at a site called ISideWith.com,” Joe said. “So I went on the site and it asked me a bunch of questions, and it asks you how passionate are you about certain issues, how much it matters to you. It comes out with a percentage. It was leading up to the 2012 election and it said I was 86 percent in agreement with the Libertarian candidate for President at that time — Gary Johnson.”
The quiz read Joe well. A Christian family that fled Iraq before Joe was born in 1978 — when Saddam Hussein fell into power — the Hannoushes have flourished in the United States. After first coming to Illinois and later to Jacksonville, Fla., the family moved to eastern Volusia County 15+ years ago.
They opened NE Cleaners and now have three dry cleaning stores in Volusia County — two in Ormond Beach and one in Port Orange. When his parents left Iraq, they came to the United States to get away from oppression — asking only for the opportunity to flourish and to be left alone.
In Joe’s estimation, his parents — in many ways — are also libertarians. And it is that philosophy — to lessen government’s grip and always defend individual liberties — that Joe says he would take to the State House.
No, he hasn’t run for office before. No, he hasn’t piled up $200,000 like his Republican counterpart.
“I actually think not running for office before is a good thing,” Joe said. “I actually think being just an average Joe is a good thing, and that’s what I call myself. I’m one of the people. I will keep fighting for individual liberties.
“We rule our own lives, I would never be swayed by lobbyists or any other big money influence. I’m going to vote the way a regular person would want me to vote.”
If you Google Bryan Zemina, you may find a photo of him wearing a hard-hat and his sleeves are rolled up. If that isn’t an indication of what kind of state house candidate he is, what is?
Zemina is a relative newcomer to the Libertarian Party and is running for the Florida State House Dist. 58 seat that will hold its special election on Dec. 19. While he’s new to the LP, he’s not new to questioning the status quo and searching for an alternative when it comes to government.
Now he is the alternative, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Dist. 58 race will have Zemina, Democrat Jose N. Vazquez Figueroa, Republican primary winner Lawrence McClure and NPA Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin on the ballot. McClure won the October Republican primary by 9.8%. The district — located solely in eastern Hillsborough County — mixes rural areas with municipalities like Plant City and Temple Terrace. The word ‘diverse’ comes to mind when describing Dist. 58’s constituency.
Zemina feels he’s the perfect guy to tie this unique area together.
Zemina was born in Largo and in third grade moved over to the Riverview area in Hillsborough County, Florida. His parents still live in the house he was raised in. After graduating from East Bay High School in Gibsonton, he decided to pack his bags and head to Indiana to Rose-Hulman where not only did he major in mechanical engineering, he also managed to letter in two sports – football and baseball.
After graduating from college, he moved back to the Tampa Bay area.
When it comes to frustration with nagging local regulations and red tape, Zemina’s eyes first crossed after he and his wife Chrissy purchased their first home in Temple Terrace in 2010. He went to Home Depot to purchase fencing materials to construct his own fence-line, only to be slapped in the face with a notice that he was violating permit rules.
Like many property owners, he felt like local government was crossing the line and he decided to ‘tune in’ more intently — and he has.
His diehard interest in politics also came in 2010 when current Florida Governor Rick Scott was running against Democrat challenger Alex Sink. Zemina wasn’t excited about either one of them and began vetting the other candidates in the race. He decided to vote for an NPA candidate named Daniel Imperato.
The seed of not only seeking out an alternative leader to vote for — and later being the alternative — was germinating. After donating to Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson last year, he was on an email list that connected him with passionate Hillsborough Libertarian leaders Susan Stanley and Kevin O’Neill, and here he is today. They met, and a Libertarian candidacy was born.
“The way I look at this, Libertarians are for reducing government and everything stems from that,” Zemina told TLI. “In every walk of life, there is a group that would benefit from reducing government.”
Being a mechanical engineer, Zemina takes a disciplined approach to what could be done while in a State House seat.
“Engineering is analytics,” Zemina said. “You look at the pros and cons of an issue, but not the emotion. What is the benefit? Is it worth it? Does it make sense? Not, ‘Do I feel like I want to do this?'”
Zemina is quick to point out the hypocrisy of not only big government in general, but even with his opposition.
“Both Republican candidates (prior to the primary) are anti-sanctuary, but they both support the farming industry which needs migrant workers,” Zemina said. “So if we kick out the migrant workers, does my glass of orange juice go from 2$ to 4$?
“These people are here to improve their lives, and it’s very rare to find an American citizen who would do those jobs. To me it’s a win, win, win. Why attack people who are doing no wrong? And to speak so two-faced about the issues on your own website?”
When it comes to Zemina’s hot-button issues, his first goal would be to get on the finance committee to have an effect when it comes to the state budget. The campaign financing debate, reducing the tax burden on individuals and small businesses and the decriminalization of marijuana are all topics he would attack on day one (read more about Zemina’s stance on the issues).
He feels the biggest thing he has going for him is obvious. It is the same thing that interested him in 2010 in voting for Imperato for Governor.
“To this day, I don’t know what (Imperato’s) party affiliation is, I just know that my wife and I both liked what he had to say, his stances on issues,” Zemina said. “From that point forward we’ve both been much more interested in politics and the alternatives to the mainstream options.”
NOTE: District 58’s seat came open earlier this year when Plant City native Dan Raulerson (R) — who won the Nov. 2016 election — resigned citing health and business concerns. The spurred December’s special election.
Typically, an odd-numbered year following a Presidential election cycle would be “exhale” time, but in Florida, 2017 has been anything but for Libertarian candidates.
Former LNC chair Jim Turney (1985-88) filed and qualified for a non-partisan race for Altamonte Springs City Commission, and his incumbent competitor dropped out literally hours later on the final day of qualifying (Sept. 5). Turney will now be unopposed in the November election. No one else qualified.
Altamonte Springs is in the Greater Orlando area.
Two Florida State House special elections will also feature Libertarians in December and February of next year. Recent LP convert Bryan Zemina (Dist. 58) will be in the December SE in the Tampa area, while former Johnson-Weld Field Director Alison Foxall is in a three-party race (Dist. 72) to be held in February in the Sarasota area.
Only eight Florida Libertarians have ever qualified to get on the ballot in a state or federal special election—with Foxall and Zemina being the most recent.
Foxall even achieved ballot access via the petition route, only the second Floridian Libertarian to do that in a special election situation. Her volunteer staff beat the Democrat’s numbers of valid petitions (400 to 391), missing the Republican by just nine.
In an example of the LP synergy being felt in the Sunshine State, Turney actually was part of the petition drive in Foxall’s Sarasota-area district. They all have also donated to each other’s campaigns, a theme that has extended to the already filed 2018 Libertarian candidates.
“The LP in Florida has quality candidates that are in tough special election races … where it won’t be so easy as it was for me,” Turney said. “I hope they have my luck, but they certainly have my support.”
Turney decided to get into his race because he felt the incumbent was vulnerable in his district. Foxall also saw an opportunity in her home district, where she has resided for more than 25 years. The 2016 elected House Rep abruptly announced her resignation in late August, and Foxall decided to run just hours later when she realized the filed Republican James Buchanan didn’t even live in District 72, though he and his wife now plan to relocate there. Two Democrats later entered and will have a primary in December.
“I am stepping up to represent the district that I’ve lived in for 25 years and will carry our constituents’ voices to Tallahassee with me,” Foxall said. “I’m ready to earn my neighbors’ vote so that I can cut wasteful spending, eliminate unnecessary barriers to entry for many industries, and cut individuals’ tax burden here in Florida.”
Zemina worked with Hillsborough county LP leaders Susan Stanley and Kevin O’Neill to set up his race for special election in the greater Tampa area.
“I was motivated to jump into the race due to lack of results with the two-party system,” Zemina said. “All the nation sees, on all levels, is a bitter fight and opposition to each other instead of working together as government should. Neither side truly stands for the values that they claim to stand for, and I feel it’s only right to try to be the one to bring about change like I’ve been talking about for so long. If not me, then who?”
Along with the Florida Libertarians’ successes and work in 2017, there are eight candidates already filed to run in 2018 for federal and statewide elections, and has been previously reported in the LNC newsletter, the Florida town of Frostproof now has two registered Libertarians on city council, with one (Martin Sullivan) elected vice-mayor earlier this year.
It took 14 years for the Libertarian Party of Florida to hit the 10,000 registered voters mark in 2001, then a little more than a decade longer to hit 20,000 at the end of 2012.
Things are speeding up a bit, as the LPF hit the 30,000 mark this spring – nearly 32,000, to be exact.
In what is usually considered the political doldrum period of the election cycle – the time immediately following a Presidential election – the LPF grew by 12 percent in just seven months. That’s right … since the November elections, the LPF has grown 12 percent while other parties hardly budged or declined.
The reason? It could be tied to the Florida Department of Elections dismantling the Independent (INT) and Independence (IDF) parties this spring. Some have wondered if voters were confused by these two parties, thinking it was more like an NPA registration than an actual party. Regardless, more than 300,000 Floridian voters were left homeless after those moves this spring.
Regardless of the reason for the recent spike, it’s certainly a positive sign for Florida’s third-largest political party. With 31,631 registered Libertarians as of the May 2017 count, the LPF is well ahead of the fourth-place Green Party (6,605 voters) and others.
“It’s a very exciting moment for the LP,” said Marcos Miralles, Chairman of the LPF. “I think that our organization and our creation of leaders throughout the state will continue to grow the movement. The sooner we recruit candidates for local seats, the faster we can push for membership through the candidates’ campaigns. It’s a win for the Libertarian Party and a win for the citizens of Florida.”
There are other interesting trends to consider. From the pre-election tally in 2006 to the pre-election formal count in 2016, the Libertarian Party of Florida has grown 82 percent when it comes to registered voters, while the Republicans and Democrats both were at 15 percent – while the overall total of voters grew 23 percent.
Oh, and NPAs grew 57 percent during that same period. Conclusion? The pool of registered voters in Florida is growing, while the list of duopoly voters isn’t keeping pace – while the “outlier” voter totals are shooting upwards over the past decade or so.
If this trend continued at the 2006-2016 pace, the LPF would be near 60,000 registered voters in the next decade – and the recent growth has actually been much more rapid.
Florida’s Libertarian Party first held a state convention in 1973 in Orlando and continued holding them until the mid 1980s when the party was dissolved by the state. In 1987, the LP was rejuvenated and the second push really got rolling in the 1992 election season when six Libertarians ran for State House down ballot from Presidential nominee Andre Marrou. Since then, more than 100 Libertarian candidates have run for state office and countless others have run in non-partisan races at the city and county level.