Josh Gerber knows the meaning of hard work and providing for his family.
The 27-year-old Mount Joy resident is on the road by 2:30 a.m. each day, working as an agricultural chemical sprayer in large chicken houses. His hands and arms are dry and cracked from the spraying process used to control the ammonia in the barns, but his 12-hour shifts allow him to put a roof over the heads of his wife and four children and to be home in the early afternoon to spend time with them.
But it’s the future of Gerber’s three boys and a girl that inspired him to pursue another passion – running for office. Gerber is the Libertarian candidate on the ballot for the 98th Pa. House District in northwest Lancaster County, running against Republican Tom Jones and Democrat Mark Temons.
Gerber said fiscal irresponsibility by the two major parties has put Pennsylvania in a precarious position. Instead of paying down the state’s debt, Gerber said lawmakers unveiled a $45 billion budget agreement with an additional $750 million in increased funding for schools that are not serving student’s needs.
“I’m not a career politician, and every single dollar I make means something to me,” Gerber said. “It’s an hour away from my family. It’s an hour away from my children. It’s time away from things that I find way more important. And for these career politicians, they just like to throw money everywhere so that they get pats on the back.”
Gerber is a relative newcomer to the Libertarian Party, attending his first local chapter meeting in January after receiving a pamphlet from members at the Elizabethtown Holiday Parade in December. Gerber said he felt the Republican Party “didn’t represent me anymore,” and the Libertarian pamphlet that said, “socially accepting, fiscally responsible,” was closer to his ideals.
“There’s too much fighting – too much hatred on either side,” Gerber said. “I’m not about that, because all that’s going to lead to is a broken country, and it’s not like we’re getting anything done in the state, either.”
The local Libertarian chapter meeting had a Catholic, an atheist, evangelical Christians and a Muslim in attendance, Gerber said, with weighty political discussions taking place after the formal meeting.
Gerber said he grew up “terrified” of Muslims, coming of age during the Iraq War and as a member of a Pentecostal church in rural northeast Missouri. He said he distinctly remembers watching the children’s cartoon “Blues Clues” as his father watched the devastation at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
The opportunity to interact with a Libertarian Muslim at the meeting surprisingly changed Gerber’s worldview.
“This man was just nothing but love and kindness, so it was a huge eye opener, to be honest,” Gerber said. “So that’s what drew me to the party.”
Another aspect of the Libertarian Party that appealed to Gerber was the promotion of the non-aggression principle (NAP), similar to The Golden Rule of treating others as one would want to be treated. The NAP calls for avoiding aggression against either individuals, their property or signed contracts.
“If God gave us free will, and God trusted us with free will and he wanted us to have free will, why is the government any different?” Gerber said. “Why does the government get to do something that God never did? For Christians, if you sit and think about it, your government is giving you less rights than God gave you. God gave you life. God is why you are here. Then there’s this human-made force telling you what to do every day of your life because they say so? It’s ridiculous.”
Gerber said he was prompted to run for the house seat after the retirement announcement of long-time legislator Rep. David Hickernell last December. He said he doesn’t personally know his fellow candidates Temons and Jones, but he said neither candidate would have much influence in the legislature in their first years.
Gerber said since the Republican Committee of Lancaster County is aiding in helping to elect Jones to the seat, he’ll have to be a “yes man for so many terms before he can really even do anything that he wants to do.”
“I’m there solely just to represent the people who I represent,” Gerber said. “No matter what I want, it’s what the Constitution says. And that’s the state constitution first, then the United States Constitution, because I’m a big Tenth Amendment guy.”
Gerber said one of his biggest platforms is the institution of term limits for legislators. He said he respects the concept George Washington had with the presidency to serve a short period and then step down for someone else to fill the role.
Eight years of service would be a fair time for a legislative position, Gerber said, and he would like to see the Pennsylvania legislature move from a full-time position making $90,000 a year to a part-time role.
“There’s no reason for you to be a career politician,” Gerber said. “You’re supposed to be a normal citizen serving your country as a politician. You’re not supposed to be there for life. And the longer you’re there, the more you’re going to get influenced by the money and by the lobbies.”
Education reform is also one of Gerber’s key platforms. Gerber himself is a high school dropout, leaving after completing the 10th grade and going to work full time at the age of 17. Gerber said he left school because of societal pressures he felt from his church and perceived temptations in class.
Gerber said school choice is “becoming more and more needed” as districts around the county and state begin to fail students. He said he would propose allowing parents to take property tax money they are paying and use it in a different district if they wanted their children to attend another school.
Gerber said he is also against the movement to push gender Ideology or sexualization in schools, saying the purpose of schools is to educate and not indoctrinate. He said school sports need to continue to be separated by sex “in the name of fair play and equality.”
As far as the idea of property taxes, Gerber said he is against the concept of forcing people to pay an annual tax for a home or land they already own. He said as a start to a reform movement he would eliminate property taxes on people ages 65 and older who live on a fixed income, allowing them to stay in their homes after retirement.
“I think the free market fixes everything,” Gerber said. “I think the free market is the greatest invention because what you do is instead of restricting people’s freedom, shrinking people’s minds or restricting people’s thought process and how to fix something, you give them all the freedom in the world.”
Interest in Politics
Politics has long been an interest for Gerber. He said he carried a notepad by the TV during election night in 2004, marking down the electoral wins by George Bush and John Kerry. He said he always knew he wanted to run for public office because if his curiosity in geopolitical strategy and economic principles.
Despite his political engagement, Gerber said he still believes government is “way too big” on the local, state and federal levels. He said the principles of the Constitution have been corrupted by bureaucracy and a move away from the Tenth Amendment, giving states most of the right to legislate.
Gerber said it was “infuriating” seeing California and East Coast ideals being foisted upon the population in the Midwest when growing up in rural Missouri. He said he witnessed numerous local businesses closing and families losing homes in the 2008 Great Recession, his own family feeling the pains of a down economy with his mother being laid off from several jobs in nursing homes.
“It was farmers who had been paying off their third loan on their farm to refinance and buy a combine or to buy something to get their farm running,” Gerber said. “It just collapsed, and it just devastated the farming industry in the flyover states.”
Gerber said he had to struggle to get his name on the ballot, spending several months going door-to-door to get the necessary 300 signatures. He said the ballot process was disheartening at times and thought occasionally about giving up, but it was the idea of running for his children that kept him knocking on doors. He ended up garnering 425 signatures.
Gerber said working-class people need to take back the government, including the people who “pay the taxes, the people who work 12 hours a day.” He said he wants people to ultimately live in a world where they aren’t harassed by the government.
“If we don’t stand up for our families, stand up for our way of life, we’re going to turn into a serfdom,” Gerber said. “And that’s why I’m running, because I don’t want my kids to work for rations. I don’t want my kids to work until their bones break for a little shack that they don’t even own.”