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Senate candidate believes children should have sex with adults

The Libertarian candidate responded to an ad in Swingers Digest magazine, telling an undercover San Jose policewoman that he wanted her to teach one of his young family members about sex while he had sex with another.
Mercury News, March 12, 2004

Personal liberties are the hallmark of the Libertarian Party, but party leaders are fretting that a Mountain View man convicted of a sex-related crime is just a few votes from becoming their candidate for a state Senate seat this fall.

With absentee ballots still being counted nine days after the primary, perennial candidate John Webster -- who told the Mercury News he believes it's beneficial for children to have sex with adults -- is two votes behind software engineer Mike Laursen.

One of the men will carry the Libertarian Party banner Nov. 2 in the Senate District 13 race against the heavily favored Democrat, Elaine Alquist, and Republican Shane Patrick Connolly. The district covers much of Santa Clara County.

Laursen has a 270-268 vote lead with the final absentee and provisional ballots to be counted next week. "My No. 1 goal: damage control for the party," said Laursen, who lives in Mountain View.

He doesn't expect a Libertarian to beat Alquist in November. He simply jumped into the race to keep Webster -- who's already run two unsuccessful campaigns on the Libertarian ticket -- from tainting the party's image. Laursen won the endorsement of local party leaders and is somewhat puzzled by the close race.

Webster, also a software engineer, has been long active in local Libertarian politics, where he is tolerated, despite his 1990 conviction and his beliefs about children and sex. "He has his exotic opinions. That's his privilege as an American. I'm not inclined to blackball him on the basis of that," said Allen Rice, the Libertarian candidate in another state Senate race, District 11. Rice added that he did not always agree with Webster.

Webster, 58, was arrested in 1990 in a sting operation. After he responded to an ad in Swingers Digest magazine, he told an undercover San Jose policewoman that he wanted her to teach one of his young family members about sex while he had sex with another, according to court documents. He pleaded no contest to a felony charge of child pandering and was sentenced to a year in jail, court documents say.

Webster claims he was entrapped and convicted for a "thought crime."

Fifteen years later, he remains obsessed with the case and the undercover officer. He maintains an extensive Web site and acknowledged in an interview that he has gone to the officer's home, attempted to photograph her and handed out fliers in her neighborhood.

He has also driven a large truck-mounted sign -- alleging she is a "bad cop" -- around the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice and the San Jose Police Department for hours at a time. The city eventually obtained a restraining order that prohibits him from going near the officer.

The Libertarian Party argues for personal freedom and limited government control over drugs, personal property, freedom of speech and sex -- but only among adults. Webster said that in his eyes a child has the moral right to make personal decisions whenever he or she "stands up and says I'm going to live the life I want to live."

He maintained that teenagers should be allowed to engage in sex with parents, adult neighbors or people they've met on the Internet. "All of that is totally contradicted by our beliefs and our platform," said George Getz, director of communications for the national Libertarian Party headquarters in Washington.

"There is a word for what adults do when they have sex with underage children: child molestation. It's a crime and it ought to be. We're very clear on that." Twice before, Webster has been the Libertarian candidate in the same Senate district. He lost by large margins both times.

Mark Hinkle, the immediate past state chairman of the Libertarian Party and the coordinator of this weekend's state convention in San Jose, has known Webster for years. "John's a fairly decent guy," Hinkle said. "But frankly we'd prefer that he not run again."

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