Short of a political earthquake, one prediction about the 2012 election can be safely made—that the Democrat running for the northwest Nevada U.S. House seat will lose. Samuel Koepnick of Carson City came up the winner of the Democratic primary after no big name got into the race. He’s a liberal who emphasizes personal liberty issues.

What made you take on a race this difficult?

I didn’t actually choose this race. I chose to enter the Democratic primary really as a symbolic gesture … against the SOPA bill [Stop Online Piracy Act] that was going through the House at the time. So really, it was just a way of saying, “You know what? We’re here, we’re angry about this, and we’re bipartisan.”

Since you did win the nomination, did you hear from the national or local Democratic Party offering you a threshold of financial support to tie up [Republican candidate] Mark Amodei so he’s not helping other Republicans?

No. … I’ve got some local support, but I think the problem is that they don’t want to throw good money after bad in a race that they already consider to be a loss. I don’t share a lot of Democratic ideals. … I’ve got some really funny hate mail addressed to me. I’ve been called a DINO, which I later found out was a “Democrat in name only.”

Where do you differ with the party?

Basically it comes down to support of the president and constitutionality. There’s a lot of things the president has done that I don’t like, and I don’t officially support him. I don’t support Mitt Romney, either, but I don’t have unwavering support for the party and I treat it like I treat everything else in life, piecemeal. I take the good ideas, where I take the good ideas but I refuse to deal with the bad in this case, so for instance when President Obama signed the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act]—very, very critical about that, very unhappy that he did that, officially stripping habeas corpus from American citizens. He’s done a lot of things that I really, really don’t like and the fact that I’m willing to call him out on it and say that, “Look, these aren’t the things that our country is supposed to stand for,” didn’t make the powers in the party very happy.

If you felt like that, why didn’t you file as a Republican?

Because I feel that the Democratic party is closer … to what I believe. Let’s not fool ourselves, it’s a two party system. There’s a couple of third parties, but they’re always going to be also-rans, so we just start changing the fundamental nature of the system. And personally, I think that the two-party system is disgraceful for any kind of democratic society.

What are the areas where you do agree with the Democratic party?

Universal health care. Huge on decreasing defense spending. Make education … available for everybody. But really, where I agree with the Democrats mostly is on social issues. I actually tell my friends, “Look, I’m a fiscal conservative but I’m still a social liberal and that’s not going to change.”

After this is over, do you think you’ll run for office again?

Absolutely not.

Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...