Eric has been active in politics since childhood with his first staff job with the Democratic Party in 1969 as an office manager for Tom Bradley's first campaign for mayor of Los Angeles. He worked for a few more Democratic campaigns but became more of a radical and joined the Peace & Freedom Party. He also was an organizer for Students for a Democratic Society at Venice High School and was permanently expelled from the Los Angeles City School District in October 1970.
In high school he met some libertarians and continued meeting and discussing politics with various libertarians and conservatives over the next few years, while continuing his activism on the left. He saw many commonalities among ideologues of various stripes and saw that it was important to work with them on various issues. He was very active in the Vietnam antiwar movement and was a draft resister.
In 1971, he became a national organizer for the national Peoples Party, which was a coalition of left parties in various states, which eventually ran Dr. Benjamin Spock for President in 1972.
In 1972, he became Southern Vice Chairman of the Peace & Freedom Party (PFP). He also ran for State Assembly in West Los Angeles. He was 18 years old and became the youngest candidate to ever run for California State Legislature. He also managed a few other PFP candidates and was on the staff of Dr. Spock's presidential campaign.
By 1973, Eric had become a libertarian but was still active in the PFP. He had converted several other PFP activists to libertarianism or at least lib-sympathizers. Tension over this created a growing faction fight in the PFP, which led to a contested primary in 1974 for Governor and other offices. We won the Governor primary and some of the others, and eventually took over the PFP State Central Committee. Many LP members supported libertarian Elizabeth Keathley, the official ballot qualified PFP nominee for Governor. Some supported the LP write-in campaign of John Hospers, and many supported both. Keathley got far more publicity and received 74,000 votes. Hospers received a little under 2,000.
Eric was also the PFP candidate for State Senate from West Los Angeles.
In 1975, the libertarian faction quit the PFP and most joined the California LP. From late 1974 to late 1975 he worked as an editorial assistant for Reason Magazine. During that time, Eric was the subject of their monthly profile.
In 1975, he managed the LP campaigns of Ray Cunningham for San Francisco Mayor and two LP candidates for Santa Barbara school board.
In 1976, he co-managed the northern California Roger MacBride for President office.
From 1976 to 1983, he managed or consulted for around 40 LP election campaigns (both candidates and ballot initiatives).
In 1977, Eric was elected to the Libertarian Party National Committee at-large. Around this time Eric also served three terms as Northern California Vice-Chair of the LP of California.
In 1978, he worked for the ‘Ed Clark for Governor’ campaign office, and later left to work on local campaigns.
In 1979, he was National Field Coordinator for Students for a Libertarian Society. During that time, he ran a national campaign against the newly restored Selective Service System (draft registration) and coordinated the May 1 anti-draft rallies in 75 cities.
In 1979, he was a part of the staff that ran the LP of California ballot drive, obtaining the 80,000 registrations to get the LPC permanently on the California ballot.
From 1979 to 1983, he was on the Central Committee of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus (the Raimondo-Rothbard one) which published the newspaper Libertarian Vanguard.
From 1980 to 1985, he owned and managed the bookstore Libertarian Books and Publications.
From 1979 to 1981, he was State Director of the Libertarian Party of California. Eric worked intermittently for the Ed Clark for President campaign in 1980.
In 1982 Eric was the Libertarian Party candidate for State Senate in San Francisco, receiving 15% of the vote. In a 1983 special election, he was the Libertarian Party candidate for US Congress in San Francisco. Also in 1983, he was the Co-Director of the campaign to recall Diane Feinstein as Mayor of San Francisco (it qualified for the ballot but lost in the election).
From 1987 to 1993 he was Director of the Libertarian-Republican Organizing Committee. In 1988 he lost the Republican Party nomination for US Congress in the San Francisco East Bay by a little over 1 percent. In 1992, he was the Republican Party and Libertarian Party nominee for State Assembly in Silicon Valley, receiving 29% of the vote.
In 1995 Eric co-founded Antiwar.com. In 2001 it became his full-time job, which it still is today.
In 2013 he sued the FBI for illegal surveillance of Antiwar.com. In 2018, they won a partial victory in the case, but appealed part of the case on Privacy Act violations. In 2019, they won their appeal in the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which many analysts have cited as a precedent for the rights of journalists and activists.
Over the years, he have appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows, including 60 Minutes, 20-20, Good Morning America, PBS NewsHour, Larry King Live, Hour Magazine, and Art Linkletter's House Party.
Interview by Patrick Nicholson
Garris was interviewed by Patrick Nicholson of the Libertarian Party of California's Historical Preservation Committee on 11 March 2023.