Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party
|December 29, 2018—May 16, 2020|
|Predecessor:||Shannon Gates (as TCC)|
|Birth:||April 15, 1992 |
Dunkirk, New York
|Party:||Libertarian Party (2013—2021)|
Conservative Party (since 2021)
Luke Marshal Wenke (born April 15, 1992) is a former Libertarian Party activist. He served as the Chair of the Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party from 2018 to 2020. Wenke also founded and administered the Facebook groups Olean Politics and Let's Bitch About Cuomo, until he was banned from Facebook. In 2020, he ran for Chair of the Libertarian National Committee but lost. He was a Lifetime Libertarian member but changed his enrollment to the Conservative Party in 2021.
Early life and career
Wenke was born on April 15, 1992, at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, New York, to Kevin Wenke and Janet McCaul, who were students at SUNY Fredonia. He grew up on Bucktooth Run Road, just outside of Salamanca, NY, which is the only American city to lease land from a Native American reservation (Seneca territory). Despite his Caucasian ancestry, Wenke attended a Native American reservation school, where he learned Seneca customs during his youth. He graduated from Salamanca High School in 2010 and attended Jamestown Community College for three semesters as a music major. Wenke worked as a substitute teacher in various school districts and learned piano tuning from his maternal uncle. He started his piano tuning business in October 2011. Apart from several brief stints at different employers in his early adulthood, Wenke worked as a Dominos pizza delivery driver from February 2015 until October 27, 2019, at both the Bradford, PA, and Olean, NY, Dominos Pizza. He is currently a driver for several different rideshare apps and plans to establish a manufacturing business in Brazil in the near future to address supply chain issues.
Wenke joined the Libertarian Party in October 2013, citing Jesse Ventura as his first political influence from high school. During the 2008 election, while in his junior year at Salamanca High School, Wenke noticed Ventura, a former Governor, giving commentary on the news and was inspired by the idea of an independent outsider breaking the two-party paradigm to get elected. Wenke was initially registered as a Republican into his adulthood, supporting Carl Paladino for Governor of New York in 2010 and later Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican primaries before shifting his support to Gary Johnson's 2012 presidential campaign.
Wenke first learned about the Libertarian Party through an internet friend in 2011. He observed Libertarian activities from afar before becoming directly involved. Anonymous and Robin Hood-style politics had an early influence on him. Wenke delved into the depths of anarchism ideology in early 2017 after encountering the Mr. Dapperton YouTube series. Since then, he has embraced the anarchist identity. Wenke adopts the "armchair politician perspective" when debating or advocating for his views, aiming to make political decisions that resonate with people on the outside who watch political events unfold. He strives to extend his reach and promote libertarian ideals without compromising their integrity.
In early 2017, Wenke discovered anarcho-capitalism and credited the anarchist ideology with improving his life. He described anarchism as "taking your politics and utopian view and applying it to yourself as a lifestyle choice, as opposed to enforcing it on others through taxation and laws." Wenke has made it his mission to normalize this ideology.
Wenke has faced constant social media censorship. He founded Facebook groups such as Olean Politics (now Olean War Zone) and Let's Bitch About Cuomo, which were later dissolved or largely inactive due to Facebook actions. In 2012, Wenke used the Topix forum website to generate rumors about a potential run for Mayor of Salamanca, sparking awareness in the Salamanca area. Although he did not live in Salamanca at the time, Wenke considered running with an address from someone else because the former Mayor, Carmen Vecchiarella, did not reside in town either. Ultimately, Wenke did not run for the position, but the Topix stunt demonstrated his ability to garner attention through online activities. He continued to use fake usernames on the now-defunct Topix website to initiate local discussions about various local residents, drawing their peers to the platform. After ensuring that "all or at least most" of the local area was checking Topix frequently, he started forums about himself for self-promotion.
Libertarian Party involvement
Wenke became a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party as early as October 2013. He became acquainted with a Libertarian party official online after the 2012 presidential election, solidifying his connection with the party. In 2018, Wenke organized and recorded live videos with New York gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe in his Olean Politics group on Facebook, garnering tens of thousands of views. He also organized a "Twitter Hounds" effort for the campaign, involving hundreds of Libertarians simultaneously tweeting at major media sources and securing Libertarian appearances on shows such as Kennedy Nation, Joe Rogan, and The Rubin Report. In December of that year, he was elected Chair of the Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party during the founding convention at Perkins Bakery & Restaurant in Olean.
In 2019, Wenke aimed to make the Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party the "top-performing fringe third party" across the United States after a successful founding meeting for the county party. He sought to field as many "Libertarian-exclusive" candidates for local and county offices as possible, noticing that many county Libertarian parties in New York were cross-endorsing Republican or Democratic candidates, treating the Libertarian line as secondary.
In 2019, following the resignation of Cathy Young as State Senator for New York's 57th District, Wenke campaigned for Uriel Isaacovich to secure the Libertarian nomination. However, the Libertarian nomination ultimately went to George Borrello.
In July 2019, Wenke hosted presidential candidate Vermin Supreme and organized a rock concert at Napoli's Pizza of Olean in support of Mr. Supreme. The event also featured the regional alternative rock band Dredneks, known for its libertarian anarchist leanings and libertarian-themed subliminal messaging in its lyrics.
Wenke ran for the position of Cattaraugus County Coroner while serving as the county chairman, despite being unqualified for the role. His campaign used slogans like "Any Schmuck Can Run For Coroner" and "Running For County Executive From The Coroner Position," highlighting his belief that anyone should have the opportunity to run for any office, regardless of their qualifications. Wenke's unorthodox candidacy stirred controversy among county residents, concerned that an eccentric personality with regional name recognition might win a significant public position like coroner. Wenke responded to criticism by posting a picture of himself in BDSM gear alongside his coroner campaign sign, satirically addressing concerns about his qualifications. He received 3% of the vote, drawing comparisons to Gary Johnson's 2016 election turnout and the "We Are The III%" slogan.
In 2019, Wenke hosted the first livestreamed Libertarian presidential debate at the Olean High School auditorium the day before the 2019 New York Libertarian Summit.
On May 16, 2020, Wenke was removed as Chair of the Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party following an impeachment proceeding, which he did not participate in.
In 2020, Wenke ran for Chair of the Libertarian National Committee and took part in a livestreamed debate during the National Convention in July 2020. However, he lost the election early in the race.
In 2021, Wenke changed his political party affiliation to the Conservative Party.
Wenke visited Minneapolis several days after the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin and participated in various protests. His initial intention for the trip was to check on a fellow Libertarian with whom he felt a personal connection. Wenke reported that no shots were fired in his presence, but he felt it was unsafe to walk around the city unarmed. He experienced tear gas during the protests and met prominent members of the boogaloo, a libertarian militia movement that emerged across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon returning to Olean, Wenke became the first among this group of individuals to have multiple Facebook accounts completely banned. He called the Buffalo, NY FBI to clear his name, as he believed he had done nothing illegal in Minneapolis, and explained that everyone, including himself, was armed, and no illegal activities occurred in his presence. However, his interactions with the FBI over several months, including unexpected calls, smooth invitations to Starbucks, and uninvited home visits, left him confused.
In September 2020, the Buffalo FBI requested all his electronic devices, stating they wanted to determine if he had donated money to groups, individuals, or concepts on legally recognized terrorist watchlists. Two boogaloo members whom Wenke had known from Minneapolis were arrested in an entrapment case, marking the first time white individuals had been arrested under this specific law, which had previously been used against poorer Muslim communities in the United States. Wenke's personal association with the arrestees led to his public placement on the Cattaraugus County watchlist on the day of their arrest. Learning that the United States government could lure its own citizens into "socialized multi-million dollar pyramid schemes during a global health and economic crisis" instead of helping vulnerable individuals profoundly affected Wenke. He was unaware of any undercover activities during the months he spent with the arrestees.
Wenke's affiliation with the arrestees continued to affect him a year later. In August 2021, while working, he accidentally took the Peace Bridge exit in Buffalo, inadvertently crossing the Canadian border without a passport. Border patrol detained him for the first time in his life, recognizing him from the previous year's events.
Arrest and imprisonment
In January 2021, Wenke was arrested by federal authorities following a criminal complaint alleging that he made threats to injure another person, specifically the attorney for Benjamin Teeter. It was noted that "Wenke was upset with the lawyer for not providing proper representation to Benjamin Ryan Teeter, who was charged with conspiracy to aid the Palestinian paramilitary group Hamas." On March 15, 2022, he was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of making interstate threats. Wenke was sentenced to 18 months in Federal prison and was released early on March 31, 2023.
- In 2018, Wenke volunteered for the Larry Sharpe for Governor campaign.
- In 2019, Wenke ran for Cattaraugus County Coroner and received 3% of the vote.
- In 2020, he announced his candidacy to run for Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. He participated in the debate at the national convention but was not nominated when it came time to vote.
- Temporary County Chair (August 5, 2018—December 29, 2018)
- Chair (December 29, 2018—May 16, 2020)