Ethan Bishop-Henchman (L) and Joe Henchman are half of the Libertarian Party slate in the D.C. 2018 election.

Rachel Kurzius / DCist
If Joe Henchman and Ethan Bishop-Henchman win their races on Election Day, the District will have an unprecedented power couple: the D.C. attorney general and the chairman of the D.C. Council living in holy matrimony.
But the Libertarian party candidates will be the first to tell you that they are not going to win.
“I think everyone knows how this election is going to turn out,” says Henchman, who is running for attorney general, when I meet the couple after work for drinks at the National Press Club, where he is a member. The evening is Oktoberfest-themed, so a live accordion-player accompanies our conversation. Henchman is a practiced, careful speaker, and Bishop-Henchman talks more passionately, especially about what he sees as the lack of pro-development voices in the District.
They both see their current runs for office as a contribution to keeping D.C. democratic (with a small D). “We want to make sure [the incumbents] still have to say what they’re standing for and put themselves up in front of everybody with an actual option on the ballot … I don’t think any politician should be elected without opposition,” Henchman says, before amending his comment: “George Washington’s the only one I think should be elected without opposition.” Bishop-Henchman laughs at the edit.
“We really are honored to offer an alternative choice,” says Bishop-Henchman. He quit his job at a Libertarian think tank this fall to focus on pursuing a deaconship and he also has a dog-walking business. A week later, he was challenging incumbent Phil Mendelson for D.C. council chairman. “It was an exciting turn of events,” he says. “I really see it as a public service. D.C. is my adopted home and it’s not about being anti-Mendelson—it’s about trying to offer something more.”
The couple represents half of a four-person slate of candidates the Libertarians are offering this cycle, which also includes Bruce Majors running for House Delegate and Martin Moulton for mayor. (The Republican Party, by comparison, is fielding three candidates this cycle.)
Henchman, who was elected in the primary to the chairmanship of the local party, notes that all four of the Libertarian candidates are gay. Metro Weekly says that it is “the first time in memory [that] a major political party in the District of Columbia is running an entirely gay slate of candidates.”
When he isn’t trying to rebuild the District’s Libertarian Party, Henchman serves as the executive vice president at the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit working towards “a world where the tax code doesn’t stand in the way of success,” according to its website.
The couple first met at a happy hour for alumni of Students For Liberty, a group that organizes Libertarian speakers, groups, and conferences on college campuses. Henchman organized the event as part of the group’s annual meeting in February 2014, and was collecting tickets at the door.
“He wooed me in a Libertarian way,” Bishop-Henchman says with a grin. Henchman, who says he “fell in love at first sight,” drew a polling graph on a napkin that showed how public opinion about homosexuality changed when folks knew people who were openly gay. At that point, gay marriage was not yet legal throughout the country. They began dating.
They went together to the Supreme Court to see the decision that granted same-sex couples the right to marry throughout the country and, a few months later, Bishop-Henchman proposed on the steps of the highest court in the land. Since they got married in the fall of 2017, they characterize themselves as homebodies. They are working their way through the AFI’s list of the best 100 American films, and their favorite so far has been Singing In The Rain, which Bishop-Henchman was singing for days afterwards, according to Henchman.
Maybe because they’re not expecting a victory, the Henchmans tend to be complimentary of their political opponents—D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
Henchman says that he admires how Racine, as the first elected AG, has built up the office. His main critique is that Racine hasn’t used the office to go after Metro as part of his consumer protection efforts.
“The Metro here is one of the worst bad actors against its consumers,” Henchman says. “The Metro is supposed to knit the whole region and I think they’re getting a free pass because they’re a government organization. If I was attorney general, that’s something I would direct my staff to do.”
The couple also has a good deal of admiration for Mendelson, a person they see working to balance business interests with the liberal direction of the council.
“We like Mendelson as a person,” says Bishop-Henchman. “He’s not a bad chairman, but I think the council would run better for all D.C. residents if the chairman wasn’t just a cog in the Democratic machinery that runs Washington. I really want to be there because I have an instinct for being pro development, which is one of my huge things.”
Bishop-Henchman says he’s seen a burst of enthusiasm about his campaign since Mendelson worked to repeal Initiative 77, the voter-passed ballot measure to eliminate the tipped minimum wage.
Indeed, Initiative 77 is one of the issues about which the couple disagrees. They both voted against it—saying it was worded misleadingly on the ballot—but while Henchman agrees with the move to repeal it, Bishop-Henchman doesn’t.
He has two reasons, which he jokingly characterizes as “lefty-loony” and “hardcore free market.” The lefty-loony side of him, he says, would have voted to keep 77 because “if the voters are gonna vote for something, unless it’s some catastrophic thing, then the council should have let it happen.”
His hardcore free market side has a problem with the idea of a two-tiered wage system more broadly. “I think it’s unfair that everyone else has to abide by a minimum wage that I think does often hurt job creation, but a certain sector of the population has figured out how not to do that,” Bishop-Henchman says. “If there’s a problem with that, then we should maybe lower the minimum wage or cut regulation so business doesn’t even need a minimum wage because people’s time and effort will be worth more.”
Henchman cracks that this is how Bishop-Henchman is “going after those Lazere voters,” referring to the people who backed Mendelson’s challenger to the left, Ed Lazere, in the primaries.
“I got a hilarious email from someone I thought was Libertarian and wanted to help out with the campaign and it turns out this person just really wanted to help whoever the challenge to Mendelson was, which I guess is flattering,” says Bishop-Henchman. “I think there’s going to be a lot of protest votes.”
Henchman says that he thinks “a lot of people are going to go into the booth and be surprised they have a choice.”
For this election, they’re using mailers and email to educate voters, as well as Facebook. “Beyond that, it’s mainly a word of mouth thing … We’re not quite at the point where we can have a bunch of signs everywhere like the established candidates,” says Henchman. “Our goal is, in two or four years, to get one of those at-large seats and get some real, alternative views on the council, and well, that’s going to have to be a real campaign in order to get that.”
The Libertarian Party currently has 1,295 registered members in D.C., per the Board of Elections, and Henchman says they’ve got about 40 dues-paying members, “but that’s with zero effort,” he says.
They want to move D.C. from being a one-party government. “The Republicans are doing their own thing,” says Henchman. “I don’t think they’re really going to fill that need.”
Their vision of the District includes a place with lower business taxes and decreased property taxes for businesses, and helping developers build housing. They also want statehood.
“Democrats are the best friend of D.C. statehood until they’re in power, and suddenly it’s never on the top 50 issues,” says Henchman. “It really does need to be a top issue and we’re not afraid to call out the Democrats if they’re not willing to do it.”
They’re not Trump fans, either. “There are certain things that, as free market Libertarians, we will take and say, ‘Okay these are good,'” says Bishop-Henchman. “Mostly any other Republican president could have gotten those things as well, but I think at the end of the day Joe and I would admit that it’s not a net-positive. We could have lived under a Hillary Clinton presidency.” Henchman notes that he was a delegate for Gary Johnson in 2016.
Each time that Henchman pitches the Libertarian Party as the one providing an option on the ballot, Bishop-Henchman cuts in to clarify that they are “a sane and rational option.”
Henchman nods in agreement. “A lot of the alternatives are pretty scary out there,” he says. “And we’re not.”
This post has been updated to reflect that Bishop-Henchman proposed to Henchman, not the other way around.