A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, looking at all of the pictures of kids and cute animals, when I came upon an ad from John Stossel. It said that the rumors were true, that he was going to have a Libertarian Party candidate forum/debate and that they have a very limited number of seats available to be in the audience. It said that the three top polling candidates had confirmed that they would be there, and it would be taping on a Tuesday night and airing on Friday. I emailed them as fast as I could with all of my information, but didn’t think I could have been early enough to get two tickets.

Then they wrote back. We had the tickets. Between then and actually sitting in that chair I kept waiting for something to happen to stop us from going. Once we were there I was convinced that at the last minute they’d say we were too late, that we weren’t going to be able to go in.

But we did. We lined up outside of Fox Business News’ office, talked to some wonderful Libertarians in the line (it’s massively liberating to be able to talk to people that get your political mindset at the get-go), went through the metal detectors, sat around in the basement eating pizza and trying to keep from being bored. Then we were taken in groups of 15 to the studio, where we got in our seats and waited for everyone to appear. Over and over we went through the “hurry up and wait” that comes with shooting for TV.

The entire time I was there I could not get over it. I was going to be about 7 feet from Austin Petersen, John McAfee, Gary Johnson and of course John Stossel. When they came out and went to their places I had a hard time not squealing like a teenage girl.

I mean, John Stossel is one of the reasons I became a Libertarian. I first watched him in his “20/20” days when he did a program on the inherent gender differences and my Child Development teacher used that video as part of her class. When I got older I read his books and started watching his TV show. While he looks very different on TV than he does in person (he’s handsomer in person), his kindness, wit and humor that you see on-air is identical to his off-air personality. When he interacted with us in the audience he came off as a very honest, curious and gracious man who genuinely cared about our opinions.

Before I came to this debate I had been a long-time supporter of Gary Johnson. When I first saw him debate in the first 2012 Republican debate he became one of my favorites. I’m a registered Republican so I could vote for Ron Paul in the primary, but when the November election came and he had failed to be the nominee, I became very vocal about my support for Gov. Johnson, and I voted for him in the general election. He was one of the reasons I wanted to be at this taping. I was a little biased when I came in, and raised my hand for Johnson when Stossel asked us if we knew who we wanted to vote for. I didn’t know much about McAfee, and less about Petersen.

Without giving too many details (I don’t want to spoil the actual debate for you- trust me it’s worth it to watch), I was surprised to see how much I came to like all three men. When McAfee talks, he’s very transparent about his actually feelings, and he really stresses explaining the logic behind his positions and policy plans. The more I heard from him, the more I liked him. He’s rough around the edges but genuine.

Austin Petersen is a little bit more of a traditional politician. He spoke in compact phrases and used talking points for each subject. He was arguably the most eloquent of the three, and a polished, traditional appearance that bares a slight resemblance to Marco Rubio. Of the three I “booed” him the least. However, this sleekness can be a little off-putting for people who tend to chafe at standard politicians, but could attract more Republicans who appreciate that.

Johnson was his typical self. Easy going and natural, he seems to answer questions like he’s having a private conversation over a beer. He had the most difficulty staying in the time restrictions because he told very elaborate stories full of strong (and sometimes unnecessary) details. He seems to be the most skilled at making responses that straddle both sides of the issue.

By the end I raised my hand again to say that I would still vote for Johnson, but if I had the option to do so I would have said that the debate did change my mind. I went from being completely and totally pro-Johnson to now supporting all three candidates I saw. Each had their positives and their negatives, but all three would be a worthy candidate for the party, and a worthy alternative to the evil and the lesser-evil. No matter which of them gets the nomination (as one of them will most likely get it), they will be getting my vote in November.

And they should get your vote too.

After the taping both McAfee and Petersen met the audience outside of the studio to talk and take pictures. My husband and I took a picture with McAfee (his first choice among the three), who seemed to be appreciative of our desire to be photographed with him. Petersen was in a heated conversation and we had to rush to Grand Central, so we weren’t able to talk to or take a picture with him. Another audience member had said that Johnson was sick and that was why he wasn’t out with the others.

When I am way too excited I tend to act like my dog and lose my brain. I had wanted to talk to the candidates about my being a chronic pain patient, and the “opiate epidemic.” I wanted to talk to them about how terrified the new CDC “guidelines” make me and other patients like me. I wanted to stress how different those of us who suffer from chronic, debilitating pain are from drug-seeking addicts, and how we should not be compared. I wanted to explain how the CDC and politicians lump pain sufferers in with heroin addicts, and how in order to get a large enough statistic for overdose death they used both accidental deaths and suicides, illegal heroin users with legal, rule abiding patients. About how street heroin and prescription pills are not the same thing and shouldn’t be synonymous. But my brain had turned off because I was way too excited to be standing with John McAfee.

Even today I am still completely thrilled and in awe of being able to be part of that audience. If you ask me ten years from now about it, I think I’ll still feel that way.

Please watch both parts of Stossel’s Libertarian Candidate Forum on both April 1st and 8th on Fox Business News Channel at 9PM EST.

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