Libertarian full slate sends multi-party message

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WASHINGTON — Libertarian Chairman Robert Johnson phoned around to his tiny party’s sympathizers late last year, after being dispatched from an August picnic to corral congressional candidates against Maryland Democrats’ near-monopoly.

He asked the potential nominees three questions: “Are you against the war in Iraq? Are you against the Patriot Act? Are you against the war on drugs?” If the answers were yeses, members were invited to the party’s convention in March for final vetting. About 20 candidates and party officials showed up at Squires, an Italian joint in east Baltimore.

Johnson managed to field a nearly full slate, but the objective wasn’t to win races — 2 percent would be a victory, he said — but to send a message to the Democrats that one-party rule won’t stand in Maryland anymore.

Libertarian candidates like Lorenzo Gaztanaga, of Baltimore, say the major nominees, including four Democratic incumbents who haven’t been seriously challenged in three or more cycles, must answer voters on issues like the financial bailout, and live up to their campaign promises, such as ending the war in Iraq.

Two-party states, where politicians hug party lines to win votes and few new ideas emerge, are bad enough, said Gaztanaga, whose district is among the most Libertarian in Maryland with more than 0.2 percent of the electorate.

“However, here in Maryland, it’s even worse. We have a one-party state,” said the former Democrat, Republican and independent whose family moved to the U.S. from Havana, Cuba, when he was 12.

If he wins even a small percentage of votes, his candidacy will be a wake-up call for Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the Democrat incumbent in the 2nd District, Gaztanaga added.

Democrats make up 56 percent of Maryland’s 3.2 million voters, while Republicans are only 28 percent. Republicans have not had much luck gaining ground in statewide and congressional elections in recent years. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich is a notable exception, moving from the 2nd District congressional seat to the governor’s office in 2003.

The Libertarian Party’s other candidates are Richard Davis in the 1st District; Thibeaux Lincecum in the Fourth; Darlene Nicholas in the Fifth; Gary Hoover in the Sixth; Ronald Owens-Bey in the Seventh; and Ian Thomas in the Eighth.

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