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Campaign Beat

The Outsiders

Handful of Populists and One Libertarian Round Out Nov. 7 Maryland Ballot

www.mcpeekforcongress.com
NICE HAT: Libertarian Charles Curtis McPeek hopes to take over ben cardin's old seat in the house of representatives.

By Randy Leonard | Posted 11/1/2006

If you want to stick out as an instrument of social change against the status quo in a town were eight out of 10 voters call themselves Democrats, you have to do something drastic--you could run as a Republican, but that might not be the kind of change you're looking for. You could run as a Green, as well. Or you could get creative and join up with one of the other third parties in Maryland: the Constitution, Populist, or Libertarian parties. In the Nov. 7 election, there will be four such candidates on the ballot in Baltimore--three on the Populist line and one on the Libertarian.

There's 77-year-old Charles Curtis McPeek of Laurel, for example, running for the 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He will face off against Democrat John Sarbanes and Republican John White. When asked why he has joined up with the Libertarians in his run for the House, McPeek says, "I have been a Democrat my whole life, and they have not helped me do a thing. I have run off and on since '68, and they've never promoted me."

He complains the two parties waste their time and taxpayer resources campaigning. Both parties spend money that he thinks should be used to create new jobs. McPeek's primary interest is bettering public health care, paid for by sales tax. If he had his way, income tax would be abolished and federal and state revenue would be amassed entirely through sales tax.

"Money is the root of all evil, and if you ain't got the money," he says, "it is what everyone is looking for." McPeek believes that a flat sales tax would bring in the revenue the state loses from those who dodge income tax.

He also proposes reinstating the draft. "Get kids off the street and put them into training," he says, "instead of robbing and stealing and using drugs and wasting their lives away."

The subject of crime leads him into another idea of his: legalizing prostitution and "some minor drugs." When asked what he means by minor drugs, McPeek says, "Some minor doses of pot--I don't mean go nuts with it. I used to use some minor drugs, but I knew what it was going to do to me."

McPeek says 90 percent of the people he is looking to for support--lower-income wage workers--are not registered to vote and do not have any money to support him with: "Every now and then someone gives me 10 bucks, but what am I going to do with that?" He is hopeful, however, that things will work out for him this election. "I am really optimistic because I think people are fed up. . . . Really, I think I got a good chance."

Ronald M. Owens-Bey has over the years sought office as a Democrat and Republican. He is running this year as a Populist candidate for one of the three House of Delegates seats in the 45th District.

Born and raised in East Baltimore, Owens-Bey, 58, bills himself as a "straight shooter and honorable guy." He attended Baltimore City Community College and Morgan State University and married his college sweetheart. He has two kids, both college graduates.

When asked about his choice of party support, Owens-Bey says the Populists are interested in the "benefit of the people." He says that in this "one-horse town," where Democrats dominate the political scene so extensively, it is difficult to voice opposition. Owens-Bey says the Eastside Democratic Organization (led by 45th District state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden) is basically unchallenged in East Baltimore, and is bought and paid for by special interests.

The issue that most concerns Owens-Bey, a licensed social worker, is the social mobility of his constituency. Education, he says, is what struggling people living in the 45th need to get "a leg up." He points to a link between the high-school dropout rate and crime and poverty. Quality education is his answer. "College is not for everyone," he says, pointing to programs that would include vocational education and training.

"I don't want to toot my own horn," Owens-Bey says. "But I am the best candidate for the 45th."

Also on the Populist line are gubernatorial candidate Christopher A. Driscoll, a journalist, and his running mate, Ed Rothstein, director of the Maryland Workers Union.

Driscoll describes a statewide, single-payer health-care system that would cover everyone for less than the current system, thanks to cuts in overhead and greater leverage over health-care delivery costs. He advocates energy reform to allow more municipalities to own utilities, providing greater competition in the power market. He promotes small-business ownership programs to support community-rooted businesses that would empower employees and consumers. The Driscoll campaign also proposes a land-value tax, which Driscoll describes as a split-rate tax, taxing land at five times the rate as the improvements on the land.

"It penalizes land speculation," Driscoll says, pointing out the blocks of empty houses in Baltimore. "It encourages rational land use in the city and suburbs, and even in rural areas it encourages better use of farmland."

When asked how a split tax would work with the many properties in Baltimore subject to ground rent, Driscoll asks: "What do you mean by ground rent?" When told about the antiquated system, under which a homeowner may not own the land his or her house sits on and thus pays a modest rent for its use, Driscoll stuck to his plank. "I think it would be beneficial," he says.

The other main issue that Driscoll and Rothstein promote is bringing the Maryland National Guard back home to protect the state against natural or man-made disasters. Driscoll says the mission of the Guard has been "severely compromised by a federal government that has nationalized our state's soldiers and sent them into an unwinnable, illegal war in Iraq."

Driscoll recognizes that National Guard troops make up nearly half of the Army's infantry and says he doesn't favor pulling the Maryland National Guard away from national defense, but he wants to reorder priorities so that the Guard is a last line of defense, not the first. He cites the Hurricane Katrina disaster in Louisiana and fires out west as situations in which states found themselves bereft of their National Guard forces.

A recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA gives Driscoll 1 percent of the vote. When asked if he would consider running again as a Populist, he says, "one thing at a time."

As chairman of the Maryland Populist Party, Driscoll says he would like the Greens, Libertarians, and Populists to team up in future races as a coalition and support slates of candidates as alternatives to the two-party choices.

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