December 30, 2009

Libertarian gubernatorial nominee hopes to build on ’08 party performance

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

While Republicans wonder who they’ll run for governor next year, and even incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley may face a primary challenge for re-election, one gubernatorial candidate is already assured a place on the November 2010 ballot: Susan Gaztañaga.

Gaztañaga was nominated by central committee of the Libertarian Party on Nov. 21, along with Doug McNeil for lieutenant governor.

An administrator at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Gaztañaga said she is “realistic about my chances of getting elected, of course. If it happens by some miracle, I would definitely be willing to serve.”

Despite her slim chances, Gaztañaga says she is running because the Libertarian Party “should offer an alternative to the voters of Maryland. We do have positions and solutions that no one else is going to be offering.”

As governor, Gaztañaga said she would test federal authority over Maryland National Guard by ordering the troops home from overseas. She would also apply libertarian principals to the state budget, limiting government to public safety and basic infrastructure, and “stop right there.”

“If people were just allowed to keep their money to start with, they’d be able to take care of” their own education and health care.

“The government should not really be involved in education,” Gaztañaga said. “It creates a virtual monopoly that they have to pay for whether they use it or not.”

“This is not something that’s going to be popular,” she conceded. Instead, she favors “anything that will promote school choice.”

Gaztañaga would attack what she believes to be the causes of poverty, including over-regulation and “a lot of these licensing requirements that prevent people from selling their services.”

Gaztañaga acknowledged hers are not widely-held views, but she believes Marylanders want real change.

“There are a lot of nonvoters out there who have just given up on voting at all because they are not offered any kind of thing that they can vote for without throwing up,” she said. “Vote for what you really want. You’re not going to get it right now, but you’re certainly not going to get it if you vote for what you don’t want.”

The Gaztañaga name has been on Maryland ballots often. Susan’s husband Lorenzo has run for Baltimore City Council twice and for lieutenant governor in 2002. He got almost 8,800 votes (3.2 percent) last year running against Dutch Ruppersberger for Congress.

That, along with other recent election results, may be an encouraging sign for the party, given that there are only about 7,800 registered Libertarians in the entire state.

Last year, the party’s candidates in seven of the eight congressional districts garnered 47,708 votes. In the closely fought 1st Congressional District, Libertarian Richard Davis got 8,873 votes (2.5 percent), three times the margin of victory for Democrat Frank Kratovil.

Lorenzo Gaztañaga has already been nominated in the 2nd Congressional District, as has Davis in the 1st, and the party plans to run a full slate of candidates for Congress, said Libertarian Chairman Bob Johnston.

“Even though I know we’re not going to win, it builds legitimacy,” Johnston said. “Running candidates is an inexpensive way to get the message out.”

Johnston is party-building for the long term. Even though Maryland is among the bluest of the Democratic blue states, in the next 10 years, he believes people, particularly the young, “will start going for a third party.”

Johnston is not concerned that the Libertarians candidates might be seen as “spoilers” in close elections. As libertarians, the party’s congressional candidates are both consistently “anti-war and anti-spending,” Johnston said.

They represent alternatives to Republicans who he said are “phony on spending” and Democrats who are “phony on war.”

“I think Maryland is more conservative than people think,” Johnston said.

“The candidate for governor is the most important person,” Johnston said “This is the salesperson for the party.”

He has no expectations that Susan Gaztañaga can pull off a victory, but “I would be dancing in the street if it happens.”