By CHRISTOPHER WEAVER
COLLEGE PARK (Oct. 11, 2008)—Five Maryland Republican congressional candidates rallied with their ideological benefactor, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, Thursday night, beseeching their incumbent opponents to "vote the will of the people."
The unending war in Iraq, the economic bailout and the troubled economy prove the congressmen haven't fulfilled that responsibility, the challengers and their leader said.
"Not only have we continued the Campaign for Liberty, but all of a sudden, it seems that our views have caught on," Paul said after he ascended the stage to muffled rock music in an auxiliary gym at University of Maryland's Comcast Center.
The flagging economy is an issue tailor-made for Paul's disciples. Paul, the former GOP presidential contender who ran under the "Campaign for Liberty" banner, has warned about monetary crises and financial bubbles since Nixon dispatched the gold-standard in 1971.
The Maryland candidates, "Paulets," one fan called them, adopted Paul's economic platform when they signed up for the election last October. They see opportunity in the plummeting Wall Street indices, despite electoral odds heavily favoring the incumbents in their districts.
Two weeks ago, 8th District Republican candidate Steve Hudson, a Navy reservist and eye surgeon from Silver Spring, said the economy might "have an impact on the balance" of the election. Time and a Wall Street meltdown have toughened the talk.
Before Thursday's rally, Hudson's policy director, Andrew Padula, suggested that Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, should begin looking for a "real job."
Hudson is the leading fundraiser among the Republican challengers in Maryland, with $32,485, as opposed to Van Hollen's $1,761,404 as of the last campaign finance report in July.
Paul's views, shared by the candidates, include support for a limited, constitutional government, increased fiscal responsibility by disbanding whole government departments, social responsibility and economic and personal liberty. They believe in sound money policies to replace the factional-reserve banking system that they say allows financial institutions to manipulate the value of the dollar.
Collins Bailey, the 5th District candidate from Waldorf, pulled a bound copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket as he ticked off that list in an interview before the rally.
"I'll bet you a cookie that if you ask the other (four) people, they'll give you the same issues," said Bailey, a lumber broker and school board member. "Ask if they've got their Constitutions with them."
The Paul-endorsed candidates met as delegate captains in the congressman's presidential campaign last year, attracted to his unorthodox platform. When Paul exited the race, he kept his campaign apparatus in place to fund candidates for other offices who share his values; the five Maryland Republicans transitioned from campaign volunteers to candidates.
In addition to Hudson and Bailey, Peter James, of Germantown, a former finance consultant who usually carries his Constitution but forgot it Thursday, is running in the 4th District; Richard Matthews, of Orchard Beach, a technology engineer, in the 6th District; and Mike Hargadon, of Catonsville, a dentist, in the 7th District.
Door-knocking for Paul has helped in the uphill battle against incumbent Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, said Matthews, who was spotted in the parking lot before the event with a thick roll of campaign stickers that he'd determined to give away before their Nov. 4 expiration date.
"As Ron Paul campaigners, we're used to not having a lot of resources and just figuring it out for ourselves," he said.
Nevertheless, the short-staffed, short-changed, and longshot campaigns see themselves as the future of a Maryland Republican Party that's been in the doldrums since former Gov. Robert Ehrlich lost re-election in 2006, Matthews said.
Since Ehrlich became governor in 2002, only two congressional candidates in any of the districts in question earned more than 40 percent of the vote, and in two contests, there was not even a Republican challenger.
The Paul acolytes are hoping to re-energize their party with unique, practical responses to the economic crisis.
In an August 2006 Ron Paul Freedom Report, Paul wrote, "Today we're still able to borrow and inflate, but budgets are getting tighter and people sense serious problems lurking in the future...
"This fear is legitimate."
The passage is typical of the economic thinking deployed by Paulets long before the current crisis. The views are often informed by Austrian school economists like F.A. Hayek and their successors, a group of thinkers Paul mentioned in his speech Thursday.
A specific economic remedy the Liberty candidates suggested is the discipline to quit bad economic habits.
"We have to quit spending money we don't have," said Hargadon, noting that he is an experienced quitter, leaving behind smoking, "looking at porn" and drinking.
"We have to quit intervening in foreign countries. And we have to quit the Federal Reserve."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.