TWO INTERESTING CANDIDATES for the District 5 Congressional seat agree on only a few issues. They both believe, however, that the American public must get more involved with their government or risk losing some of their freedoms. The two also share a common fate: Neither of them is going to win on election day.
Michael Green is a 53-year-old Green Party member whose background as an attorney shows in his methodical campaign style. Aage Nost was born in Norway in 1946 and is the Libertarian candidate for District 5.
Sitting in the fashionably decorated waiting room of a historic building, Green outlines his reasons for running. "I have things to say and I think I'd make a good Congressman," he stresses. "Plus, I'm disenchanted with two-party politics and the cowardliness of both parties because they've been bought by soft [corporate] money."
Green sometimes agrees with Democratic positions on issues, sometimes with Republicans, and other times he offers views neither party would endorse.
"The war on drugs has solved absolutely nothing. We've spent $250 billion but substance abuse hasn't changed a whole lot. This is insanity--social psychosis, cultural suicide," he emphasizes. If elected, he promises to "dedicate myself to the termination of this misdirected effort."
Instead, Green wants to legalize some banned substances while increasing funding for rehabilitation and education programs. Assuming that would cost about $5 billion a year, the candidate would spend the $35 billion savings to "rebuild our schools, provide health coverage to our uninsured children, and provide prescription drug assistance to those in need."
As a Vietnam veteran, Green opposes his own party's call for a 50 percent reduction in military spending. On the controversial issue of gun control, he says that he favors "trigger-lock legislation, the registration of weapons and licensing of gun owners."
Calling the lack of health insurance for 46 million people a national shame, Green supports universal health care coverage. To pay for it, the candidate, who calls himself a fiscal conservative, would allocate part of the projected budget surplus along with savings from ending the war on drugs.
To improve the environment, Green proposes making Southern Arizona the solar capital of the world. He wants to see tax incentives provided to encourage the development and use of alternative sources of energy. "That," he says, "is a piece of pork I would seek" for the fifth Congressional District.
Strengthening the Environmental Protection Agency is another of the candidate's priorities. And he isn't afraid of pointing the finger at certain culprits behind the current energy situation: us. "It is amazing what we are interested in buying," he says of SUVs and other gas guzzlers. "There was once a national consensus on energy with demands for better mileage, but in the last eight years that has gone to hell. We need to reawaken that consensus."
Like Ralph Nader, his party's presidential standard bearer, Michael Green believes campaign finance reform is critical to returning political power to the American people. He proposes having publicly funded federal campaigns and requiring that free television time be made available to all candidates.
AAGE NOST MANAGES KRVL, an unlicensed, naked-truth "constitutional" radio station. Before that, his résumé included part ownership in a flight training school in Minnesota from 1975 until 1982, UFO research, and setting up offshore trusts to help individuals and businesses become "attorney proof."
In the crowded South Tucson warehouse that serves as his station, Nost discussed his candidacy while a radio played loudly in the background. Many of his positions reflect the individual-freedom philosophy of his party.
Nost believes in a bare-bones federal government, one that brings the troops home from overseas and cuts out spending on such frills as the National Endowment for the Arts and foreign aid. To pay for the apprehension of illegal immigrants, Nost proposes sending a bill to the Mexican government, but he doesn't expect to see anything in return. He also favors taking away incentives for people to come to this country illegally by penalizing those who provide them with jobs.
Saying the U.S. educational system is "slightly above a Third World nation and the laughingstock of the world," the Libertarian candidate wants to eliminate the federal Department of Education and return more power to the local and state levels of government.
Addressing the anticipated federal surplus, Nost says, "It was extracted from single moms with three kids who are working two jobs to make ends meet. They should have the money returned to them."
It is the issue of private investment funds held by the federal government, however, that absorbs most of Nost's interest. Claiming these accounts hold between $60 and $71 trillion, the candidate believes both the IRS and the personal income tax could be abolished if the government used the interest earned on the accounts instead. Nost insists he would go to Washington to embarrass those in power into returning this money to the taxpayers. But, he adds, if he didn't change things in two years, he would come home.
Nost is running for Congress because "there is so much corruption in Washington because there are only two agendas: money and power. We need new people. I am going to Washington to ask uncomfortable questions and as a law repealer," he says.
The Democratic and Republican candidates for District 5, George Cunningham and Jim Kolbe, are mostly battling on television over who can better provide innocent babes with health coverage. While their campaigns have been a little testy lately, at one of their rare joint appearances recently both candidates were civil and agreed on several issues.
But their Libertarian and Green Party opponents offer the voters of District 5 a real alternative. Nost, echoing Ronald Reagan, says, "People need to think, am I better off today than I was 10 or 20 years ago? Is this country freer than it was 10 or 20 years ago? If the answer is no, then they need to vote for different people because the incumbents have a monopoly which must be broken by people with higher principles, who believe in freedom over financial and job slavery!"
Green puts the reasons voters should consider him somewhat differently. "Vote your conscience, not your fears," he tells people. "By supporting my candidacy, you can help reclaim the political power that is our constitutional right. If we don't take back our democracy, nobody else will."