Two Courtney challengers take pride in libertarian leanings

Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh
Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh

Of the three candidates challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, as he seeks a fifth term in Congress, at least two think many of the nation's problems can be solved by reducing the size of the government.

Congressional hopefuls Dan Reale, a freelance paralegal from Plainfield, and Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh, a real estate broker who ran for mayor of New London in 2011, don't hide their libertarian leanings. They speak of limiting the federal government and talk about the Constitution with reverence. Neither has held political office before. Each of them sought the Republican endorsement in May and the Libertarian endorsement in late June.

Although their philosophies are similar, Reale, who is running as a Libertarian, and Hopkins-Cavanagh, who is on the Republican ticket, bring different platforms, priorities and backgrounds to the race against Courtney and Green Party candidate Bill Clyde.

Hopkins-Cavanagh beat out Reale and a third candidate for the Republican nomination. Although she is affiliated with the Connecticut Libertarian Party, which requires her to pay dues of $25 a year and sign a nonaggression pledge, Hopkins-Cavanagh is a registered Republican and describes herself as a "constitutional conservative."

"If (former President Ronald) Reagan's a libertarian, then yes, I'm the same Republican that Reagan was," said Hopkins-Cavanagh, 54, who said she is primarily interested in the emphasis libertarians put on "fiscal responsibility."

Although Reale, 32, lost his bid for the Republican nomination, he won the support of Libertarians for the third time in a row. This will be the first time Reale won't need to petition to get his name on the ballot, because he received more than 1 percent of the vote in 2012.

He's thrilled that he has automatic ballot access this year, because petition drives "take pieces of your soul out."

Reale said he sought the Republican nomination at the request of friends in the party who said they were dissatisfied with their choices and didn't seem deterred by his loss.

"I'm a Libertarian. I don't just believe in it, I live it," said Reale, who stayed in the race in 2012 despite going through a divorce, dealing with his mother's death and suffering from pneumonia.

Although Hopkins-Cavanagh has, at times, referred to her philosophies as libertarian, Joshua Katz, chairman of the Connecticut Libertarian Party, said Reale's policies "are largely resonant with the Libertarian Party platform" and "are distinct and unique in this election."

And, unlike other candidates, Reale said he comes with a binding commitment to do certain things as a congressman.

Reale has signed an affidavit that states that, under penalty of perjury, he will field legislation and/or an amendment to legislation to do a number of things, including abolish the practice of earmarks, end U.S. involvement in a number of free trade organizations, repeal federal income tax and end all federal firearms restrictions.

He also pledges never to vote "yes" on a bill unless he has read it in its entirety.

Logic in politics

Reale, who was trained in electronics and used to work as a lab technician, didn't set out to get involved in politics. It was only after watching the economy struggle and being inspired by Ron Paul's 2008 presidential candidacy and the birth of the tea party movement in 2009 that Reale decided to get seriously involved with the Libertarian party.

Reale said he approaches politics the same way he approaches everything else: logically.

"In a way, everything looks like an engineering schematic if you look at it right," said Reale, who, despite performing stage magic as a hobby, said he resists looking at systems as though they contain a "magic box" rather than a rational process.

When you study a problem calmly instead of reacting with fear or over-excitement, said Reale, you can figure out what's going on and how to start fixing it.

That's what he did for four months as he tried to develop "a meaningful alternative" to the Affordable Care Act. His proposals are outlined on his website, danrealeforcongress.com, but he said one basic principle is that no one should have to pay for coverage that they don't need. Reale, for instance, as a man who does not want any more children, resents having to pay for childbirth coverage.

He also supports published price lists as part of an effort to bring down inflated medical costs, which he said has already been achieved at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, which doesn't accept health insurance.

Another of Reale's priorities is derailing a "growing warfare state" by working toward energy independence and scaling back overseas involvement, which he believes can be achieved by using 1970s sodium salt reactor technology to provide nuclear energy.

He also wants to improve "an economy that can be described as a casino" by, among other measures, allowing big banks to fail. And he wants to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy and subject to the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - a step he described as ""an extreme example of something practical we can do right now to help everybody."

A distaste for government interference

Although she identifies primarily as a Republican, Hopkins-Cavanagh shares with Reale and many Libertarians a distaste for government interference.

"First and foremost in my mind is that the government is overreaching its power and intrusion into our lives in so many ways, fiscally as well as socially," she said. "I'm perfectly happy to be a Republican and have those ideas."

Hopkins-Cavanagh said government interference has botched the health care system, created problems for small-business owners and kept some people in a perpetual cycle of poverty.

If elected, Hopkins-Cavanagh said, energy and national security would be two of her highest priorities. She wants to make the New England power grid more secure and would like to see more secure borders and more aggressive deportation of undocumented immigrants, although she supports a path to citizenship for certain law-abiding immigrants.

She said that "blanket amnesty," however, is a "mistake," and while she is sympathetic to undocumented immigrants who have spent most of their lives in the United States, she said a woman crossing the border to give birth is "not appropriate."

Hopkins-Cavanagh said health care is also an important issue. She would like to see the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and "would make it illegal to take away someone's property" because of unpaid medical bills. She would like to see pre-existing conditions covered by insurance and would set up government-funded health savings accounts for the working poor, but she is strongly opposed to a single-payer health care system.

She also believes birth control pills should be available over the counter, which she said would drive prices down and avoid the controversy over whether employers should be required to pay for insurance coverage of oral contraceptives.

One of the major things that sets Hopkins-Cavanagh apart from her Libertarian opponent is that she has the support of a major party, which comes with a $5,000 donation - the maximum allowed by law - from the Grassroots East political action committee and advertising support from the well-funded Republicans.

Although her campaign is largely self-financed, Hopkins-Cavanagh had raised $71,041 by July 23. Reale, on the other hand, did not have to file with the Federal Election Commission because he had raised less than $5,000. Hopkins-Cavanagh's campaign website is www.loriforcongress2014.com.

Reale said fundraising is not a top priority for his campaign because he can't hope to match the money raised by Hopkins-Cavanagh or Courtney, who already had more than $1 million in July. Instead, he's relying on media interviews, his web presence and name recognition from the previous two elections to make himself known to voters.

"Hopefully, if things work out, I'll go to Washington," said Reale. "If not, I'll learn to play the violin."

k.catalfamo@theday.com

Twitter: @kccatalfamo

Dan Reale
Dan Reale

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