- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 21, 2004

LANCASTER, N.H. - Thousands of voters who say the country’s two-party system has become too homogenous, bureaucratic and inept have begun a pilgrimage to New England with the dream of starting a new party that will become a national force and unite legions of the equally disenfranchised.

“Most elections are like trying to get lunch out of a vending machine,” said Philip Boncer, 41, a biomedical engineer from San Diego. “You have choices, but they’re all bad for you. Democrats are increasing regulations and the strain on business, and Republicans are increasing moral laws.”

The movement, known as the Free State Project, was started in late 2001 and now has about 6,000 members. It also has an ambitious plan to more than triple its membership and become firmly entrenched in New Hampshire politics by 2011.

For Keith Murphy, a legislative aide for Maryland Democratic state Sen. George Della, the decision to become part of the movement and migrate to New Hampshire came after a constituent he was helping with Medicare benefits died while recovering from cancer.

Mr. Murphy, 29, said the elderly woman needed a nutritional supplement to complete her recovery at home, but federal guidelines mandated that she get her dosages at a hospital.

She died at home in mid-December, and Mr. Murphy formally resigned the same day.

“In our dream world, we’d like to see Medicare gone,” he said. “It’s inefficient, ineffective and expensive. The private marketplace can do a lot better job of providing medical care.”

Mr. Murphy said the group members chose New Hampshire from among 10 states because it has no state income tax, the local school systems are free of state mandates and it has a culture of self-sufficiency and libertarian ideals.

“It is what America was supposed to be,” said Mr. Murphy, who plans to move after earning his graduate degree in urban planning from the University of Maryland in December.

Members also thought the state’s rugged landscape, notoriously cold winters and motto of “Live Free or Die” was the ideal setting for the movement.

“We know it’s going to snow, and it’s going to be a [bear] of a winter, and we don’t care,” said Kristine Brooks, a Free State member and Mr. Boncer’s fiancee.

Limited government

Organizers say their primary goals are to limit government, reduce taxes and increase personal liberties. If the plan works, they say, other states will have to follow or lose residents and their tax dollars.

After voting on New Hampshire last September, the group held its first gathering there.About 300 members met at a campground in the White Mountains for the inaugural Porcupine Festival — named after the group mascot, which they say is a gentle creature but well-prepared when others try stepping on its back.

While there, they met with Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, who has called the group a “friend” and has welcomed it to the state. He has also appointed members to a task force on government efficiency, but Democrats have attacked his association with Free State during this election year and he had stopped short of endorsing the group.

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