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June 11, 2002


By Michael A. de Yoanna
Colorado Daily

A supporter of transcendental meditation and an opponent of campaign-finance reform are seeking to unseat Democrat Mark Udall in the local race for U.S. Congress.

Natural Law Party State Chairman Patrick West and Libertarian Party Campaign Director Norm Olsen are slated to represent their parties in the race for 2nd Congressional District, both said Monday. They enter a race where a prominent Republican businessman, Bob Greenlee, and a popular Green Party politician, Ron Forthofer, have recently declined to challenge Udall, who is seeking to seal a 20-year hold on the seat for Democrats.

West and Olsen espoused similar stances on numerous positions.

For example, both want to see smaller government and both agree on the abortion issue. Although neither of the candidates personally supports abortion for moral reasons, neither would go as far to impose their morals on others.

Both also favor Social Security reforms -- something Olsen describes as a "Ponzi scheme" that "robs people of their dignity."

Though neither of the two is seeking the dissolution of the Social Security Trust Fund, both want to see individuals granted more control over their funds.

Both also agree on the death penalty: Neither supports the government's ultimate form of punishment.

And, coincidentally, both are computer software programmers.

The differences between the two begin to peel away there, however.

West, who is 34 and lives in Broomfield, said despite similarities with the Libertarian Party, environmental issues divide the two. For example, West said he favors more scrutiny over crops that have been genetically altered (GMOs).

"It's important to protect public health and to protect our small farms," West said. "We need to label the foods and we need safety tests."

West, a member of the Colorado Genetic Engineering Action Network, said he would support legislation introduced last week in Congress by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich. The Ohio Democrat is seeking to provide a comprehensive framework to regulate genetically engineered plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms.

"If there are problems, the industry should be held liable," West added.

He also advocates transcendental meditation as a method for achieving everything from better students to lasting world peace. The consciousness-raising technique was popularized after the Beatles visited India's Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

"There are over 100 research studies on this subject," West said. "If a large enough group of people practice transcendental meditation, when they reach a point of consciousness, then it's going to affect the collective. It's going to affect the people around you -- the energy around you. So if you have enough people doing this, then it's going to affect the city, the state and the region pretty much in a positive way."

West said he is impressed with a ballot initiative in Denver. It would create an office to raise consciousness in the city through transcendental meditation and other methods supported by scientific research, he said.

Other consciousness raising exercises could be helpful if embraced as a fundamental part of education, he said. Charter schools could be created at local levels to explore the use of the consciousness-raising activities. The techniques could be studied for potential use by public schools, West said.

"Some schools have meditation, or quiet time, in the morning for a half hour and in the afternoon for a half hour," West said. "The students can do anything they want that is meditation, such as art or yoga. The idea is to calm the mind and the body at the same time and it will relieve stress."

As for more immediate matters, such as fighting the scourge of terrorism, the government must carefully contemplate its actions, West said.

"As we sow, so shall we reap," West said. "We spend more than any other country in the world on defense. We funded Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War and we did the same thing in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Is it a wonder that we are where we are?" ...

Both Olsen and West concede they are unlikely to raise as much money as Udall, who has $ 579,244 in his campaign coffer. Republicans will vote for either Sandy Hume or Bob Vehar in their primary later this summer.

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