When Elkridge resident Christopher Eric Bouchat ran for office in 1992, it was part of a political strategy to develop name recognition. This time, he hopes to win election to the state Senate from District 12.
"If I had started at the bottom, I would have been someone's gofer, someone's page," Mr. Bouchat said. "By running for Congress [as a Republican in the 3rd Congressional District], I was able to establish myself as a serious campaigner, a good campaigner and a good debater."
Mr. Bouchat, 26, sounds as if he has been in politics a lot longer than one year: "Based on my campaign -- [he finished third in a seven-person primary] -- I was asked to become Elkridge field director for the Bush-Quayle campaign. My base of support helped Bush win in Elkridge."
The newly drawn 12th District is "a perfect seat to run for," Mr. Bouchat said, because it includes parts of Howard County and )) Baltimore County. "I couldn't have prayed for a better district. I have lived on both sides."
He said he was bitten by the political bug in junior high school. In 1980, he was asked to represent independent candidate John Anderson in a debate with classmates posing as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
"I won, and it put the fire in the belly," he said. "I love to engage in debate and controversy."
What sets him apart from other candidates, Mr. Bouchat said, are his youth and blue-collar background. "No one is representing the middle class, and there is only one individual under 30 in the General Assembly," he said.
"I come from a working-class family background. I am a young adult with children. I am a working man," said Mr. Bouchat, a welder for an aircraft manufacturer. "So many people are fed up with government, politics and especially with lawyers who profit from making complicated, diverse laws to create their own work. The constituents want one of their own to represent them."
Mr. Bouchat favors term-limitations and wants government to be run by part-time legislators.
"At the time of the Founding Fathers, the largest percentage of legislators were farmers -- working men," he said. "They believed the best representation was by people who saw government as an avocation, not a career."
If Mr. Bouchat is elected, his chief goal will be to limit the state's taxing power.
"We have no control over how much is confiscated in the tax system," he said. "Cutting taxes stimulates the economy. Increasing taxes strangles it."
Although limiting the government's taxing ability is his primary objective, it is not one that he expects to accomplish soon. "I'm a realist. It would take years before such a thing could take place, but you have to start somewhere," Mr. Bouchat said.
Mr. Bouchat wants government to take a tougher approach to crime. He wants to shorten the appeals process for killers sentenced to the death penalty and he wants more boot and labor camps for first offenders.
He also wants a change of venue for any juvenile accused of a crime involving relatives of someone in a police department or the courts.
When he was 16, Mr. Bouchat was convicted of battery as an adult for attacking a rival with a tire iron. He served nine months on work release in the Howard County detention center.
He said he believes that his sentence -- a classmate had a 30-day suspended sentence -- was related to the fact that the other youth was the son of a county police officer.
Opponents tried to sully him a year ago by calling attention to his high school conviction, but the at
tempt backfired, he said. "People could see that I was a kid in high school who has turned his life around."