Dr. Margaret Flowers says she gave up a 17-year practice as a pediatrician a decade ago out of disgust with health insurance companies.
Now, as the Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate from Maryland, she is prescribing a radical shift in policies for the nation.
The 53-year-old Baltimore woman is running against Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Republican Kathy Szeliga for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski for 30 years.
"We can't address the solution to the climate crisis or on military policy unless we confront the fact that our public policy represents the interests of the wealthy elites," she said.
She wants a crackdown on Wall Street abuses and a system of public banks to finance local projects that bigger institutions won't.
She also brings a passionate desire to overhaul the American health care system in a way that sends private insurance companies to the dustbin of history. She says she would have voted against Obamacare because it didn't go far enough toward a single-payer system.
Her interest in foreign policy runs deep. Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson couldn't name a foreign leader he admired. But Flowers, asked the same question, doesn't miss a beat: Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa. As Venezuela descends into economic chaos, she says she still admires the goals of the "Bolivarian revolution" launched by the late Hugo Chavez.
Flowers says she is not a pacifist, but she wants a dramatic shift away from the use of military force. She says she could support a presidential decision to defend a NATO ally, if that assistance was requested. But she says the United States bears much of the responsibility for tensions with Russia and North Korea because it has adopted an overly aggressive military stance.
Flowers opposes the U.S. bombing of the self-declared Islamic State — she says the group would wither away if its flow of money and arms is cut off. She opposes any effort to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Were Flowers to be elected, she says, she would not be a senator in the mold of Mikulski, known for her avid pursuit of federal dollars for Maryland. She said it is "not likely" that she would join the rest of the state's delegation in pursuing military jobs.
Flowers concentrates her criticism on Van Hollen, the liberal congressman from Montgomery County. She dismisses Szeliga as a "bread-and-butter Republican" with little chance of winning in heavily Democratic Maryland. But Van Hollen, she said, is running a $10 million campaign funded largely by K Street lobbyists.
"Van Hollen has a lot of people fooled," Flowers said. She blames him for failing to speak out vigorously against the liquefied natural gas terminal being developed at Cove Point in Calvert County. She faults him for supporting President Barack Obama's antiterrorism strategy.
"He hasn't spoken out against the drone attacks," Flowers said.
Van Hollen campaign spokeswoman Bridgett Frey, asked for a response, said Van Hollen has been a leader on campaign finance reform, strongly opposed the Iraq War and has been endorsed by major environmental organizations.
If elected, Flowers says, she would refuse the health insurance provided to senators until such care is available to all. She says she would accept only a salary equal to the median wage of Marylanders.
As a third-party candidate, she's realistic about her prospects.
Maryland Policy & Politics
"Most likely I'm not going to win," Flowers said. She complained that she's been excluded from televised debates.
"The media has decided from the get-go that I'm not a viable candidate," she said. "They haven't allowed the public to understand who I am."
Nevertheless, Flowers insists she's well qualified to be a U.S. senator. The mother of three college-age children points to her years of advocacy on Capitol Hill for the health care causes she took up after leaving medicine. She now works as co-director — along with partner Kevin Zeese, the 2006 Green Party nominee for Senate — of the nonprofit group PopularResistance.org.
Flowers said the nation needs to be more than a "mirage democracy."
"We need to have alternative parties to broaden the debate, give people more choices, to force the major-party candidates to earn their votes," she said. "Even if I don't win this time, I can change the debate and continue running and building the party."