Chuck Baldwin, the 2008 presidential nominee for the national Constitution Party, is moving to the Flathead Valley where he plans to begin a ministry and potentially run for office. In a recent column on his website, Baldwin declared his retirement after 35 years as pastor of the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, to move to the Rocky Mountain West.
“God has led us to the conviction that Montana (along with other Mountain states) is going to be the tip of the spear in the freedom fight; and we believe God wants us to be part of that fight,” Baldwin wrote in a column titled, “The Hardest Decision of My Life.”
Baldwin said he was drawn to the Flathead and the Rocky Mountain West by what he described as a “freedom-minded spirit in that area that is superior to most places in the country.” He spoke in May at the “Liberty Convention” in Missoula, and at a conservative gathering in Hamilton last year.
“There are so many states now that don’t even understand freedom; so where is the place?” Baldwin said in an interview last week. “And we came to the conclusion that one of those places is your area there in the Flathead Valley of Montana.”
Baldwin and his wife plan to settle near Kila in October. Their grown children and their families are also moving to the Flathead in coming weeks. As for what Baldwin plans to do in Montana, he said he would likely start a ministry. Though he said he has no interest in running for federal office, Baldwin added that, “all options are on the table,” regarding a run for a position in Montana state government.
“I just want to be a part of helping to restore freedom in this country and we have to do it state by state. I believe Montana’s the place to start,” Baldwin said. “We’re not up there as interlopers; we’re going to be up there as citizens of that state, going to invest our time, energy, talents, whatever they may be, to help the people of Montana to continue to do what they’ve already been doing in their own hearts: and that is upholding the spirit of liberty.”
In 2008, Baldwin finished fifth in the U.S. presidential race, behind independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr, garnering 199,314 votes nationally, or about 0.15 percent. After failing to win the GOP nomination, Republican congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul endorsed Baldwin, but due to some confusion at the time, Paul’s name appeared on the ballot in Montana as the nominee for the Constitution Party, along with running mate Michael Peroutka. In Montana, Paul garnered 10,638 votes, or about 2 percent, in 2008, more than the other third-party candidates on the ballot but far behind Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, who won the state with 50 percent of the vote. In Flathead County, Paul received 1,683 votes, compared to Obama’s 16,138 and McCain’s 25,559.
Born in 1952, Baldwin was among the first to graduate from the Bible institute of what would eventually become Liberty University, the private Christian university founded by Jerry Falwell. In the 1980s, Baldwin was state chairman of Florida Moral Majority.
In a May 2006 column titled, “Me in a Nutshell,” Baldwin writes that he eventually left the GOP, calling both major parties, “two peas in the same pod.”
“Both of them are selling out our constitutional liberties, our independence and our national sovereignty,” he wrote. “At the national level, I can no longer in good conscience support either of them.”
In that column, Baldwin added that he considers abortion “murder,” and homosexuality a “moral perversion.”
“The South was right in the War Between the States, and I am not a racist,” he wrote. “Neither do I believe that the leaders of the Old Confederacy were racists.”
In terms of religious beliefs, Baldwin described himself as a “pre-millennial dispensationalist,” an end-times philosophy that interprets the New Testament’s Book of Revelation literally, where Jesus Christ will physically reign on earth following an apocalypse.
Baldwin describes the Rocky Mountain West as a region that will begin drawing “freedom-minded” people from all over the country seeking a “spirit of liberty.”
“The resonance of this among freedom-hungry people around the country has been unbelievable and I think, that’s why I said, there’s going to be a freedom rush. The gold rush of the 1880s brought a lot of people into Montana and that region looking for wealth and gold and so forth. I think there’s going to be a rush of people that are looking for freedom and liberty,” Baldwin said. “They’re coming and I just really think that we’re going to be the tip of the spear to a real freedom movement that’s going to take place over the next decade or so.”
Acknowledging that Montana’s government presently has considerably more Democrats holding state and federal office than some of its neighbors, Baldwin said that was not a factor in his decision to move.
“I think that more than a party label, you have to look at the spirit of the people. And sure, not everybody in Montana is going to share my values of freedom and liberty,” he said. “I’ve sensed a freedom spirit there that’s very, very refreshing.”
It’s difficult to predict the impact Baldwin could have on state politics, but should he launch a viable third party that attracts libertarians and conservatives, many of whom supported Paul in 2008, Jim Lopach, a political science professor at the University of Montana, believes the effect could prove a benefit to the state GOP.
“If the Republican party no longer was associated with its far right wing, then the Republican party, in terms of its candidates and its message, would become more moderate,” Lopach said. “In time, it could strengthen the Republican party by making it more moderate and more attractive to moderate voters.”
Should Baldwin run for state office as a Republican, however, Lopach believes it could have the opposite effect, driving the GOP farther rightward, potentially strengthening Democrats. Lopach also thinks Montana voters tend to regard newcomers skeptically.
“I think that the average voter would look at him as suspicious, as a carpetbagger,” Lopach said. “It would be a mistake on his part to run too quickly.”
As for what would draw someone like Baldwin to Montana, Lopach described it as the “myth of the West.”
“He kind of sees the West as a place of raw individualism and freedom and living as a rugged individual,” Lopach said. “Like every place else we need government for civilized life and people accept government here.”
Regardless of what he does, though, Baldwin is confident his move is already bringing like-minded people to the area.
“We’re not going to be the last people to make a move like this,” Baldwin said. “During the next couple of years you may be surprised as to the people that start migrating into that area and other areas around there for the exact same reasons. It’s not Glacier Park, it’s not the Flathead Lake, it’s not the skiing, it’s liberty.”
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