GREENSBORO — Long before writing about the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, Michael Beitler was hooked on a less cerebral figure — Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In 1973 Beitler was in Venice Beach, Calif., to flex his glistening biceps and ripped abs in the Teenage Mr. America competition. That's when he ran into the former Mr. Universe at Gold's Gym, the self-styled mecca of bodybuilding.
"Hi, I'm Arnold," Schwarzenegger said to a suddenly tongue-tied Beitler.
The 19-year-old boy from Baltimore went on to finish in the top half of young bodybuilders in the country.
Now he has followed his one-time idol into politics.
Beitler, 56, is North Carolina's Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate. He faces Republican incumbent Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall.
Beitler is carrying the banner of a party still fighting for a foothold in North Carolina. Libertarians make up less than 1 percent of state voters, thanks to ballot restrictions that until this year resulted in them being repeatedly bumped from voter rolls and reclassified as unaffiliated.
Because Libertarian Mike Munger got more than 2 percent of the vote in the 2008 governor's race, this is the first time the party hasn't had to mount a cumbersome petition drive to be on the ballot.
Beitler trails far behind his better-known opponents. Two recent polls showed him with 6 percent support. The candidate, who teaches business at UNC Greensboro, is realistic about his chances.
"If we're in double digits it's going to be a wake-up call for both parties," he says. "They can't ignore us."
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