[By Eric M. Appleman -- Posted July 22, 2002] Roughly 200 Green activists and candidates gathered in Philadelphia July 18-21 for the mid-term convention of the Green Party of the United States. Amid committee meetings, workshops, and a large evening rally, the convention provided Greens an opportunity to showcase some of the party's 16 gubernatorial candidates, seven U.S. Senate candidates, 53 U.S. House candidates, and dozens of state and local candidates who will be on the ballot in November.
Signalling continued growth, the Green Party added five new state affiliates--North Carolina, Washington, Alaska, Vermont and Nebraska--bringing the total represented to 39. Further, the Lavender Caucus, which includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered, was recognized with a formal voting position. Greens are witnessing significant growth at the local level. Green Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Michael Morrill noted, "Here in Pennsylvania we had 10 county committees two years ago; we now have 40 county committees. We had never gotten anybody elected before. Last year we got 14 people elected, including two mayors."
All told, Greens reported they are fielding a total of 362 candidates
in 38 states and the District of Columbia (this number includes a couple
of contested primaries). Texas topped the list with 45 candidates,
followed by California with 42, Wisconsin with 32 and Pennsylvania with
"We're Getting More Effective"
Greens are not only putting forward more candidates, they are putting forward candidates who are better equipped to run than in the past. At a campaign school on Saturday, candidates and would-be candidates learned field strategy and tactics, fundraising, and media strategy. The party's national office, which opened in Washington, DC earlier this year, is providing a greater degree of coordination and coherence to the party's efforts. It is a very small operation, however, with a staff of two: political coordinator Dean Myerson and an office manager.
Morrill, the Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate, recalled that Ralph Nader ran for president in 1996 on a budget of just $5,000. "Now we're finding that it does make sense to create databases, and to do some kind of limited fundraising," he said. Morrill said that Green candidates are "doing their research." "They're not just talking about the crunchy granola types of issues that we all want to deal with, or just environmental issues. They're really doing the research to be serious candidates so that when they're asked questions about the minutiae of tax policy they can answer it and answer it with some real intelligence and some real background," Morrill said.
Morrill is an example of the experienced, articulate candidates the party is fielding. He has served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Consumer Action Network since its founding and was lead organizer of Unity 2000, a coalition of over 200 organizations that held a large march and rally on the eve of the 2000 Republican National Convention. In an interview, he said, "One of the reasons that I didn't get involved in the Green Party is I saw it as more or less a debate club... I was already doing activist work and I didn't have time to join another activist organization. And just a couple of years ago the party got serious about really running candidates instead of just talking about things, and being a real political party that was going to try to get power."
There are more such candidates around the country. In Massachusetts, Dr. Jill Stein, an internist at the Simmons College Health Center, instructor at Harvard Medical School, and co-author of In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, is running for governor. In New Jersey, the Green U.S. Senate nominee, Ted Glick, was a Vietnam War protester, co-founder of the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon, a longtime community organizer, and is now the national coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network. In Maine, Jonathan Carter, a longtime crusader against clearcutting, is mounting a second run for the Blaine House.
The major parties are taking note. The razor thin margin in the 2000 presidential election caused many Democrats to blame Nader for costing Al Gore the presidency. Now, in 2002, progressives are concerned that the Green candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, Native American and a veteran Ed McGaa, could jeopardize the re-election prospects of Sen. Paul Wellstone (DFL), one of the most progressive members of the Congress, as he faces a tight race against former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman (R). In New Jersey, the Green candidate for U.S. Senate candidate Glick has thus far attracted scant attention. However, what looks like a negative and costly race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli and Republican businessman Doug Forrester could alienate voters and produce a strong showing for Glick.
Money Remains a Major Hurdle
Green campaigns are chronically underfunded. Or, as Peter Miguel Camejo Green Party candidate for Governor of California, put it, "We are the party of the people; they [Democrats and Republicans] are the parties of money." New Mexico Greens recently were presented with a unique opportunity to bolster their finances. David Bacon, the Green gubernatorial candidate in New Mexico, described what happened:
We were approached by the head of the Republican Party [state Republican chairman John Dendahl] to run candidates in the first and second congressional districts... He said that the money he had was six figures, probably not seven, so it came from somewhere back in DC. So we turned it down. We said absolutely not, as a party, and that's still getting press. It's been ten days now... It's been a tremendous publicity for us and for raising issues of campaign finance reform, etcetera, etcetera; getting money out of politics.Bacon will be massively outspent. "We downloaded--Bill Richardson is my opponent--we downloaded his financial report, and it's 770 pages, and ten donors per page averaging about 500 bucks or so," Bacon said. "We're a little behind that, but we're trying," joked Bacon, who said he hopes to raise about $100,000.
Similarly Doug Campbell, the Green gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, said he was not sure whether he would be able to raise the $75,000 needed to qualify for state matching funds. Campbell said of the task of raising money, "I not only find it distasteful, I find it real difficult to keep doing it, and the fundraising record shows that. I really need to find somebody who's gung ho about fundraising to help out doing this."
Campbell, a registered professional engineer, has encountered other obstacles. In May 2002, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters held a forum for gubernatorial candidates, but only the major party candidates were invited. Campbell described what happened: "I went to this forum anyway. I walked out on stage as if I belonged there, which of course I do, and I sat down in one of the chairs and refused to leave under my own power, and the cops dragged me out, beat me up and threw me in jail." Campbell has not been dissuaded and has participated in various other forums. "It was intimidating at first to be up on a podium between the lieutenant governor, the former governor, the attorney general, and the minority whip in Congress, but the fact is that they really don't have any better ideas than I do," he said.
Another setback occurred in Massachusetts, where Jill Stein was denied access to Clean Money public funds for technical reasons.
Scandals Create Favorable Environment
Recent business scandals have created an environment that could boost Green candidates' showings in November 2002. Nader, who in his 2000 campaign focused heavily on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, opened his press conference on Friday stating pointedly, "The big issue that we campaigned on [in 2000] is now the big issue." Bacon, the New Mexico gubernatorial candidate, stated that, "The corporate structure is sucking money out of every local community and every state." "The Green Party is the party of the new economy," he said. "The only way to move to a new economy is to move completely away from the old corporate structures into a clean local economy that becomes very self-sufficient and is supportive of local structures," Bacon said.
Of course Greens are campaigning on a range of issues. Thus far, 43 of their congressional candidates have signed on to "The Green Commitment," sort of a Green version of the Contract with America that helped Republicans gain control of the House in 1994. The Green Commitment contains dozens of specific proposals grouped under 14 broad headings. For example, under the heading "Security through peace and justice" is the item: "The Patriot Act must go, and a Department of Peace must be created." The heading "Survival of the planet" includes the point: "Sign the Kyoto protocol and adhere to it." "The Green Commitment" is designed to help congressional candidates communicate with the public and to facilitate news coverage. Greens did not use a high-priced consultant or pollster to develop "The Green Commitment;" three members of the party--Logan Martinez (OH), John Stith (AL) and Penny Teal (CT)--coordinated the effort. Teal gathered literature from as many candidates as possible, went through and identified 140 separate issues, produced a histogram, and identified the leading issues. Candidates weighed in over the next couple of weeks until the document was perfected.
Looking Toward 2004
Ross Mirkarimi, who headed Nader's 2000 campaign in California, emphasizes that the party must pay close attention to drawing lessons from that campaign. "The presidential race, for all the criticisms of Ralph's late entry and the maybe top-down management style emanating from his Washington bureau, it also unveiled the Greens' inability, in my opinion, to shoulder a massive campaign on a national scale," Mirkarimi said. "In my opinion, there was never a proper post-mortem on what happened in 2000 on a national scale," he said. "I'd like to know, are we banking on the fact that you've got 100 Greens in a particular city, who may be new to the Green Party, all of the sudden shouldering a responsibility in the future to help field a major presidential campaign, or are we banking on people who are veterans of the Green Party who have some veteran campaign experience and have been around the block enough..."
A Presidential Exploratory Committee (PEC) headed by Jane Hunter (NJ) and John Strawn (CA) is charged with "identifying potential Green Party candidates for President and Vice President." The PEC produced a 13-question "Questionnaire Seeking Guidance from State Parties" which is to be returned by affiliated state parties by September 22, 2002. With the input from the state parties, the PEC will produce a letter/questionnaire to be sent out to potential presidential candidates. Responses will be gathered through May 2003 and prospective candidates interviewed. In summer 2003 the PEC will make its recommendations. PEC materials emphasize that the Committee "will NOT be choosing a candidate. This Committee will be facilitators and information gatherers/disseminators to potential candidates only."
Ralph Nader is clearly a leading prospect to run in 2004, although when asked if he will run he simply states that "it is too early." Some Greens at the convention expressed reservations about another Nader run and concerns that "we're becoming identified as a Ralph Nader party." There was some discussion about the possibility of Democratic congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (GA-4) switching parties and emerging as a possible candidate. McKinney had been tentatively scheduled to speak at the Friday evening rally at Irvine Auditorium but bowed out due to the press of congressional duties; she did provide a video which was shown to the crowd. It is also possible that the party may decide not to run a presidential candidate.
For now, the attention and action is squarely on the state and local level races. While it is highly unlikely that a Green candidate will take any of the gubernatorial or congressional races, Jesse Ventura demonstrated in 1998 that such a feat is not impossible. Electing a Green state legislator is quite plausible. When the votes are counted after the November 5, 2002 elections, Greens should be able to add to their totals of about 146 officeholders in 20 states. Dean Myerson summed up, "What this election cycle is going to demonstrate is that we are a broad movement with grassroots strength across the country, with candidates from Alaska to Maine to Texas."
|Photos from the
|Five of the Green Candidates for Governor: David Bacon (NM), Peter Miguel Camejo (CA), Douglas Campbell (MI), Michael Morrill (PA), and Jill Stein (MA).|
2... David Bacon, candidate for Governor of New Mexico
3... Peter Camejo, candidate for Governor of California
4... Douglas Campbell, candidate for Governor of Michigan
5... Mike Morrill, candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania
6... Jill Stein, candidate for Governor of Massachusetts
7... Candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Governor
8... Congressional Candidates
9... Ralph Nader
Green Party of the United States
Note: 76 delegates
from 31 states and DC were represented at the business meeting--CA 13;
PA 6; TX 4; FL, IL, and NM 3; AZ, DE, ID, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, OH,
OR, RI, UT, VA and WI 2; AK, CT, DC, GA, IA, MA, NC, NV, TN, WA and the
Lavender Caucus 1. (VT delegates arrived after the business meeting
had concluded). States are entitled to one vote for every four congressional
districts, as long as there is a Green local within the district.
Copyright © 2002 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action