Green Party candidates share their thoughts
compiled by David McCorquodale, Green Party of Delaware
Who are the people who join the Green party and why do they run for political office? Greens running for office this year were asked a series of questions to reveal the answers. In sharing their thoughts, these Greens may also have formed a composite picture of Greens in general.
Why do you belong to the Green Party?
The overwhelming response of the candidates was tied to the Ten Key Values of the Green Party as being the reason these candidates belong to it. G. Scott Deshefy, candidate for Congress in Connecticut, summarizes, ìI belong to the Green Party because its progressive key values and national platform are in line with my philosophies and ecological instincts and training. Moreover, the positions are there for the electorate to see. No one really knows the Democratic or Republican agendas, other than making election and reelection their priority at the expense of solving our problems and at the expense of the American people.î
Michael McCue, running for Neighborhood Council in the Studio City area of Los Angeles County, California said, ìI believe in the Ten Key Values as the guiding philosophy for all principled, legislative decisions that I make and advocacy positions for which I take a stand.î Similarly, Robert Grota, candidate for Cook County [Il] Assessor adds, ìIts the only party that stands out based upon ethical and moral issues. Too many politicians are in it for the money rather than for a real leadership position based upon morals and ethics.î
As an African American seeking a political forum that aligns with him, LeAlan Jones, who is running for U.S. Congress in Chicago, Illinois said, ìGreen is only a word to use for efficiency and better management, so the African American community has a greater affiliation with the Green Party, I think, than they do any party because we’ve always been a community that’s had to deal by efficiency because we’ve always not had the resources the dominant culture has had.î
Duane Roberts, candidate for the U.S. Senate in California, mentions another important point is that the Green party is a ballot-qualified party. ìUnlike other left-leaning political parties, the Greens have succeeded in exporting their model to a number of different states and have maintained a visible nationwide presence.î
Dan Craigie, candidate for the Minnesota State House of Representatives, District 59B, emphasizes that ìover the years, the Green party has shown itself committed to serving the interests of citizens and supporting policies for future generations.î
Why havenít you joined the Democratic or Republican Party?
What is wrong with the political system as it is currently set up?
The overwhelming sentiment of the candidates polled for this survey is that the Democratic and Republican Parties are no longer serving the interests of people, but rather are bought off by corporate interests. Both parties ìare owned by big business, and no longer represent the interests of ordinary Americans. Legislation appears to be written in favor of mega-profit rather than the well-being of the people. The two majors have sold the myth of ëbi-partisanshipí as being the only way to address the problems we face in our country, when in actuality that is one of the biggest problems facing the country. Diversity, fresh ideas, and non-allegiance to corporations and political machinery is the ONLY thing that is going to bring this nation back from the edge of ruinî, says Ken Adler, candidate for U.S. Congress from Arkansas.
The two “Titanic” parties will say what they need to say to get votes, and when elected they will do a little for regular people, but the Titanic parties will not alienate their corporate sponsors, said Laura Wells, gubernatorial candidate in California.
Similarly, Ben Emery, candidate for U.S. Representative in California maintains ìboth parties have been going to the same trough, big corporations and their industries, for campaign funding for decades. This has produced a seat at the legislation table for lobbyists of these same companies and industries leaving the average American without representation. This is the problem, and the entire nation knows it, yet neither party will get past the fringes on campaign reform. When a monopoly is obtained, why change it, if youíre part of the monopoly?î
Bill Balderston, running for Insurance Commissioner of California, takes a more caustic view of the situation: ìI belong to neither the elephants or the jackasses because both represent a view of the world, reinforced to an extreme in recent years, that places the interests of the corporate community above any crumbs that they provide for the vast percentages of working people and small business owners. While the GOP depends on a populist right, which now extends beyond the evangelical agenda and is quasi-fascistic, the Dems continue to mesmerize progressive forces, even while they prioritize bailing out banks and other financial/real estate interests, and put forward a neo-liberal approach to public education (I am a long-time teacher) and health care and no strong stand of environmental degradation. As a union leader and activist, I am especially incensed by the subservient role that most of the labor bureaucracy plays as regards the Democrats, even while maintaining they are still fighting for progressive goals.î
Adding to the problem of the corruption of the two large parties, is the necessity of making reforms in the way elections work. Ross Frankel, candidate for Controller in California, notes that ìthe current political system set-up is greatly at fault; we do not have proportional representation. As a result about 25 percent of the active voting populace is alienated and not represented in the legislative bodies. Another 25 percent of the potential voters decline even to vote. That leaves barely half the voters to decide on candidates and issues for everyone.î
Adds Jay Sweeney, candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania, ìthe major problem with our political system is the influence of money. Public financing of campaigns, use of the public airwaves and equal access to the ballot and voter verified paper ballots would go a long way toward free and fair elections.î Michael McCue emphasizes ìClean Money Elections…publicly- funded elections…without corporate interference. That’s the only solution that makes all other solutions possible.î
Some candidates noted the disillusionment of having been former Democrats. Dave Bosserman, running for a non-partisan seat on a Washington, D.C. advisory council, said, ìI was a member of the Democratic Party when I lived in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from DC. I moved to DC in 1985 and found the Democratic Party in control of a dysfunctional city. So I looked about for a better party. I found it in the DC Statehood Party which emerged from the civil rights movement in 1969/70. DC is still dysfunctional with elected officials working for outside moneyed interests instead of DC residents.î
Adds Deshefy, ìAfter years as a municipally elected democrat and a short stint in the Connecticut Party to support Lowell Weicker, I have been a registered Green for over 20 years (the first in Lebanon, CT). It is the only party banner I would carry in a campaign for office.î
When asked what is wrong with the political system, Lisa Green, California State Assembly Candidate, 53rd District takes a more encompassing view: ìThe Green Party is Earth’s Party. The other parties have a reactive approach that does not focus on shifting our behaviors, and ways of thought to a holistic approach in balance with nature, all life, and natural resources. All success and challenges we face as a species are a direct result of how we interact within the biosphere. The mind shift required to evolve our species into earth’s stewards is not apparent in the other major parties platforms or their actions.
Why are you running for office as a Green?
This question evoked a mix of responses from the earnest to the humorous and philosophical. Ben Emeryís seem to encapsulate the overall Green sentiment: ìI share the outrage that a vast majority of Americans have about our current situation. We need concerned everyday Americans who understand everyday issues representing us in Washington DC. Our government has failed us but not in the way we hear about in the mainstream media. It has failed us because ëWe the Peopleí have been sending representatives to Washington DC for decades who believe in getting out of the way and letting the free market correct and regulate itself. We have seen where that leads us. Why Iím running? I guess a quote by Mahatma Gandhi sums it up. ëYou must be the change you want to see in the worldí.î
Similarly, David Curtis, candidate for Governor of Nevada, says, ìI got tired of avoiding the issue of governing. I feel this is perhaps my last chance as a citizen to resist the takeover of our government by corporate and religious interests.î
Midge Potts, U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, points out that Green candidates expand the issues: ìI am running for office so I can be vocal about issues that no other candidate in Missouri is talking about – complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, economic transformation through nuclear disarmament and reduction of U.S. military presence across the globe, diverting energy subsidies away from coal, oil and nuclear toward providing solar panels and windmills in every American neighborhood. As a transgender woman, I chose the Green party because it truly supports LGBT rights for employment & housing security, marriage, and in all facets of life.î
Ross Frankel wants to pave a way for Greens: ìTo open the door for fellow serious Green professionals in government. To be a catalyst for an ethical Green political machine. I want to further the cause of serious, realistic, pragmatic, down-to-earth Green solutions to the existing impasse of the ëRed & Bluesí.î
Similarly, Lisa Green wants to set a larger example for others to follow: ìTo be a voice for changing our behavior, and as an example of what must be done. Too many of us have checked out of the bureacratic processes where a select few that do not represent our best interests are currently in control. Women especially have not wanted to assume much representation in the political spectrum but to get back in balance we must have more women in office. My candidacy sets an example, and engages other people to act in a variety of ways instead of just looking the other way or feel hopeless. I remind people that we must get active politically and replace those that do not represent our values, our beliefs, of equality and balance with each other on earth.î
Duane Roberts sees his candidacy as a direct challenge to the status quo: ìI’m running because I’m fed up with the Wall Street billionaires who are literally robbing the working people of this country blind. I’m using this campaign as a vehicle to raise the level of expectations; that people can get what they want if they are willing to fight for it. We can have a single-payer health care system. We can have tuition-free public university education for all students. We can end all overseas wars. Power concedes nothing without a demand and if millions of people organize with one another to stand up and fight the system, anything is possible.î
Cecile Lawence, New York Green candidate for U.S. Senate has an agenda driving her to run for office. ìWe need to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan now and return the troops home in early 2011. The U.S. must cease its drive for empire and domination of the planet including embedding its military forces with corporations whose drive for access to the resources of other countries lead to the destruction of their environmental and socio-economic health. Corporations must be stripped of the artificial personhood granted them by an accident of the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting not in human personhood but in god-like status, since they never get sick, and can never die. We must reform Wall Street, getting rid of the practices that led to the idea of ëtoo big to fail.î
Carol Wolman, candidate for Congress in California, has direct experience with insurers that drives her candidacy: ìAs an MD, I can testify that when insurance companies are in charge of health care, everyone suffers except the insurance companies’ profit margins. The Dems and Repubs impose tight party discipline on their elected officials like Kucinich having to reverse himself and vote for this atrocious [healthcare] bill. So the people and their interests don’t get represented.î
Similarly Bill Balderston is running for Insurance Commissioner because ìit is a key platform to challenge the general role of these parasitic insurance institutions, especially as regards health care, but also around auto insurance (which also should function as a single-payer system) home insurance, et al. The Anthems and AIGs of this world must be made to pay for the pain and suffering they have caused. It also allows me to use this campaign as a vehicle to help build mass movements, around health care, housing, immigrant rights and others.î
Gray Swing, candidate for Congress in Colorado humorously concludes that he is running for the same reason that Mick Jagger went down to the Chelsea Drugstore – ìto get my fair share of abuse.î
What are key issues and goals in your campaign?
The range of topics span from localized issues to global problems which these Green candidates have a clear plan to address. For all Greens a driving force behind their running for office is to get the Green message out.
Gubernatorial candidate for New York, Howie Hawkins said, ìA goal of our campaign is to move the policy debate in New York. We are going to present before the public, and make the mass media and corporate candidates deal with our platform of solutions to the problems we face such as: progressive taxation and revenue sharing, fully funded schools, full employment, single-payer health care, and renewable energy.î
For a variety of candidates, diversity and immigrant rights were key issues. Colia Clark, New York candidate for U.S. Senate said, ìThe right of immigrants to live, work and have their families visit is a human right. NAFTA, CAFTA, Project Hope and other infringements on the right of workers in other nations is unacceptable and as Senator from NYS I will work on all fronts to cancel these hideous instruments of corporate power.î
Jane Kim, candidate for District 6 Supervisor in San Francisco, California is taking on the same issue of diversity and immigrant rights from a more local perspective. ìThe real strength of District 6 lies in the diversity of its people. We must be vigilant in supporting opportunities for our immigrant neighbors to prosper. It is not enough to hide behind the fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary cityówe must enact policies that celebrate the contributions by immigrant shopkeepers, artisans, and entrepreneurs. We can do this by creating incentives for small businesses to move into vacant storefronts, ensuring that there is stable, affordable family housing, and top-notch public education.î
For Nicolas Ruiz III, candidate for U.S. Congress in District 23 of Florida has for a long time made the dangers of offshore drilling a top issue and has pointed to the short sightedness of politicians is promoting dangerous environmental practices. He said, ìThe focus needs to shift from old fossil energy to new renewable energy. There are other ways to fuel our needs for electricity ñ wind energy, solar energy ñ itís the 21st century, letís move forward, no? Itís simply disingenuous to claim that ideology and politics are unrelated. The fact is, your ideology Ö drive what you do in the world. If you are for the reckless pillaging of natural resources, well, thatís an ideology, wouldnít you say? Itís not right. We have to consider the well-being of so much more than short term narrow interests, if the world is to be a prosperous place for us all.î
Where do you think the party will be in ten years?
This question evoked answers ranging from confident in the partyís growth to doubtful that it would grow at all. All seem to believe that they must continue to work towards the development of the party.
On the tongue-in-cheek pessimistic end of the spectrum was again Gary Swing, who opined the Green Party could be found ìin FEMA detention camps.î Expressing a similar downbeat sentiment, Curtis added, ìSame place, small and struggling, but stubborn and fighting the good fight.î Ross Frankel chastises a certain tendency extant in the party: ìDead if we don’t act as a serious political party and political machine: engaging in and promoting pragmatic and realistic solutions that the everyday person can grasp and support! We’ve got to stop thinking of ourselves as primarily a rag-tag, motley gaggle of wing-nuts, radicals, and part-time volunteers.î
More representative of most candidatesí opinions was Jeremy Cloward, candidate for U.S. Congress from California, who said: ìThe party will either continue to grow, remain the same, or begin to fade over the next 10 years (this is true prima-facie). It will be up to us.î In the same vein, Scott Laugenour, candidate for state representative in Massachusetts adds, ìIf I and other candidates are elected or do well, the party will be stronger in ten years.î Dennis Spisak, candidate for Governor of Ohio, notes: ìI believe the Green Party will become the major opposition party to the Democrats and Republicans and become the true party of Progressive Liberals.î Wolman extends this expressed sentiment into a necessity: ìThe Greens must join forces with independents and all progressives in order to get people with our values into office.î
Jay Sweeney believes: ìThe Green Party has seen some ups and downs over the last ten years and I expect we will see more of the same over the next ten years. However, I predict the Green Party will be here. I do expect to see growth in the party in that time. While the 2008 presidential election year saw defection from the Green party, I think the failure of the Obama administration to promote a progressive agenda will move more people to the Green Party.î Bill Balderston expresses hope that ìGreen Party will, in ten years, have a much deeper root in many local governments and communities, including especially in communities of color.î
G. Scott Deshefy has an encompassing vision of the future, based on the success of a recent lawsuit in Connecticut: ìUnfortunately, we do not have the most critically thinking electorate in America, but the seething anger with Democrats and Republicans alike in 2010 suggests that the time has come for progressive and significant change to the systemic failures which plague America and the global ecology. In CT, the Green Party sued the state over campaign finance legislation which denied third party candidates freedom of speech under the Constitution. We have won that law suit, thanks to a landmark decision by Judge Underhill, who concluded in his decision that there are no major and minor parties under the constitution, only parties. In ten years, I expect the Green Party to have the same support as other parties without the blind allegiance, which enables the Dems and Reps to delude their supporters election cycle after election cycle, abusing them politically but getting their votes in November by promising a clean slate and cessation of abuse which never comes. The American people are demanding a divorce from the two-party system. They will get it in November with Green candidates, and they will seek the truth from Green visionaries and Green leadership through the distant future. The political landscape changes in 2010, and it is a Green vista ahead.î