{editor’s note: this article was written for the Summer issue of Green Pages. Since this was published, Cynthia McKinney has registered as a Green in California and has announced her intention to seek the Green nomination for President. While Ralph Nader has yet to declare his intentions, a Draft Nader group has been formed.}

Getting Ready For The 2008 Presidential Campaign Now

by Greg Gerritt, GPUS Presidential Campaign Support Committee

With the congressional Democrats having failed to end the Iraq War, there is potentially a great strategic opportunity for the Green Party.

Is America anxiously waiting for a Green presidential candidate to step forward carrying the banner for getting the United States out of Iraq and stopping global warming? Or is the Green Party irrelevant and, no matter who runs, will be completely ignored in 2008? Perhaps the answer lies in between, with new opportunities and challenges for the Green Party on the presidential campaign level, depending upon how it is prepared to address them?

For a young and growing party like the Green Party, presidential politics can be a daunting task. While having to operate in a playing field primarily dictated by the two major parties, even the process within the Green Party for recruiting and choosing candidates is a work in progress.

Part of this can be attributed to the young age of the Greens Party of the United States and its lack of familiarity with a contested nomination process. But part of it is also due to the fact that unlike the Democrats and Republicans, the Green Party does not have major party status in every state, and thus does not have state-run presidential primaries in most states. As a result, most state Greens must create their own process from the ground up, based upon the legal and organizing realities particular to their own situation.

The Candidates

As of early June 2007, nine individuals have indicated their interest in seeking the Green Party nomination to the GPUS Presidential Campaign Support Committee (PCSC): Sheila Bilyeu of Washington DC, Elaine Brown of Georgia, Michael Jingozian of Oregon, Jesse Johnson of West Virginia, Paul Kangas of California, Jerry Kann of New York, Kent Mesplay of California, and Kat Swift of Texas. They have all expressed specific interest in seeking the nomination. The likely quality of the campaigns is uneven, with some already actively organizing, and others with little prospects of pulling together an effective campaign. Some Greens are encouraging high profile potential candidates like Ralph Nader and former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to enter the race, but neither have yet publicly joined the fray.

The Process

The PCSC is already responding to inquiries from declared and potential candidates, providing information on the various paths to nomination in each state and encouraging them to proceed with their campaigns, so Greens can make informed choices. In each state, candidates are directed to existing state party contacts, so each candidate can approach them to begin to grow their campaign, including soliciting funds and finding volunteers. As part of this process, the PCSC is also putting together a forum for all declared candidates to speak at the GPUS annual national meeting July 12 in Reading, Penn., so the candidates can speak to and meet Greens from all across the country. To qualify for this panel, prospective candidates must fill out a PCSC questionnaire that asks about their stances on various issues and the type of campaign they seek to run.PCSC is also working with state parties to understand what they are expected to do in the course of the 2008 campaign, such as: create a democratic process for electing delegates to the National Nominating Convention in 2008, allocating their delegates to the various candidates for the nomination in the vote at the convention, and placing a nominee onto the ballot.

The PCSC has already developed a preliminary handbook for state parties, and is developing a more comprehensive manual including model documents for the delegate selection process. This time there is a strong push to get this process done soon to avoid the difficulties experienced in 2004 process, where some of the rules were written on the state and national level after people had already begun to take sides on various candidates.

Ballot Access

According to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, only ten or eleven states are likely to hold Green presidential primaries, showing the how the rules and requirements for a presidential candidate vary tremendously from state to state. In most states ballot access will depend upon a petitioning process, which in some states can be extremely difficult to achieve without a tremendous amount of money. (The petitioning requirements are published www.ballot-access.org.) To ensure the greatest possible success in this endeavor, the PCSC and the GPUS Ballot Access Committee are working to ensure these qualification drives begin early, and are as organized as possible.

A Look Ahead

What challenges and opportunities will 2008 bring for the Green Party? With the congressional Democrats having failed to end the Iraq War, there is potentially a great strategic opportunity for the Green Party, depending upon how the presidential campaign — and the US-led war and occupation — play out. At the same time, regardless of what happens abroad, the right national Green campaign can synergize with local and state efforts to build the party and advance other Green issues like stopping global warming, enacting universal health care and promoting a living wage for all workers. This chapter in U.S. Green history has yet to be written. Whatever its outcome, it’s likely to be good reading.