By Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California
If it is true that modest but consistent growth foreshadows greater success, then 1998 was a very promising year for the Green Party. Following a pattern that started in earlier years, Greens are running more candidates and winning more races with each passing electoral cycle.
A record 125 Greens ran for office in 1998, including 112 in the November election. Eighteen candidates won their races, a single-year record. Among them were 12 city council members and three county board of supervisors. With each step forward, Greens are gaining more experience, attracting more attention and becoming a more established part of the American political landscape.
Local races: Currently, there are 62 Greens holding elected office in 15 states (up from 42 in 12 states after the 1996 general election). Included in those numbers are 16 city councilmembers in California alone (three of whom are also mayors of their cities). What unites Green candidates is a focus on sustainability, a commitment to social and economic justice, and a vision for a democratic, inclusive society.
Voters not only are electing more Greens in more cities, but they also are returning Green incumbents to office. This suggests that voters believe Greens have substantive ideas and that they can govern. Since 1993, 16 of 19 Green incumbents for city council and board of supervisors have been re-elected. The three who lost were defeated by a hairsbreadth – 50 votes all together.
In 1998, all four city council incumbents were re-elected: Alan Drusys, Yucaipa, CA; Cris Moore, Santa Fe, NM; and Steve Schmidt, Menlo Park, CA, all to their second terms. In Berkeley, CA, Dona Spring was elected to her US Green record fourth term. (Spring’s first three terms were for two-years each. Berkeley since has changed its laws to provide for four-year terms.)
In Santa Monica, CA, Greens picked up their second city council seat with the election of Kevin McKeown. His victory followed on the heels of the city’s first Green win in 1996 by Mike Feinstein. In Point Arena, CA Debra Keipp held onto the Greens’ second seat in that city, replacing outgoing Green Raven Earlygrow.
On the Big Island of Hawai’i, Julie Jacobson won a partisan seat in District 6 on the nine-member Hawai’i County Council. She is the second Hawai’i Green to win a partisan election Keiko Bonk was elected to the county council in 1992 and 1994.
Another measure of the Greens’ success are the coalitions the party is building: Green-Labor alliances helped elect McKeown, Moore and Tim Fitzmaurice (Santa Cruz, CA) to city council seats.
And then there is the amount of opposition to Green candidates in the United States. For the first time, several Green candidates were targeted by well-financed, negative ‘green-bashing’ direct mail pieces. Winning city council candidates Drusys and McKeown were hit the hardest, as well as Pennsylvania Congressional candidate Bill Belitskus (who received 15%).
State and Federal races: Greens ran for governor in seven states: Alaska, California, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Texas. Maine’s Pat LaMarche ended up with the highest percentage of the vote at 6.9%, re-qualifying the Maine Green Party for ballot status. California’s Dan Hamburg received the most votes overall, with 104,179.
In Alaska, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon, Green gubernatorial candidates appeared in at least one televised debate for the first time. In California however, winning candidate and now Governor Gray Davis went to great lengths to exclude Hamburg (a member of Congress from 1992-4) from a series of televised debates, fearing Hamburg’s appeal to voters.
In two state house districts, Greens finished second, behind the Democrat but ahead of the Republican (Ben Meiklejohn, Portland, Maine, with 24.7% and Stan Kahn, Oregon, with 19.0%)
In four other races – two Congressional, one state legislative and one county supervisorial, Green candidates received more votes than the margin by which the Democratic candidates were defeated, suggesting a growing leverage by Green voters. The highest percentage received in these races was the 15% garnered by Bob Anderson in a special congressional election in the Albuquerque, NM district.
In 10 other races, mostly state legislative and congressional, Greens were the only opposition to the incumbent party’s candidate, in races that would have otherwise been unopposed.
When competing with candidates from other third parties, Greens generally finished first, including for both Governor and Lt. Governor in California.
Sara Amir’s 3% was the highest third party total for California Lt. Governor in 60 years. The 247,897 votes she collected also made her the second highest vote-getter for any office ever sought by A US Green candidate.
Nationwide, the states in which the most Green candidates ran were California (41), New Mexico (15), New York (10) and Oregon (8).
The numbers of Green candidates running for specific offices were: Governor (7), Lt. Governor (6), Attorney General (1), State Comptroller (1) Secretary of State (2), State Treasurer (2), State Auditor (2), other statewide offices (8), US Senate (3), US House of Representatives (18), State Senate (4), State House/Assembly (17), County Council/Supervisor/Board of Supervisors (16), City/Town Council (30), Rent Stabilization Board (1), School Board (5), Planning Boards (2), Sheriff (1) and District of Columbia representative (1).