2008 Spring Elections


Steps towards success
By Brian Bittner

To create a sustainable framework for continued success, the Ballot Access Committee (BAC) needs all registered Greens and all who want the opportunity to legally register as Greens to make a commitment to winning ballot access.

Ballot access is an essential component of the success to which the Green Party strives. Without it Green ranks of elected officials will not grow, nor will the Green Party win higher offices in a number of states. Without it Green membership cannot increase nationwide to provide a real challenge to major-party rule. Without it it will be difficult to maintain strong local and state parties that work with organizations to create an influential peace, environmental, and social justice movement. Without it the Green candidate will not make a strong showing in this year’s presidential election. 

None of these goals are possible without Greens across the country raising awareness and funds on behalf of ballot access drives.

Each of the state ballot access drives mentioned in the accompanying article—
Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—point out techniques for success which the BAC needs U.S. Greens to replicate throughout 2008.

Because of the early timeframe of its petition drive, the BAC was able to focus solely on assisting the Arizona Green Party. As Election Day nears, more and more states are beginning their ballot access drives. The support of state and local Green Party volunteers—some organized by the Ballot Access Committee, some arising independently from the grassroots—was absolutely vital to Arizona’s success and will be the most important factor in getting more Green Parties on state ballots. Volunteers should alert the BAC by completing an on-line form at www.gp.org/committees/ballot/, but do not need to wait for instructions to organize fundraisers, contact neighboring states, and make plans to collect signatures as soon as possible.

In Hawaii, the Ballot Access Committee was able to once again help a state party by providing financial support for grassroots volunteers and a few paid professionals. Without being able to cover travel expenses, lodging expenses, and provide stipends for food and days off of work volunteered by supporters, it is highly unlikely that the Green Party of Hawaii would have been able to win the second drive of 2008. 

Funds budgeted by the Green Party of the United States for the Ballot Access Committee are running low as the number of active ballot access drives is increasing. The national party has established an ambitious fund raising campaign to ensure that grants will be available to more states. In February, hundreds of Greens got involved in fund raising for the Arizona Green Party and the Ballot Access Committee. A similar—but bigger—effort is needed now. Make a financial donation at  our web page. More importantly, alert your local and state organization to the need for a major fund raising effort and ask friends and party members to contribute as well.

The Green Party of Virginia has taken time at the start of its ballot access drive to create an organizational structure that has netted benefits quickly. Important tasks it has completed include:  

• Understanding the law and how to meet state requirements.

• Delegating responsibility to a responsible petition coordinator.

• Maintaining contact with the BAC by seeking volunteers to join the committee.

• Fundraising to support volunteers and paid petitioners, if necessary.

• Holding meetings and outreach events to fund volunteers and distribute petitions.

• Seeking volunteers from within and from outside the state to collect signatures.  

The Virginia party has brought in volunteers from both nearby and faraway states for month-long stints petitioning, living with local hosts, and doing additional volunteer work with Greens in nearby Washington D.C.  Finding and utilizing the efforts of students, retired activists, and other Greens looking for the excitement of travel and building a new party is a powerful tool for states with less volunteer help. BAC is working to identify volunteers who are looking to travel and help neighbor states collect signatures.  

After the exclusion of Green U.S. Senate candidate Carl Romanelli from the ballot in 2006, the Green Party in Pennsylvania is showing the importance of determination in winning ballot access even after bitter defeat. By pulling together volunteer resources to collect signatures and professional resources to defend the party’s action in court, all state Green Parties can be prepared to overcome any challenge.  To do this, all Greens must prioritize raising funds and efforts to ensure that all Americans have the legal right to register with the party of their choice.  

Help by doing one or all of the following:

• Donate to the Ballot Access Committee.  Visit www.gp.org/committees/ballot/  or send a contribution to the Green Party of the United States, Ballot Access Committee, P.O. Box 57065, Washington, DC 20037.  

• Donate directly to states that are currently petitioning for ballot access.  Contact them through the information in the back of Green Pages.  

• Volunteer to help BAC. On that committee’s webpage, an on-line form can be completed that indicates choices of activities to help achieve ballot access, including fundraising and phone calling, blogging and e-mailing, volunteering  legal assistance, experienced signature gathering and coordinating.  

• Make plans to take a carload (or more) Greens to a neighboring state for a day/ weekend to help them collect signatures. Most states do allow out-of-state petitioners, and there are still ways to help in states where there are laws against out-of-state petitioners. 

• Volunteer to be on the BAC if your state party has not filled its complement of members to be on the committee.

• Post an appeal for help to all Green listserves, blogs, and web pages.  Include links to pages where party members can make donations, download petitions, and get contact information to petition drive organizers.  

Download flyers and volunteer sign-up forms at the Ballot Access Committee web page.  Distribute them at your state and local Green Party meetings.  Let the BAC know about past or presence signature drives.

• Ask state party delegates to the Green National Committee to prioritize funding and allocation of more resources for ballot access efforts.   

• Join a local ballot access coalition.  Many states have coalitions of minor party members; independent candidates and civil rights activists who work for more sensible state ballot access laws.  Work to start a ballot access coalition if one is not working in your state.  

• Write letters to the editor about one’s state ballot access laws and how they could be changed so they are fair to all parties and candidates. 

Updated information about state ballot access drives, fundraising efforts, and the activities of BAC on the website. All the successes to come during the 2008 election season will result from the support of Greens from around the country taking the initiative to fundraise, spread the word, and volunteer in support of our national ballot access effort.

Advertisements

By Ron Hardy, Wisconsin Green Party

Wisconsin Greens were on the ballot in elections for County Board of Supervisors across the state April 1—ten incumbents and four challengers. Ten of the 14 were elected. Wisconsin now has 17 Greens holding elected office. 

Among the ten Wisconsin Green victories were two first-time candidates: Wyndham Manning, who won a landslide victory with 66 percent of the vote to take the Dane County Board of Supervisors seat vacated by retiring Green Party member Ashok Kumar, and Kathy Kienholz, who ran unopposed for a seat on the Polk County (Northwestern Wis consin) Board of Supervisors. 

Manning’s victory came in District 5, Madison’s “Student District” and a hotbed of political activity with an engaged electorate. Greens have traditionally done well there—Echaton Vedder first won the seat in 1998. A University of Wisconsin senior majoring in Environmental Studies and Communication Arts, Manning opposed College Democrat Conor O’Hagan, a freshmen Engineering student involved with student government. Manning campaigned on an overall environmental program, including specific focus on solutions to keep the many lakes surrounding Madison clean. 

“The process of making our lakes and watersheds safer has begun by banning phosphorus and coal tar sealant. I will take the lead in the next step by exploring a system of anaerobic manure digesters that co-generate exhausted methane for heat and electricity, as well as evaluating the impact of other negligent runoffs such as pesticides,” said Manning. 

Manning also championed the underrepresented in Madison, including support for Domestic Partner benefits, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, and working with local area groups to expand the availability of homeless shelters. 

Kathy Klienholz, Polk County Board of Supervisors

Kathy Klienholz, Polk County Board of Supervisors

Far north of Madison, Kienholz won her first seat and thereby kept at least one Green on the Polk County Board. An active member of the St. Croix Valley Green Party since 2003, Kienholz was first introduced to the Greens by one of her sons. 

Kienholz believes she was unopposed because of the credibility that her environ mental platform gave her, combined with her financial background as a CPA and as Treasurer of the local Lake Association and the local Friends of the Library group.  “My goals are local,” said Kienholz, “Our county board has struggled in the past six to eight years, as anti-tax folks were elected to seats. Their agenda could be summed up in one word—No. No spending, no programs, no building, no nothing.” 

Kienholz intends to continue the work that fellow Green and outgoing Polk County Supervisor Jeff Peterson began by making sustainability a focus for Polk County. “I want to continue his efforts to keep that goal in the forefront. As a CPA I asked for and was elected to a seat on the Finance Committee, where I hope to be an influence for Green goals. My other committee assignment was to the Land and Water Committee, which is right up my street.”

 

Incumbents Re-elected at 80 Percent Rate

Eight incumbent Green County Board of Supervisors won re-election on April 1, including six unopposed—Robert Browne and David Conley (Douglas County), Greg David (Jefferson County), John Hardin (Barron County) and two from Dane County—Kyle Richmond and Barbara Vedder, the mother of Echnaton Vedder. 

Conley has been serving on the Doug las County Board of Supervisors in North west Wisconsin since 1986 and is the longest serving Green in office nationwide at 22 years and counting. His tenure in office predates the Wisconsin Green Party, which will be celebrating 20 years as a Party this October. Conley’s colleague on the Douglas County Board, Robert Browne, has been on the board since 1992, 16 years and counting. 

David in Jefferson County (East Central Wisconsin) has been actively promoting the Natural Step for Communities, a movement that has been sweeping across Wisconsin. He spoke at the Wisconsin Green Party’s Summer Gathering in August 2007 at which the Party officially endorsed the Natural Step and the Eco-Municipality movement throughout Wisconsin.  

 

 

Wyndham Manning, Dane County Board of Supervisors

Wyndham Manning, Dane County Board of Supervisors

In Dane County, Greens have had between two and four members on the 39-member County Board of Supervisor since 1998. Joining first-time candidate Manning this time were Richmond and Vedder, along with John Hendrick, who successfully fought off his challenger with 83 percent of the vote.

 

A member of the County Board for 14 years and a near east neighborhood community activist for even longer, Hendrick is considered an expert on local land use, planning and zoning issues and is someone other Board members turn to for advice. In recent years he has also championed drinking water quality and bringing living wage standards from Madison to a broader section of Dane County. His opponent Mark Schmitt, a print and mail coordinator for Bethel Lutheran Church, took a more conservative position than Hendrick on transportation, regulations, prisons and police, that clearly did not resonate well with the voters.

Richmond has served on the County Board since 2002, and Vedder since 2006, following six years (1995-2001) on the Madison Common Council. In 2007 the two of them, together with Richmond and Kumar, led a successful effort for the Board to pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney, becoming the second county in the nation at the time to pass such a resolution. Richmond also had a role in the July 10, 2003 Dane County Board boycott of Tyson Foods in support of striking workers in neighboring Jefferson County. Vedder, in her past role on the Madison Common Council, was instrumental in passing Madison’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, a policy tool that relies on zoning laws to encourage or require developers to provide affordable units in their new housing developments.

Also re-elected in a competitive race was incumbent John Rendall, a member of the Portage County Board of Supervisors for 12 years, and before that a member of the Almond School Board for five years. Rendall supports substance abuse treatment and alternative sentencing as opposed to expanding prison populations. His opponent’s issues were primarily ‘saving the taxpayers’ money’ and opposing a proposed new Justice Center in the county. Rendall won re-election with 62 percent of the vote. 

Two other incumbent County Board Supervisors were not so fortunate. Both Bob Ryan (Door County) and Jeff Peter son (Polk County) were defeated this year. Ironically, Peterson, elected just two years ago, had also been recently appointed vice chair of the Polk County Board and was being asked to consider chairing the new, post-election County Board before he was challenged three days before the election with a well organized, “under the radar” write-in campaign that caught him totally by surprise. 

Peterson’s last minute challenger officially filed as a “write-in” candidate the Friday before the Tuesday election by a man who moved to the area in 2006. He and his supporters were ready to roll first thing Saturday morning with an efficiently coordinated literature drop throughout the district. In the literature, his opponent claimed that the county government was fleecing the tax payers, and that he would cap all taxes and slash county spending. He attacked Peterson for voting for the county budget (which raised property taxes by 13 percent) and for supporting the construction of a new environmentally conscious Highway Shop to replace the 75-year-old facility Polk County currently uses. Peterson, who didn’t have time to adequately respond to his challenger’s charges, lost 192 to 159, with 45 percent of the vote. 

Ryan, who was first elected to the Door County Board of Supervisors in 2002, has been actively involved with Sustain Door, a group of citizens and public officials looking for ways to help make Door County a more sustainable community. He is also involved with the Door County Histor ical Society and is the co-facilitator for the Alternatives to Violence Program, a domestic violence prevention group. “Our county’s future, and the tax burden that its residents are asked to carry, are the two main reasons I’m running,” said Ryan during the campaign. “Two key issues are taxes and maintaining our rural environment.” 

His opponent, a self-employed farmer who was elected to the Clay Banks Town Board in 2007, accused Ryan of being “pressured by special interest groups.” He challenged Ryan in 2006 and lost by a mere handful of votes. This time he defeated Ryan by 56 votes, holding Ryan to 41 percent of the vote. 

Two other first-time Green candidates had impressive results, despite not winning their races: Michael Slattery for the Manitowoc County Board, and Bobby Gifford for the Portage County Board. Both ran strong, issue-based campaigns against well funded opponents. 

Slattery, who farms 370 acres in the predominantly rural Manitowoc County south of Green Bay, ran against the nephew of the incumbent, who outspent him ten to one. Although the district is rural, only 14 farms remain (including Slattery’s), while 25 percent of the population lives in $300,000-$400,000 homes and commute to jobs in Green Bay. 

Against an opponent who didn’t appear at candidate forums and whose primary message was that he would lower taxes, Slattery focused on the nation’s ‘big picture’, promoting non-violence, and opposition to the Iraq war. “I listed issues that we need to deal with: rising energy and commodity prices accompanying a pending recession,” said Slattery. De spite this, Michael Slattery took 37 percent of the vote. 

Gifford, who moved to Stevens Point from Milwaukee several years ago, ran against a long-tenured and well known incumbent. He ran with little money and little organized assistance, but ran on the issues important to him and important to Wisconsin. He ran on issues of the Natural Step, promoting the Eco-Municipality movement in Stevens Point, community supported agriculture and preparing for a post-Peak Oil society. “My opponent actually adopted my own expression ‘make the eco-municipality effort county-wide’ on his campaign literature, although the caveat was ‘if it didn’t impact the tax base.’” said Gifford. “I don’t feel beaten, I feel like the Board is now on notice from the citizens:  get with the program or step down.”  Gifford lost with 28 percent of the vote. 

The Wisconsin Green Party is continuing a history of running and winning in local races that goes back 22 years. Already the party is making plans for 2009 local common council races where seven incumbents will be up for re-election in Madison, Oshkosh, and Stevens Point. 

“We have our greatest impact at the local level where we can apply Green values to local issues.” said Cindy Stimmler, co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party. “Several dozen communities in Wisconsin are actively working toward becoming ‘eco-municipalities’ through the Natural Step process and elected Wisconsin Greens are taking the lead in their local communities.” 

By Rick Lass, Green Party of New Mexico

The Green Party of Santa Fe scored a major win on March 4 with the adoption of seven charter amendments, including both public financing of elections and ranked choice voting. This victory adds to the local Green Party’s string of policy reforms going back a dozen years, including creation of a local transit system, repeal of the gross receipts taxes on food and medical services and adoption of the nation’s highest minimum wage.

Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), is a proven reform that ensures majority winners and increases voter choice and participation. It has been an integral part of the Green Party election reform agenda for a long time, and in New Mexico there is a rich history of advocacy in its pursuit.

The original Santa Fe city charter, adopted in 1997, failed to include ranked choice on a 5-4 committee vote. Mean while Greens and others were working at the New Mexico state legislature, to get a constitutional amendment to require ranked choice for state elections. While the measure was introduced for six consecutive years, it passed the Senate only once, and failed to get through the House. 

The efforts in the legislature focused on the ‘spoiler’ issue. Democrat State Senator Phil Maloof, who sponsored the measure the one year it passed the Senate in 1999, had just lost a three-way special election for Congress the preceding year. Many Democrats blamed Green Party candidate Bob Anderson, who received 14.9 percent, and saw the solution as “crush the Greens.” But some of the more enlightened ones realized it was the winner-take-all system that had to go.

In Santa Fe, municipal elections are non-partisan and require only plurality winners. Fifteen of the last 35 elected officials won with a minority of the vote, with one receiving a mere 32 percent. Greens are focusing on the undemocratic nature of plurality winners and are pointing out that, like other municipalities that have adopted ranked choice in recent years, there would no longer be expensive, low-turnout runoffs.

In 2006 a specially appointed Charter Review Commission (CRC) reviewed over thirty suggested improvements. After more than a year of meetings, the CRC settled on seven recommended amendments to the charter. Numbers one, two and three relax onerous provisions of existing laws for citizen initiative, referendum and recall. Amendment four requires the city council to come up with a “meaningful” public funding system within two years. Amendment five adopts Ranked Choice Voting for municipal elections. Amendment six gives the mayor more voting power, and amendment seven requires the local judge be a member of the Bar. All in all, these amendments could be grouped as good government and direct democracy improvements.

This victory adds to the local Green Party\'s string of policy reforms going back a dozen years.

This victory adds to the local Green Party's string of policy reforms going back a dozen years.

After the CRC report was submitted to the city council in December of 2006, the council dragged its feet for almost a year, sending it first to the Ethics and Finance Committees before voting last September to send the package to the voters, to be included on the March 2008 regular election ballot.

At its October meeting, the Green Party of Santa Fe endorsed the full package. County Chair Emily Franklin announced that this was a critical issue for the local party, and pledged to make the ranked choice campaign her highest priority. Other Greens quickly followed suit, and the Green endorsement was prominent throughout the campaign. Many individual Greens also did a great deal of the campaign grunt work, including setup and upkeep of the website and list management.

Voting Matters was the lead organization on the Ranked Choice campaign, while Common Cause took the lead on the Public Funding amendment. Voting Matters is a 501(c)4 organization founded in August 2006 to work on electoral reforms in Santa Fe and New Mexico. Short term it focuses on measures to increase voter participation, and in the long term with the goal of implementing Ranked Choice Voting for single seat elections and proportional representation for legislature and city councils. Voting Matters was founded by three Green party members, John Otter, Sheila Sullivan, and Rick Lass [www.votingmatters.net].

The campaign relied mostly on word of mouth, direct voter contact and piggybacking on existing events with little doorto-door campaigning in the cold February weather. The campaign was supported by endorsers’ organizational communications, some phoning and two direct mailings to about 20,000 targeted voters- those who had voted in one of the last three elections and those who registered since the previous elections.

Endorsements came from Peace and Justice groups, election reform organizations such as Verified Voting and Com mon Cause, and groups as diverse as the local independent business Alliance and the Living Wage Network. The campaign mentioned, but did not highlight, national endorsers like FairVote and John McCain, Howard Dean, and Barack Obama.

There was no organized opposition to the amendment, but there were a couple of negative letters to the editor. The media did a good job of explaining the amendments, and there were two poorly attended public forums. 

The first  “Yes” campaign mailer went out three weeks before the election, timed to appear after the media spotlight was off the Democratic Party Presidential Caucus and the state’s legislative session. The mailing also went out first class bulk, so it could get returns of bad addresses in order to clean the database for a more targeted Get Out The Vote postcard, which arrived in voters’ mailboxes the Saturday before the election. A volunteer sent cards to everyone who requested an absentee ballot.

No funds were used for print ads, because the cost effectiveness would not be very high in such a low turnout election. With some money left near the end, the campaign scheduled 36 thirty-second radio ads on the local bilingual station KSWV (!Que Suave!). There was some fear that the amendment might break along racial lines, but the results disprove that. The variation between precincts was less than three percent across the city.

The final results: Charter Amend ment 5 passed with 65 percent of the vote. Unfortunately, the city council inserted a clause that allows it to delay implementation until technology and software are available at a reasonable price. So there is still work to ensure implementation of both Ranked Choice and Public Finan cing. It may be that winning the election was the easy part, for now it is in the hands of elections administrators to implement the will of the people.

Privately-owned voting machine manufacturers and/or election administrators may be less than enthusiastic about enabling this reform.  IRV has been on the ballot 14 times since the San Francisco’s breakthrough victory for it in 2001 and it has passed 13 times. But in almost every case, this implementation issue has come up.  How it is resolved is one of the key next steps in electoral reform.

Presidential campaign ignites many state ballot drives

By Brian Bittner, member of the GPUS Ballot Access Committee

Ballot access—the ability to organize a political party, claim to represent a membership, run candidates for office, and have votes for those candidates counted—is like running water or electric lights. We depend on it for much of what we do without even thinking about it. Only in its absence do we stop to think about where it comes from and how we can live without it. Most of us have constant access to water, light, and ballot access, but some of us do not. 

Just as our commitment to social and economic justice inspires us to work to provide universal access to basic daily needs, our commitment to political justice ought to inspire all of us to contribute to ballot access for all of the state affiliates of the Green Party of the United States (GP-US).

The Ballot Access Committee of the GP-US has taken on the challenge of winning ballot access for Green Parties in as many states as possible in 2008, not only to give our presidential candidate a chance at setting new records, but also establishing the groundwork for mid-term ballot access drives in 2010. 

 

Ballot Access History

In 2000, the Green Party presidential candidate appeared on the ballot in 22 states. In 2004, the Green Party presidential candidate appeared on 28 state ballots. The Green Party currently holds ballot access in 21 states and the District of Columbia. The Green Party allocated only $1,000 to winning more ballot lines in 2004. Since then the standing Ballot Access Committee has been created and the Green Party has committed to raising funds for 2008. GP-US has established a fundraising goal of $100,000 for ballot access efforts in 2008. Only about 5 percent has been raised thus far.

GP-US’s 2008 ballot access drives illustrate both the variety of barriers that have been set up to keep minor parties off state ballots and how the grassroots efforts of Greens from across the country have helped overcome those barriers. Four of this year’s ballot access drives—in Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—show how Greens have contributed to a successful national ballot access plan.

While many state parties faced and met ballot access deadlines in 2006 and safely enjoy ballot access throughout the 2008 election season, other state parties’ deadlines are set based on presidential elections and will come throughout 2008.

Each state party sets its own legal requirements and allows a party to win or maintain ballot access through different measures, some by registering a certain number of party members, others by earning a certain percentage of the vote. Most states require groups to petition the state government to form a new party or extend the ballot access of an existing party by gathering the signatures of a particular number of citizens to show that public support for that party exists.

 

Arizona

The first state to face a requirement this year was Arizona. Because of this unusually early deadline (similar early deadlines have been overturned as unconstitutional by other state courts) and high number of signatures required (20,449) the situation looked particularly grim. “With just three or four weeks to go and only 13,000 signatures in hand, I thought we were doomed to failure!” said Richard Scott, co-chair of the Arizona Ballot Access Committee. With many potential volunteers and donors not checking the ballot access radar be cause of the early deadline, a handful of volunteers in a geographically imposing state were overwhelmed. Because of state laws that required petitions to be sorted by county and turned in at county boards of election, the few volunteers who were collecting signatures on a regular basis were busy simply transporting petitions to the proper office.

Because no other drives had started, the Ballot Access Committee was able to make a sizable donation of funds to the Arizona Green Party to entice new volunteers to get involved, employ a few professional petitioners to work at high-volume events, and show national support for Arizona’s efforts. More importantly, state and local organizations from all over the country took the initiative to raise funds and send volunteers of their own. All of the candidates for the Green Party’s presidential nomination visited or sent volunteers to help collect petitions. On March 6th, the Arizona Green Party handed in almost 30,000 signatures, well above the legal requirement of 20,449. “I can’t thank all the helpers and contributors enough” Scott concluded. “This shows just what we can do when we pull together.”

Hawaii

The Green Party of Hawaii (GPH) faced a whole new set of challenges in April of this year. The party there had been on the ballot continually since 1992, having worked to establish state law that granted ten years of ballot access for parties that either successfully petitioned or held a ballot line through election results for three consecutive elections. Perhaps because of the lack of need to work for ballot access for the past ten years, the GPH found itself in need of assistance to make the ballot in 2008. 

Because of its low population, Hawaii state law required only 663 valid signatures (one tenth of one percent of the state’s registered voters). The party had to collect several times that number, however, to ensure their petition endured strict verification procedures. As the party was collecting signatures, the campaign of the 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate and the 2004 independent campaign of Ralph Nader were in court arguing that Hawaii’s verification procedures were overly strict. They lost, but help from the Ballot Access Committee helped the Green Party of Hawaii win ballot access in 2008. 
The major difficulty the GPH faced was geography—most party organizers lived on the least populated of the state’s eight major islands, making mass signature collection difficult. Again, the Ballot Access Committee was able to provide a major financial grant to the party to provide stipends for volunteers and arrange help from experienced petitioners from the mainland. The Green Party was also to cooperate with petitioning teams from the Libertarian Party and the independent campaign of Ralph Nader to share petitioning duties, find popular spots, and share housing for volunteers. At the beginning of April the Green Party of Hawaii was able to turn in more than 1500 valid signatures to maintain ballot access and are awaiting certification from the state elections board.

 

Virginia

The Green Party of Virginia (GPVA) is on its way to becoming the third success story of 2008. The state of Virginia requires 10,000 valid signatures to earn four years of ballot access. While this is a modest requirement compared to Arizona’s, the standard is toughened by the fact that the GPVA must ensure that each of the state’s congressional districts are represented by a certain number of signatures.

  As of June 1, GPVA had already reached over half of its petitioning goal, well before the August 22 deadline. The party plans to have completed its ballot access drive by the start of the Green Party national convention in July and be ready to send volunteers to other states to complete their drives. 

Pennsylvania

The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) strives to win a spot on November’s ballot in one of the nation’s most restrictive political environments. Courts in Penn sylvania have cooperated with major parties to create a system in which parties and candidates attempting to win ballot access have been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal penalties for merely presenting a ballot access petition to the state. The GPPA has engaged hundreds of volunteers in petitioning and have already collected several thousand signatures, which it is preparing to defend in court if a challenge arises. 

The Ballot Access Committee is collecting funds to provide legal defense for ballot access drives and to challenge hundreds of restrictive, outdated, and unconstitutional ballot access laws on the books across the country and are working with the Green Party’s legal advisors and new contacts with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights and liberties organizations to be prepared to defend state Green Parties when a lawsuit should arise.

Each of these states—in their ability to overcome long odds or their ability simply to stand up to them—represents a 2008 success story. There are many others to be told. 

Connecticut (5,000 signatures needed by August 6th), Iowa (1,500 by Aug. 15), Kansas (5,000 Aug. 4th), Kentucky (5,000 Aug 4), and New Jersey (800 by July 28) are currently in the midst of petitioning drives. New York (15,000 Aug. 19), New Hamp shire (3,000 by Aug. 6), Ohio (5,000 by Aug. 21), Rhode Island (1,000 by Sept. 5), and Utah (1,000 by Sept. 2) are currently planning petition drives and waiting for state boards of election to let them begin working. As the successes of early 2008 showed, they can expect success if all Greens make these ballot access drives a national effort.

Minimum Number of Signatures Necessary to List
a Green Party Candidate for President in November
State   Deadline
Alabama 5,000 September 8
Alaska 3,128 August 6
Conn. 7,500 August 6
Idaho 5,984 August 25
Iowa 1,500 August 15
Kansas 5,000 August 4
Kentucky 5,000 September 2
Minnesota 2,000 September 9
Missouri 10,000 July 28
Montana 5,000 July 30
New Hampshire 3,000 August 6
New Jersey 800 July 28
New York 15,000 August 19
North Dakota 4,000 September 5
Ohio 5,000 August 21
Penn. 24,666 August 1
Rhode Island 1,000 September 5
Utah 1,000 September 2

By David Doonan, Mayor of the Village of Greenwich, New York

Being a public elected official was never a recurring dream that haunted my sleep. While interested in politics and current affairs, in recent years the interest was more an intellectual exercise than an active pursuit. That began to change after listening to a talk in Glens Falls, New York by Ralph Nader in May 2007.

David Doonan with Ralph Nader

David Doonan with Ralph Nader

I sat in the audience as. Nader spoke at length about the need for citizen involvement at the local level. He talked about the example his parents set and told us to attend local government meetings to ensure our elected officials were acting responsibly. But when he said, “I’m going to tell you a Chinese proverb that you’ll never forget,” I rolled my eyes and silently said, “yeah, right.” Instead that proverb: “Those who know, and don’t do, don’t know,” struck home and continued to haunt me for weeks, until I finally decided to accept the challenge and run for office. 

The Village of Greenwich in Washington County is where I’ve lived for the past 17 years. Located about 50 miles north of the state capital Albany, it has a population of 1,900 and is located within the boundaries of two different towns; the more developed portion lies within the Town of Greenwich (population 5,000) and the less developed lies within the Town of Easton (population 2260) on the other side of the Battenkill River. Washington County has no four-lane roads, no enclosed shopping malls, no big box stores, no movie theatres and no television or radio stations, or even a daily newspaper. It wasn’t until the 1980 census that the human population surpassed the bovine population. In other words, the Village of Green wich, NY has nothing in common with Greenwich Village in New York City.

There were four positions I could have run for, Town Supervisor, Town Coun cilor, Village Mayor or Village Trustee. Ultimately my decision was made for me when the Village Mayor was quoted as saying that decisions are easier to make when the public isn’t present.

Village elections in Greenwich have been officially non-partisan for the past 20 years. But in New York State Village elections, non-partisan can be a misleading term. In essence, it means that one has the choice of running for office under the party to which you’re registered or one can run under the name of a non-existing party, pretending that the actual state recognized party system doesn’t exist. For instance, in the nearby town of White Creek, a local Democrat has been twice elected to office on the Woodpecker Party. When choosing a non-partisan party name, candidates must be careful that they don’t pick the same name as their opponents. That happened in this election when three candidates choose to run on the Greenwich Party; the public saw them as a slate, which they weren’t. Finally, to make matters even more confusing, if a candidate chooses to run non-partisan but does not write a party name on the petitions, then by State law, the village clerk has to assign a party name. 

I could have run as a Green. But instead I decided to run a non-partisan campaign. Most residents were upset at how the local government has been run and I knew they were looking for someone who would provide answers and a direction. For most voters, partisan politics was purely a secondary concern at best. My original intention was to run on a slate with one Demo crat and one Republican, but I ended up with two Democrats. Why did I choose to run on a slate? Quite simply, I was hoping to influence who would end up serving on the board with me. 

chose the name “Open Government” for our slate. However I did not hide my affiliation with the Green Party. At the initial volunteers meeting I made it very clear how committed to the Green Party I was (and still am). Every time I went door-to-door, my Green Party button was worn prominently and the local press repeatedly mentioned my membership in both the Green Party and the Industrial Work ers of the World. Many lifelong Re publicans who had probably never voted for a Democrat, told me that they were not only going to be voting for me, but that their entire families would be as well.

This was a very winnable race—one neighbor described the general attitude as “throw the bums out.” However, I decided not to run against the then current administration, but to put forward a positive message and attempt to provide realistic solutions for improving the community. 

Real estate was among the issues facing the community. Six years ago the Village Board secretly voted to purchase the largest piece of commercial property in the Village, the site of a former IGA food store. Today it still sits empty. Also our Village Hall is on the National Register of His toric Places by the United States Department of the Interior, but has been allowed to deteriorate since its purchase 40 years ago. The building lacks handicapped access and bricks are literally falling out of the buildings exterior walls. The Fire Depart ment is housed in the Village Hall, and is only allowed to operate because of very sympathetic inspectors.

James “Kim” Gannon, who wrote the words to the 1943 American classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” left a bequest together with his wife of $750,000 to be used for the youth of the Village. A commission of community members spent countless hours conducting surveys and interviews to determine the best way to go forward. A report was submitted to the Village Board, which said ‘thank you’ and promptly put it in a drawer. It was only during this past March 2008 that the community finally saw something tangible happen, half a decade since the Village received the bequest.

The costs for a new firehouse, rehabilitating Village Hall, and repairing or replacing the Village Water Tower, are expensive propositions, which is why none of the previous administrations dealt with them. Before beginning to actively campaign, I met with a local administrator of the Rural Communities Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get a handle on what types of grants and low interest loans might be available. I also attended a monthly meeting of the fire department, not just to put myself forward, but also to listen to them. 

In the 17 years we’ve lived in Greenwich, there have only been two contested elections for Trustee positions; the Mayor was never challenged. This year there were two of us running for Mayor and six candidates running for two open Trustee positions. 

While two weeklies and a bi-weekly serve our community, the daily papers in nearby Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls ignored the election. Because of the lack of daily coverage and the absence of a League of Women Voters willing to organize a de  bate, I decided to get the ball rolling on a candidate’s forum. I proposed a format to the high school principal and the rest of the candidates, which they all agreed to.

In essence, meeting with the USDA, an aide to our local congresswoman, the fire department and organizing a candidate’s forum, I was acting as if I were already in office.

For my campaign I held an open house to kick off the ballot petitioning and three supporters hosted “meet the candidate’ events. Greenwich requires 50 signatures to be listed on the ballot for village elections. The final weekend was spent going door-to-door. Money was donated by the state and national Green Party, as well as by the Greenwich Democrat Committee (my wife is vice president of the committee) and used to purchase advertisements in the local weeklies, lawn signs and palm & post cards. I also created a campaign web site from which I linked videos of the campaign forum.

Throughout the course of the month-long campaign, I tried to focus on three main issues: 1) Resolving the IGA property, determining the site of a new Fire House and repair of the Village Hall. 2) Seeking additional revenue streams to finance the above without burdening the taxpayers. 3) Opening up the government, allowing citizens a voice in shaping our community’s future.

On Election Day, March 18th, it was pretty strange walking into the voting booth and seeing my name on the ballot. When the votes were counted, our slate swept the results, with myself receiving 74 percent of the votes for Mayor.

To their credit, the outgoing administration received offers from two real estate brokers in January interested in purchasing the former IGA property, but decided to put off the matter until after the election. Unlike the secret decision to purchase the property six years ago, at the first Board Meeting I presided over, both brokers made presentations in public session. Rather than acting upon either offer, the Board decided to seek an independent appraisal of the property at my urging before proceeding. 

David Doonan holding office as Greenwich Mayor

David Doonan holding office as Greenwich Mayor

Three other items of note also happened at our first meeting. The meeting was videotaped for the first time, as will be all future board meetings, in anticipation of being uploaded to a future Village web site. Second, I submitted a written Mayor’s report of my activities. The Mayor is a public servant. Since the heads of the police, fire and public works departments are required to issue written reports, then so should the Mayor. It was a simple and effective way of demonstrating my desire to be held accountable for my actions. Thirdly, when the Trustees were given their committee assignments, I assigned them a list of tasks to accomplish. I wanted it clear to everyone that the new administration was not going to be a one-person show; that everyone had a voice.

Since the election, the number of people who have stepped forward to volunteer their time or offer constructive suggestions has been remarkable. While I have ultimate responsibility for the Village, I see my primary role as being that of a facilitator, finding a way to harness the energy of our citizens to improve the community. 

What I am attempting to do in this little corner of the world is to build an environment in which grassroots democracy can take root and flourish.

An interview with friction.tv can be found at: www.daviddoonan.com

by Joanne Cvar, Pacific Green Party of Oregon and Green Party Peace Network

The Pacific Green Party of Oregon (PGP) is currently fielding a “peace slate,” with candidates for nomination in four of the five congressional districts in Oregon. All are committed to ending the war in Iraq, and all have pledged never to vote for funding the continued occupation through supplemental funding bills or for an increase in the basic military budget. 

“Imagine, for a moment, real leaders for peace in Congress, added to the few already there, who are not beholden to the existing party leadership,” says Charles New lin, PGP Coordinating Committee member.

The party is hoping to complete its slate with a candidate for the remaining House district prior to its nominating convention on June 7. The PGP has maintained ballot access, so their candidates are guaranteed places on the November ballot. 

“We are hopeful that this strategy will be adopted by other state Green parties that have ballot access,“ said Mike Beilstein, a two-term Corvallis, Oregon city councilor, who is planning his campaign against Rep. Peter DeFazio in District 4. (www.newmenu.org/mikebeilsteinforcongress.)

Alex Polikoff, a professional engineer and also from Corvallis, is running for the hotly contested seat which will be vacated next term by long-term incumbent Rep. Darlene Hooley in District 5. (www.votepolikoff.org/index.html.)

“At this point in time, both major parties seem more concerned with appeasing their corporate donors than in dealing with the threats of our ballooning public debt, job and health insecurity, world instability, the energy crisis and global warming,” said Polikoff. As with all Green candidates, Polikoff will accept no corporate contributions. “My allegiance will be strictly to ordinary citizens, whose voices have been largely ignored by our representatives in Washington.”

John Olmsted, an activist in the fight for social justice for the past 40 years, plans to run against Rep. Earl Blumenauer in Portland’s District 3. Olmsted has been an organizer of the anti-war movement, the fight for immigrant rights, for educational reform and for civil and human rights.

“The overwhelming majority of the damage done, from war to attacks on democratic rights, came with the votes of the Democrats in Washington,” Olmsted points out. “It is time for the building of a party that can be the voice of the majority to fight for our interests. Then we have a chance for real change.” (www.newmenu.org/ore gongreens4congress.) 

Eastern Oregon Tristin Mock agrees on the need for change. She is taking Mahatma Gandhi’s maxim, “You must be the change you want to see in the world” as her inspiration to run against four-term incumbent Greg Walden in District 2, which covers all of Oregon east of the Cascades, plus some counties in the southwest corner of the state.

“It’s time for a change in congress,” says Mock. She would be a refreshing change indeed. Before earning her degree as a doctor of naturopathic medicine, she studied history, biology, international relations, and gerontology. 

“The occupation of Iraq needs to be ended immediately,” Mock said. “Sup porting our troops does not mean sending them on a suicide mission, and abandoning them if/when they return.” (www.vote mock.com)

Green candidates on the ballot who pledge never to vote to fund overseas military adventures give voters an ethical choice in the 2008 election. Every voter in Oregon and in the country should have the opportunity to vote against the war. Since 2006, it’s been clear that voting for Democrats is almost universally voting to continue the war.

Mike Beilstein, 4th CD; John Olmsted, 3rd CD; Tristin Mock, 2nd CD, Cynthia McKinney, GP presidential candidate; Alex Polikoff, 5th CD. Photo by Pat Driscoll, PGP Coordinating Committee

Peace Slate Reception, Eugene Oreregon March 7. From left: Mike Beilstein, 4th CD; John Olmsted, 3rd CD; Tristin Mock, 2nd CD, Cynthia McKinney, GP presidential candidate; Alex Polikoff, 5th CD. Photo by Pat Driscoll, PGP Coordinating Committee