The Green Party in the 1997 elections
A movement continues to grow
by Mike Feinstein
On the heals of the Green Partyís first-ever presidential campaign in 1996, 1997 will feature a record number of Greens running in an odd-numbered year. This follows a general Green growth trend in the 90ís and specifically is a measure of energy and growth the Nader/LaDuke campaign has helped bring about.
At least 72 Greens are running in ë97. More than half of them – forty – are running for city, town or small county councils, including 26 for city council, eight for smaller town/township councils/constables/selectpersons, two for mayor, and four for county legislator in small county districts. Twenty two more are running for school board, park board, planning board, library and sheriff.
Two states conduct state-level partisan races in ë97 – New Jersey and Virginia. Between them are six Green candidates for State House, one for State Senate and one for governor. Two other Greens already contested special election seats – in New Mexico, Carol Miller (see accompanying article) for US House of Representatives and in New York, Craig Seeman (Brooklyn) for State Assembly.
Of the states with the most candidates, Connecticut (13) was formed during the Nader campaign, while New York (13), California (10), Minnesota (9) and Virginia (7) have been around a while (California is the oldest, founded in 1990).
How have Greens done in races held thus far? As of mid-September, twenty-two Greens had run in either primary and/or general elections. Outright victories have been Gary Clauss for City Council in Silver City, NM (pop. 10,000) and David Diehl and Aaron Willett for the Planning Board in Ocean Beach, CA (the board is advisory only to the San Diego City Council).
Nancy Pearlman lost by only 249 votes out of 168,509 cast (49.92% – 50.07%) for Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. This would have been by far the largest district for a Green to have won thus far. Three additional Greens finished second in their primary elections, and then lost in the June general elections.
Several other candidates, while also not victorious numerically, significantly built the party with their candidacies. Most significant was Carol Miller, with her stunning 17% knocking out the Democrat for US Congress in New Mexico (see accompanying article). Craig Seemanís 15.6% for State Assembly in NY was also very impressive.
On the municipal level, Chris Patrouch, West Hollywood, CA; Rick Van Landingham, Toledo, OH; and Karen Hadden in Austin, TX all ran credible first-time City Council campaigns. Austin and West Hollywood are traditionally progressive cities and were expected to field Green candidates some day. In Toledo, Greens are breaking through in a traditional industrial area that had not been considered a likely Green stronghold.
In LaCrosse, WI 25-year old incumbent Green Dan Herber gave up his safe City Council seat to run for Mayor against a well-financed, 16-year state assemblyperson who came home to run for mayor. Herber finished second in the primary election as well as in the general, and ran a solid campaign that positions him well for future races.
Highlights from this springís races
Gary Clauss, City Council, Silver City (NM)
First time candidate Clauss wins when opponent pulls out of race, saying she can not win. Clauss runs on a platform of openness and accountability in local government.
Craig Seeman, State Legislature, 52nd District, Brooklyn
Seeman received 15.6%, finishing third out of five, close behind the Republicanís 21%. Seemanís district is divided into 120 ëElection Districtsí. He won 10 of them and finished second in 60-70 others. In the concentrated Republican neighborhoods, which make up 30% of the district, Seeman got 2%. In the other 70% of the district, he received 30% of the vote.
Seeman had strong support from local labor and ran on a platform of jobs/sustainable economy, universal health care, intensive recycling, campaign finance reform and public transportation.
Nancy Pearlman, Community College District Board of Trustees, Los Angeles (CA)
Pearlman, a long-time environmentalist who has hosted hundreds of tv and radio shows that are carried around the nation, was one of the primary organizers of the first Earth Day in Los Angeles in 1970. She lost by only 0.15% out of 168,000 votes and plans to run next time.
David Diehl and Aaron Willett, Ocean Beach Planning Group, San Diego (CA)
Diehl and Willet join Kip Krueger (elected 1995) to make up three Greens out of nine boardmembers. While the Planning Group is only advisory to the San Diego City Council, it is *the* recognized voice of the community on all-important development issues. The Greensí positions on development on the Planning Group have been influential in preserving the low-scale, funky nature of Ocean Beach (OB). As Kip Krueger says, ìLetís Keep OB, OBî. The Ocean Beach Greens go back to 1988.
Chris Patrouch, City Council, West Hollywood (CA)
Chris Patrouch and local Greens ran an impressive grassroots campaign for City Council, suprising local politicos finishing fourth out of nine candidates for two seats (votes: 2400-1800-1400-1200). His campaign featured extensive door-to-door precinct walking, tabling on Santa Monica Bl., and lawn and street signs. Patrouch promoted a human scale, pedestrian-oriented urban environment, and successfully contrasted the Greens’ extensive gay/lesbian platform with the two sentences of the Democrat’s. His strong finish positions him well for a potential win in ’99, especially with three seats up. Since the election Patrouch has retained a strong profile in local politics.
Rick Van Landingham, City Council District #4, Toledo (OH)
In the first candidacy ever for Ohio Greens, Rick Van Landingham finished third out of five, winning 12% in the September 16th primary, just missing the run-off.
Van Landingham is an environmental consultant and graduate of the University of Toledo with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. At 28, he was the youngest candidate. His primary issues were stopping a proposed highway through Toledo’s Buckeye Basin (a wetlands area in the heart of Toledo’s Central City) and opposing a proposed imminent domain destruction of a single family homeowner neighborhood in order to build a new Chrysler jeep plant, when the current jeep site was being abandoned full of industrial pollution.
At one point during the campaign, a Lucas County Democratic Party poll had Van Landingham running a close second. But Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner had Van Landingham arrested twice on trumped up charges. This resulted in negative media coverage which local Greens believe cost them the primary. The second time Van Landingham was arrested (which incidentally was for being at his own
home) the police claimed there was a restraining order keeping him out when
in fact there was none. Van Landingham was notified that all criminal charges brought against him were dropped the day after the primary.
Considering that Van Landingham was also outspent by nine to one by both of the candidates finishing ahead of him, the Toledo Greens were very happy with the final result. The day after the election, 70 people gathered, 50 of them from Toledo, to talk about the importance of building the Green Party. Ralph Nader came to a pancake breakfast soon after the campaign as well.
Going into the general election, both candidates finishing ahead of Van Landingham have asked for his endorsement.
Karen Hadden, City Council Austin, TX
The first Texas Green to run for office, Karen Hadden fininished third (45%-27%-12%-10%-7%) in the first round, missing the run-off. Her primary issues were no electric rate cuts for large companies, $100 campaign contribution limits, keeping the electric utility and city health clinics public, repealing the homeless camping ban, repealing the bicycle helmet law, environmental protection for all of Austin, and light rail.
Besides the Austin Greens, Hadden was endorsed by the University of Texas Students for Earth Awareness, the mighty Save Our Springs Coalition, Citizens Organized to Defend Austin, Campus Greens, Bicycling Advocates of Texas, the League of Bicycling Voters, and Save Austin’s Neighborhoods and Environment. Her campaign included door-to-door canvass and literature drops, phone banks, and bike tagging. Many of her volunteers were local Mexican-American students as well as Earth Firsters.
Races to Watch in November
Joyce Brown, City Council, Chapel Hill, NC
The list of Greens running in November is topped by two-term incumbent Joyce Brown. Brown is the longest running Green officeholder in the US at eight years. The Orange County Greens, her local, have been in existence since 1985.
Brownís central issue is unsustainable growth and its local effects in Chapel Hill – traffic, unsafe streets, overcrowded schools, increasing stormwater runoff and flooding problems, loss of affordable housing (with most new local developments out of the range of low and middle income people) stresses on public infrastructure and natural resources, loss of trees, and increasing taxes as it becomes evident that growth does not pay for itself.
Brownís main achievents in her eight years include solid waste reduction,
energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in Town-owned buildings,
spearheading a county-wide regional visioning and community building
planning process, and developing indicators for sustainable development in
Six Greens in Minneapolis
The Minneapolis Greens are building upon last year’s remarkable 24.6% by
Cam Gordon for State Legislature, with six of nine Minneapolis Green
Party-endorsed candidates making it through a September primary to the
November general election. Two candidates in this non-partisan race are
endorsed only by the Green Party: newcomer David Luce, who received 29% in a
3-way primary district race for Park Board; and Park Board candidate George
“We Can Build an Eco-City” Puzak, an incumbent, who came in third city-wide.
Three other incumbents with multi-party endorsements – Jim Niland, Annie
Young and Dean Zimmerman – are likely to be re-elected. Green Party-endorsed
Library Board candidate Deb Keefer will also be on the ballot in November.
Madelaine Hoffman, Governor, New Jersey
Hoffman was Naderís vice-presidential candidate in New Jersey in ë96 and a long-time activist who founded the Ironbound Committee Against Toxic Wastes to organize in immigrant and working class neighborhoods. She continued that work as Director of the New Jersey Grass Roots Environmental Organization, a position she still holds.
Hoffmanís campaign challenges Republican Governor Whitmanís record of cutting welfare and health benefits; reducing state taxes by shifting the burden to cities, weakening environmental protections; and pitting business interests against those of the citizens of the state. Hoffman offers a single payer universal health program for New Jersey in response to growing public dissatisfaction with HMO’s and insurance companies. With the Democratic candidate considered a lightweight, Hoffman hopes to establish the Greens as a real alternative.
Peter Healey, County Legislature, 7th District, Ulster County
David Menzies, County Legislature, 2nd District, Ulster County
These two races are considered among the better possibilities for a Green victory in ë97 in New York state. Ulster County is a traditionally liberal area, particularly with communities like Woodstock, New Pautz, and others. Both Menzies and Healy are Green Party members. Menzies will be on the ballot as a Democrat and a Green. Healy will be on as a ëDemocrat-Greení and Independence. Healyís district size is 25,000, with nine candidates, including three incumbents, running for five seats. Menzies has a somewhat tougher time – his district is 10,000 people, with three candidates (two incumbents plus Menzies) for two seats. Menzies is trying to unseat the Republican incumbent.
Errol Louis, NY City Council (Brooklyn, 35th District)
Errol Louis is the first African-American Green candidate in New York City. The 35th District is mostly African-American, with approximately 20% Hasidic Jewish. The district of approximately 150,00 is overwhelmingly Democratic, but Louis is given a good chance to beat the Republican and finish second. Louis actually ran in the Democratic primary before coming over to the Greens, finishing second with 28% against incumbent Mary Pinkett 52% and James Davis 20%. In the general election, the candidates are Pinkett, Louis, Davis (on the Liberal Party line), Voyteki (Republican) and an Independence candidate.
If Louis does finish second, this would continue a recent pattern of second place finishes in the greater downtown Brooklyn area and arguably establish the Green Party as the second party there. In April, Craig Seeman beat the Republican for State Legislature there and in ë96 Nader beat Dole.
The League Conservation of Voters has endorsed Louis, as has US Congressman Major Owens. Errol had been endorsed by Congressman Major Owens, Sierra Club,
League of Conservation Voters, DC 1707, Sheet Metal Workers and several
local elected officials as well as the Village Voice, Amsterdam News and the New York Times.
Abraham Guttman, City Council, Third District, Albuquerque
In 1992, Guttman received 40% in a two-way race for state legislature in the Taos area. From 1994-96 he was the NMGPís state co-chair. In ë96 he ran for US Senate, receiving 4.5%.
Guttmanís City Council district is predominantly hispanic and working-class, population 60,000. The election takes place October 7th. Guttmanís walked the district twice, visiting approximately 5,000 homes representing almost 10,000 likely voters.
His campaign focuses on opposing the proposed West Side Strategic Plan. The plan would run a road through the Petroglyth National Monument, (a kind of natural barrier to Albuquerqueís expansion) in order to make it possible to double the size of the city. Guttman argues that the plan would ëcreate more harmful sprawl, pulling energy and jobs away from the city and creating a burden on the taxpayers.í
Guttman is successfully contrasting the public subsidies needed to build the new infrastructure, with the Cityís $1.3 billion backlog in existing infrastructure improvements. Neighborhoods in Guttmanís district have traditionally felt neglected by City Hall, and many see the incumbent as another ëinsiderí. Guttman has depicted the proposed expansion as ëa gift to greedy developers at residentsí expenseí. Guttmanís opponent is an appointed Democrat who supports the development plan and has raised most of her money from real estate and development interests. She refuses to debate Guttman.
Complimenting Guttmanís potential in the working class neighborhoods is the strength of the Greens in the University of New Mexico area. In ë96, Guttman won a handful of the precincts there.
The Central Labor Council and AFCSME have both co-endorsed both Guttman and his opponent. Gay & Lesbian Alliance endorsed Guttman. The Sierra Club wonít endorse his opponent, but wonít endorse Guttman either because they refuse to endorse a Green. The Conservation Voters Alliance, which endorsed Guttman in ë96, refused to do so now, to demonstrate their unhappiness about Carol Miller knocking out Democrat Eric Serna for Congress in April.
Rev. Stephen Vines, School Board, Toledo (OH)
Vines is running for one of three open seats. This is a race local Greens feel they can win. Rev. Vines is Associate Minister, Mt. Zion Baptist Church and comes from a long line of Toledo Public School Educators. Vines is running on a platform of inclusive school governance, community advisory boards, and keeping schools open as community centers. His educational background is in family & child Development and he is also the CEO of a conflict resolution & diversity training center. Vines is also a interracial/religious coalition builder.
Elizabeth Horton Sheff, John Mozzicato and David M. Ionno,
City Council, Hartford (CT)
Connecticut election law reserves three of Hartford’s nine council
seats for members of the non-majority party. The Greens are contesting these three seats with former mayoral candidate Elizabeth Horton Sheff; John Mozzicato, a municipal union leader; and David M. Ionno, a city library employee.
These three seats have belonged to the Republicans since 1993, when current mayor Michael Peters swept into office as an independent and forged a bipartisan coalition. In 1995, Peters ran for re-election as a Democrat, defeating Horton Sheff, keeping his bipartisan coalition on the council intact.
The Greens oppose privatization of city services and the takeover by the state of Hartford’s schools. They are backed by a coalition of 12 municipal unions, which have fought what they say is a tightfisted city council. “We believe the average working person or non-working [person] is being shut out,” said city union leader Clarke King Sr. “The city is being controlled by the corporations.
Ralph Nader has come to Connecticut to stump for Horton Sheff and other local Greens candidates, drawing big crowds in Hartford as well as Litchfield, Mansfield, New London, Hamden and Fairfield.
Russell Lovetinsky, City Council, District B, Iowa City
Lovetinsky was active in the Nader campaign and is a founding member of the Iowa City Green Party. His three main issues are: 1) expanding the Iowa City Public Library, the state’s busiest public library, in a practical, economical manner; 2) opposition to a local-option sales tax because sales taxes are regressive taxes hitting working men and women the hardest; 3) openness, responsiveness and accountability on the City Council. Lovetinsky is a strong advocate for preference voting and also favors an elected strong mayor over a city manager-style of government.
Tennis Lilly, City Council, Lawrence (MA)
Site of Green Gathering ë97, the Lawrence Greens are presenting their first candidate. There are six candidates, including two incumbents, for three open seats. Lilly is running on shutting down a solid waste incinerator, open space acquisition, no gentrification, and affordable housing.