By Barbara Rodgers-Hendricks, Green Party of Florida
A new law in Florida has opened Pandoraís Box for the Green Party. Five candidates filed last-minute applications for Florida legislative seats, three House seats and two Senate seats. These young candidates however are completely unknown to the active Greens in Florida.
The law which allowed this to happen was House Bill 537, passed last year in regular session. Previously, qualified parties with less than 5 percent of voter registration were nominated by convention. Under the new law, qualified parties must nominate by primary. According to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, Florida has approximately 25 qualified parties. ìThe real difference the new law makes,î says Winger, ìis that any member of a qualified minor party is now free to seek (and most likely obtain) the nomination of his or her party, just by filing for the ëprimaryí. Thus, a qualified minor party whose state convention doesnít wish to nominate anyone for a particular office has now lost the flexibility to make such a ënone of the aboveí choiceÖ HB 537 did not alter eligibility for a presidential primary.î
You might say the Green Party of Florida (GPF) was blind-sided. The law did state that candidates who qualify by paying a fee must pay a party assessment, if one had been levied. However, the GPF had no formalized policy in place which would require would-be candidates to pay an assessment. And the GPF didnít learn about the filings in time to qualify candidates to run against them in the primaries. (For readers who want to find out exactly what the bill says, it can be found at laws.flrules.org. node/179.)
Greens in Florida are wondering if these candidates are shills, working for the Democrats or Republicans. ìItís happened before,î said party spokesperson, Alan Kobrin. ìRepublicans have run campaigns óyouíll hear them even advertising it on talk showsóurging members to switch over and vote in Democratic primaries.î
ìWeíre being used,î said Julia Aires, the other state party spokesperson. ìSimple as that.î
But Kobrin is not yet convinced. ìOne of the goals of the Greens is to get people to switch over from the current two-party do-nothing system and develop a party that will get rid of all the lies and hoopla and other crap passing as a democracy,î he said. ìMaybe these are just individuals who have become Green. It could be a tremendous success story. Korbin said it was ìUnlikely, but letís not rule it out, until we have verified this with our research and/ or interviews. The first three elected Greens in Florida were former Republicans, who had had no previous contact with the state party.î
Attempts have been made by Florida Greens to contact these persons who are all in their twenties. Calls to telephone numbers listed in the Department of State qualifying papers were not returned. Certified letters have been sent to all the candidates from the GPF.
Jayne King, the state co-chair, went to the house of one of the candidates, Sarah Roman, 21, in Port Saint Richey. She was not home, and her parents would not give King her phone number. They promised to have Roman call, but no call was received.
According to Palm Beach County elections records, another candidate, Anthony Mauro, 23, changed his voter registration in May from an Orange Beach address to one in Lantana. He also switched from Republican to Green Party. When Greens attempted to visit the gated condo in Lantana, which he had given as his address, his name was not on the residency list.
Horatio Lemus, 21, formerly a Democrat, registered in Sarasota. Aniana Roba, 28, switched from a minor party to Green on May 28. She is registered in Riverview, a Tampa Bay community outside the district in which she is running.
Only one candidate, Kristina Wright, 20, responded to inquiries and contacted Bonnie Redding, the party secretary. All the Legislative candidates had paid a filing fee of $1,915.92 to qualify. Yet Wright had listed a negative $13,000 net worth on her financial statement. Upon inquiry, Wright told Redding that she had received a $3500 rebate on a car she had purchased, and just decided to run for office in the hopes of bringing up the issues, which her parents had been complaining about. She had previously listed no party affiliation.
A meeting was scheduled between Wright and a contingent from the GPF. The visit was congenial, and Wrightís views seem to be fairly close to the Green Party platform. However, she is uncomfortable with the publicity that her candidacy has aroused, and she says she is not confident enough to participate in forums or appear on radio and television.
Mystery still shrouds the phenomenon of five unknowns suddenly registering Green and paying qualifying fees of two thousand dollars ($2,000) to run for the state legislature. Stay tuned.