The call to run Green
My bid for New York Comptroller
by Theresa Portelli, New York State Green Party
Since it is now 2015, I can take a deep breath and reflect on the 2014 New York State Green Campaign with amazement, pride and gratitude. I can share the challenges and successes in running for NYS Comptroller on the Green Party ballot. During the campaign, whenever discouraged I would look at the various Board of Election’s lists of the ballot and see my name included with the other Greens. The most interesting list was from NYC where my name was translated into Chinese and Korean. This represented democracy in action for me. Registered voters of all ethnicities and cultures had a choice and I was one of those choices. Looking back, the depth of the privilege and mandate to vote for all of us was enormously meaningful. That knowledge and the sincere thanks for running I received from so many supporters kept me going.
I was completely surprised and honored when I was asked to join the Green state slate for comptroller, with Howie Hawkins running for governor. But from my local experience in the Albany Mayor and Albany City School Board races, I knew that running for office means giving up a lot of time for several months. It means crafting position papers, participating in debates, writing speeches, issuing press releases, meeting with media, and most important of all going door to door. It also involves aggressively promoting myself, the ballot, and party. It means confronting and conquering any and all vestiges of shyness or nerves. It requires focus, determination, curiosity and a thick skin.
This, I thought, would take some organization and Green inspiration. Being a Green already means being brave. It was a challenge to be not just myself but to be better than myself because I would represent the Green Party. I was flattered of course but wondered if I could be an asset on the ticket. In my career in state government I was the manager, work-horse, moderator, idealist – how would that translate into the Comptroller race? I applied the values of the Green Party to what was needed in the office – Democracy, Social Justice, Peace/Non-Violence and Ecological Wisdom. I spoke over and over about these issues and how they are applied to our every day life and to the Office of State Comptroller.
So I said YES. And I encourage more people to please step up and say Yes too. Say yes to being a citizen and participate in democracy, raise the difficult questions and also say yes to taking an extra walk in a Green t-shirt, or pick up the phone and call your friends and relatives. Ask them to be brave and join the Greens in changing the conversation, the process, the government. The Greens can change the conversation and bring the government back to the people.
The campaign was a huge success based on many factors. The Green Party moved up a ballot line and we got tons of votes. I received 98,000 plus. If anyone needs an affirmation in life, 98,000 votes say I did ok. Also being on the ticket with three very formidable, interesting, candidates – Howie, Brian and Ramon – it was a blast.
Throughout my campaign I was able to raise issues that were important to me and to the Green platform – that of criminal justice reform, fossil fuel divestment, banning fracking and ending mass incarceration. If we are a progressed society then why do we invest our funds in companies that create fossil fuel energies? Why as a society do we insist on investing in private prisons when we should be treating drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue? Why do we continue to incarcerate young people, overwhelmingly minority or economically disadvantaged and withhold their talents and contributions from our communities?
Say yes to being a citizen and participate in democracy, raise the difficult questions.
The campaign was a success on many levels but most particularly in having sensible, relatable issues that were unique to our party. Even given that acknowledgement by the media, it was still very difficult to get the coverage we deserved. What I learned in the campaign? I learned we are part of a larger movement that has a legitimate voice. And hearing and using that voice is an invitation to be part of a Green future.