Vigorous Green growth in Arkansas
Green candidates make records while Republicans refuse to oppose “blue-dog” Democrats
by Abel Tomlinson, Green Party of Arkansas
The 2008 election year was quite remarkable for the Green Party of Arkansas. A record number of candidates for national, state and local offices were fielded, and for the first time a Green candidate was elected to the Arkansas legislature.
Before discussing the various races and outcomes, it is vital to understand some background information about Arkansas politics. The major parties are generally aligned on the most fundamentally important issues, such as economic ideology, the corrupt healthcare system, corporate subservience, and the costly permanent military complex. Primarily Republicans emphasize abortion and gay marriage issues to emotionally distract voters from deeper issues like the economy, environment, energy, healthcare, and peace. These politicians act like moral crusaders during the campaign but subsequently stab their supporters in the back with policies benefiting the wealthiest one percent.†
In Arkansas, conservative “blue dog” Democrats adopt these tactics as well. Democrats have long dominated Arkansas politics and by mimicking Republican political “morality.” As a result, the Republican Party is weak in Arkansas. Typically, Arkansas progressives have no genuine electoral choice with only conservative Democrats or conservative Republicans on the ballot.†
The political landscape is largely a stagnant cesspool lacking new ideas in what many consider an exclusionary “good ol’ boy” system.†
As the major parties are so similar, there is rarely opposition or real debate, perpetuating an uninformed voting public. As a consequence, the political landscape is largely a stagnant cesspool lacking new ideas in what many consider an exclusionary “good ol’ boy” system.†
The 2008 election was a break away from business as usual, thanks to the Green Party of Arkansas. A record of fifteen candidates ran for office at all levels of government, not including presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. The election results broke several records for Greens, partly due to over 80 percent of Arkansas races lacking major party opposition or democracy.
Rebekah Kennedy broke the record for a Green candidate running for U.S. Senate with 207,076 votes at 21 percent. Kennedy’s sole opponent was incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate and a supporter of Bush’s Military Commissions Act.
Of the four U.S. House districts in Arkansas, all of them lacked major party opposition, but Greens provided democratic opposition in three of the four districts. Candidate Deb McFarland also broke the record for a Green running for the U.S. House. In her race against Democrat Vic Snyder, McFarland received 64,398 votes at 23 percent. Joshua Drake and I, Abel Tomlinson, also did considerably well with 32,603 votes at 14 percent and 58,850 votes at 22 percent.
Arkansas Greens also succeeded in running six candidates for the state legislature with one win. Richard Carroll was the shining star by winning his race for Arkansas State Representative in District 39 with 89 percent of the vote. Carroll is the first Green elected to the Arkansas legislature, the third Green to be elected state legislator nationally, and the only Green state legislator currently holding office. Wendy Crow and Conrad Harvin did well in their races with 20 percent and 11 percent of the vote. Candidates Gene Mason, Brian Barnett, and Mary Boley each received four percent of the vote in their races.†
Arkansas Greens ran five candidates for local offices. Two candidates were fielded to run in the county races for Justice of the Peace. Green candidates also ran for city council and school board offices. However, the most interesting local race was for Chicot County Assessor. Candidate Elizabeth McCoy came very close to winning this office and lost by only 30 votes after a recount.†
The only unfortunate news for the Green Party of Arkansas was that Cynthia McKinney failed to receive three percent of the vote. If candidates for governor or president fail to reach this critical threshold, the Greens lose legal status as a political party according to an Arkansas vote test law. Remarkably, all fifteen of the other Greens running for office received over three percent.†
Plans are in progress to address this legal problem before the 2010 election. A ballot access amendment bill has been drafted and may be introduced in the upcoming legislative session by new Green Representative Carroll. The amendment would change the threshold requirement from applying solely to governor and presidential offices to any statewide office.
Overall, the future of the Green Party of Arkansas looks bright. In addition to growing dissatisfaction with conservatives nationally, progressives in Arkansas may be realizing the Green Party is the perfect vehicle for real change in our state.†
“It makes more sense to vote Green because many Arkansas politicians are afraid to address important issues like coal power plants, marijuana reform, and getting out of Iraq.” ó Ryan Denham
Ryan Denham, a progressive community leader from Fayetteville, states, “Greens are especially viable options in unopposed state races, and it makes more sense to vote Green because many Arkansas politicians are afraid to address important issues like coal power plants, marijuana reform, and getting out of Iraq.” †On a related note, Denham spearheaded a local campaign to make marijuana a lower law enforcement priority. The measure was successfully placed on the Fayetteville ballot and passed with 66 percent of the vote.
As the economic situation continues to become more difficult, there will be an immense political vacuum for real progressive ideas and leadership, as was the case during the Great Depression. The Green Party is ideally situated to fill this void in the trying times ahead.
Abel Tomlinson is a 28 year-old Political Science graduate student at the University of Arkansas. He anticipates that his run for U.S. Representative will not be his last time as a Green candidate.