The Green Party held its national convention in Philadelphia earlier this month. Party members and candidates for November elections gathered to discuss the party’s role in several key races. Tatsha Robertson of the Boston Globe talks with host Steve Curwood about the political role of the Greens.
CURWOOD: Welcome to Living on Earth. Im Steve Curwood. In a few months, voters will elect candidates to fill positions from the U.S. Senate to the local school board. Both Republicans and Democrats are vying for control of Congress. But its also a busy year for the Greens. The Green Party is running more than 360 candidates for office in 39 states.
Delegates met recently at the National Green Party Convention in Philadelphia. Tatsha Robertson was there, and she joins me now. Shes a national reporter for The Boston Globe. Welcome to Living on Earth, Ms. Robertson.
ROBERTSON: Im glad to be here.
CURWOOD: Now, lets look at the candidates theyre going to have this Fall. What Green Party candidates on the ballots do you think will make the biggest difference this year?
ROBERTSON: Well, theres the big race, of course, in Minnesota which could really make some huge changes in the Senate. Then there is a very interesting race in Massachusetts with Jill Stein who is a doctor. And there is just a number of local candidates. I think, this year, 362 Greens are running in local elections across the country. So, all of those should be pretty interesting.
CURWOOD: Tell me about the Minnesota race.
ROBERTSON: Well this is probably one of the most controversial races in the country. You have Senator Wellstone who is an incumbent.
CURWOOD: A Democrat.
ROBERTSON: And a Democrat. Hes running against Norm Coleman who is a charismatic Republican. He used to be a Democrat. And hes very popular in Minnesota. The race is extremely tight. Bush wants Coleman to win the seat. Hes visited Minnesota several times. And theres one Green Party member whos running. His name is Ed McGaa. And hes already received about three percent of the vote, not a lot. But in this case, the race is extremely tight.
And if Wellstone loses, that could give the Republicans the one majority vote in the Senate. And that could just resonate in many ways. That could affect the way the Supreme Court choices are decided. And it could give the White House even more power.
CURWOOD: And so, the argument, I suppose, is made by some that the Greens are spoiling here.
ROBERTSON: Exactly. Well, theres two sort of camps here. First of all, the Greens will openly say that they want their members to run against Democrats in high profile races, mainly because they believe the Democrats have moved too much to the center. So they believe this will force them to really deal with more progressive issues.
But, on the other hand, some Greens are starting to say, "You know, maybe we should really think about the broader picture. Do we really want to give Republicans more power?" And so, this has caused a lot of Greens to really rethink their strategy.
CURWOOD: Tell me about the Massachusetts race.
ROBERTSON: The Massachusetts race, of course, is the Governors race. Mitt Romney, who is the former CEO of the Olympics, is the top contender. Hes a Republican. And, there are several Democrats. But, the star, at least to the Greens, is Jill Stein.
Now, shes a physician. But Jill Stein also has focused so much energy on healthcare issues. And, the Greens love to hate someone like Mitt Romney. You know, hes a rich, corporate guy. So, among the Green Party, she was the star at the convention.
CURWOOD: Tatsha, what would you say was the dominant conversation at this convention? What were people talking about in the speaker presentations, as well as the hallways?
ROBERTSON: The dominant conversation would have to be the corporate fallout. Everybody said, "You know, we told you so. We told you so." Even before the whole corporate scandals, the Greens were talking about corporate greed. Ralph Nader focused a lot on corporate issues during the 2000 election. And, this year, they have really focused a lot on corporate responsibilities. And theyre going to use that as an important part of their platform.
CURWOOD: So, what is their strategy going to be going forward?
ROBERTSON: Well, they have a really interesting strategy. And I think it is working. They know that, say, Ralph Nader, a very, very popular person, helped them. But unlike the Reform Party, theyre saying that they dont want to focus all their attention on this popular figure like Nader. They believe you cannot build a party around one important public figure.
So, what they have decided to do is put all their focus on the local elections. They believe thats where they can gain recognition. Thats where they can put all their issues out. And thats how they can become a force in the next few years.
CURWOOD: Walk me through the local candidacies of the Greens. What were some of the races that you heard about that seem especially important to them?
ROBERTSON: So far, theres like 146 elected officials throughout the country. Were talking like the mayor of Santa Monica, two City Council members in big cities like Minneapolis, which is extremely important, city councilors in Connecticut. So, nothing that really stands out nationally. But locally, thats their foundation.
CURWOOD: Now, what do you think the Green Party might have learned from Ralph Naders run in 2000? What might they do differently this time around?
ROBERTSON: I think what they learned is that they have to be visible in all fronts. It is important to have that national person to put out the issues. But its also important for them to focus a lot on statewide candidates. And, in the past, they said they did not want to use a lot of fundraising money.
But I think, after the 2000 elections, so many candidates have run in different city elections. They realized money is really important to really build this party. So, I think theyre beginning to change on that issue.
CURWOOD: What about the criticism that the Greens were a spoiler in the presidential race?
ROBERTSON: I asked so many people about that. The first thing everyone said is, "You know, Gore should have won, but we dont think its our fault." But theyre so energized by that. They love being the underdog. But they also enjoy the fact that people are considering them as strong and important and you better watch out.
CURWOOD: Now, what are the prospects for a Green presidential candidate in 2004?
ROBERTSON: Well, we did ask Nader that. He had a small press conference. And, a few reporters ask Nader would he run again. And he did not say no. He said hes considering.
CURWOOD: Tatsha Robertson is a national reporter for The Boston Globe. Ms. Robertson, thanks for taking the time with me today.
ROBERTSON: Enjoyed it. Thank you.
[MUSIC: BOARDS OF CANADA, "SPINNING," HIGH SCORES]
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