Illinois Green Party Sets Sights On Fall Election
Now that Illinois’ two major political parties have candidates for this fall, the state Green Party is trying to make waves with a list of its own, with candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state.
The party announced its slate of candidate for statewide office over the weekend, and is starting a petition drive to get on November ballots.
State Green Party Chair Rich Whitney said voters are being told the state has no choice but to cut pensions and funding for schools through a regressive tax system.
But he admitted his party is still feeling its way through the campaign:
“There’s no path that’s laid out for us," Whitney said. "We don’t know what the right formula for success is, but I have to say that in modern times, what the Green Party is doing now represents the best chance of breaking through the two-party duopoly that we’ve seen in decades.”
Whitney said there was improvement for his party in recent years, placing two candidates on the ballot for Congressional seats, and getting some elected at the local level, including a Carbondale City Council member.
University of Illinois Political Science Professor Brian Gaines said it’s unlikely the Greens have much of an impact on the ballot, but could influence what major party candidates talk about.
“Not that the other candidates pay a great deal of attention to them, but if they’re shrewd about the way they pick the issues, and they pick their issues cleverly, then sometimes they can force the issue onto the main party candidates’ agenda," he said.
Gaines expects the Greens to finish with 1-to-3 percent of the vote this November. The Greens also want a progressive income tax, and a statewide ban on fracking.
The Illinois Green Party's state convention drew the party faithful to Macomb March 3-4. But the Greens will need to attract many more true believers if they hope to make an impact.
Around 40 people took part in the convention in the Sandburg Theater at Western Illinois University. The empty seats far outnumbered the party members.
Nonetheless, Illinois Green Party Chair Phil Huckelberry believes most Americans have a lot more in common with the party than they might realize. He called the Greens the "majoritarian" party in the US.
"On issue after issue, we really believe that our position is in line with the majority of the general public, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are there," Huckelberry said.
Huckelberry said the Greens oppose handouts to big businesses, they want to see more participatory democracy, and they oppose the escalation of international conflicts.
The Green Party will not appear on ballots during the March 20 primary in Illinois. It failed to earn enough votes during the 2010 election to retain automatic ballot status. Huckelberry said the convention was used to launch a petition drive to gather 25,000 signatures to ensure the Green Party appears on ballots in the November election.
"We hit kind of a wall after 2010 when we lost established party status," Huckelberry said. "We're hoping that this meeting is really going to rev things back up."
The party chose to hold its convention in Macomb after the Campus Greens at WIU made a splash during last fall's mock election at the university.
"Having a campus organization that's a third party be one of the largest organizations on campus, and be the most involved, really drew in a lot of attention," Campus Greens President Staci Buster said.
"I think it impressed a lot of the Illinois Green Party members."
The convention featured policy discussions and the selection of delegates to the party's national convention, which will take place in Baltimore in July. The candidates for the party's presidential nomination are Dr Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr.
The Illinois Green Party also used its convention in Macomb to host seminars on sustainable foods, renewable energy, and strategies for winning local elections.
Gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney says the other candidates for governor may have parts of the solution to Illinois' fiscal problems --- but only he has the full package. The Green Party candidate commented during a campaign stop in Champaign-Urbana Thursday.
Whitney told a gathering of University of Illinois students that Governor Quinn is right to support a state income tax increase --- but he says such an increase should be modeled after past proposals for education funding reform.
"It's not just an income tax increase", says Whitney. "You have to provide protections for lower and middle income class earners, so that they're not actually paying the higher tax, in order to make our system more progressive. You also have to provide property tax relief to the people as part of the package. And you have to give voters some assurance that this extra revenue you're raising is going to be going to our schools."
Whitney says Quinn's promises to protect lower and middle income earners under an income tax hike are too vague. And while he supports cuts in spending, Whitney says Republican Bill Brady's call for across-the-board cuts is too crude.
Whitney also supports a tax on financial transactions ... and creation of a state bank like North Dakota's, to finance state spending projects. Whitney first outlined his budget plan in March, but says the news media focused mainly on one proposal --- to legalize and tax marijuana.
Hello, my name is Durl Kruse and I am running for Mayor of Urbana as a Green Party Candidate.
Several days ago as my wife was getting her hair cut, she mentioned to her stylist that her husband was running as the Green Party candidate for the mayor of Urbana. Befuddled, the hair stylist responded: But, what is the Green Party?
Unfortunately this was not a surprising or unusual response. Many people have never heard of the Green Party, much less considered voting for a Green candidate. Sadly my wife's hairstylist is not alone.
One must ask, what happens to the vibrancy and health of local participatory democracy when over time only one or two parties dominate the public conscience and political discourse of a community? Does citizen interest in local government grow or decline? Do more or fewer citizens run for local office? Is voter turnout higher or lower? Are elected officials held more or less accountable? Do fewer or more creative ideas enter the public discourse?
During the last four Urbana municipal elections voter turnout has steadily declined from 34%, to 21%, to 18%, to 12%. That's a decline of 22% over the past sixteen years. There also have been 16 unchallenged city races during this time. In the upcoming 2009 municipal election, four city council seats and the city clerk's office are unchallenged. There is no Urbana primary contest being held this spring because of the lack of intra-party candidates. Most startling, in recent municipal elections, several precincts have had voter turnout as low as 1-2%.
Clearly these trends and statistics are not signs of a healthy vibrant democracy in Urbana. Citizen interest and participation is waning. For too long voters have been given too few choices and limited party options.
Would a viable third party help improve this sad state of affairs? As Greens we believe so and that is why for the first time in Urbana three green candidates are running for city office We believe citizens should be able to have a robust and open discussion of local issues, be able to ask questions of the candidates, and be able to voice their concerns to the candidates.
Have you heard the Green Party's ideas for local economic development? It's position on environmental sustainability? Its thoughts on expanding community governance? Isn't the general public entitled to know the Green Party's positions on these and many other local issues of concern?
With this goal in mind, we invite the public and other candidates to join us in a series of community debates or discussions regarding each party's vision for Urbana. Until then, the voters can learn more about the three Green Party candidates running for local office by linking to the Prairie Green website at www. Prairiegreens.org
Don't you agree it's about time that voters have more than just the two traditional parties to choose from. And when voters hear a Green is running for local office it will seem normal.
Carl Estabrook, Green Party Candidate for the 15th Illinois Congressional District
host: Jack Brighton