[See also "Are the Greens Withering?" by Ed Felien - web.ed]
by Betsy Barnum
Green Party member
Three candidates for statewide office—Ken Pentel for governor, John Kolstad for attorney general and Michael Cavlan for U.S. senator—received the endorsement of the Green Party of Minnesota at the party’s endorsing convention June 3 in Duluth. The 87 delegates came from Winona, Bemidji, Moorhead, Brainerd, Duluth, Ely, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities to meet at Duluth Central High School, high on the hill overlooking Lake Superior. They did not endorse candidates for secretary of state or state auditor, but agreed to hold a special meeting in the next four weeks to consider endorsing Dave Berger for state auditor. Virgil Sohn of Duluth was nominated for state auditor but did not reach the voting threshold to be endorsed.
Berger, who had received 3.6 percent of the popular vote as the Green Party candidate for state auditor in 2002, had announced his intention to seek Green endorsement for this race again this year, but withdrew his name from nomination just before the convention. The next day, however, he reconsidered and indicated to his supporters that he would be willing to have his name on the ballot to give people a Green choice, though he is unable to run a full-out campaign.
the endorsing convention could not be reopened, and a special meeting to consider
Berger’s endorsement couldn’t be held without at least 14 days’
notice to the membership, the state Coordinating Committee decided to call a
special meeting later to consider the Berger endorsement.
No date was set, but the special meeting will probably happen before candidate
registration and signature-gathering begins July 4. Because the Green Party
is a minor party, its candidates must gather signatures to place each candidate
on the ballot. The number of signatures required varies with the office.
The party had major party status in Minnesota from 2000 to 2004 because Ralph
Nader received more than 5 percent of the popular vote in the presidential election
in 2000. It has been a minor party for the past two years. None of its statewide
or presidential candidates in 2002 or 2004 received 5 percent of the vote, but
several of them in 2002 received more than 1 percent.
To retain minor party status, one of this year’s statewide candidates
must receive at least 1 percent of the vote in November; the party can regain
major party status if one of its candidates receives 5 percent of the vote.
Achieving major party status this year has been a main strategy of the party
in its electoral decisions.
Many Greens at the convention felt that Berger, who was the highest Green vote-getter
in 2002, was the party’s most likely candidate to reach 5 percent this
year, and were disappointed when he dropped out of the race.
who has recently been a lobbyist and fundraiser for the Green Party and has
a long history as a party organizer, was the Green-endorsed candidate for governor
in 1998 and 2002. He decided only a few days before the convention to throw
his hat into the ring again. It was a difficult decision to make, he said, but
he felt the ticket needed a governor candidate. Pentel was enthusiastically
endorsed with 73.8 percent of the vote. Convention rules required a two-thirds
vote for endorsement.
Kolstad, a musician and music distributor, received 69.2 percent in his endorsement
bid for attorney general. His long experience as a small business owner makes
him sensitive to the ways in which laws are enforced against “the little
guy” but often not against the corporate giant. He has also been involved
in the effort to replace employer-based health care with a single-payer system
that covers everyone regardless of job status.
a nurse who grew up in Northern Ireland, received the heartiest affirmation,
a vote of 86.4 percent, to capture the Green Party’s endorsement for the
U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mark Dayton. Several Greens who spoke in favor
of his endorsement noted the need for a candidate in this race who represents
views, such as an immediate end to the war in Iraq, universal health care and
a sane energy policy, that are largely missing from the campaigns of the other
No one nominated any candidate already endorsed by another party.
Though all the endorsed candidates received more than two-thirds of the votes
on the first ballot, a substantial minority of delegates in each case voted
for “NOTA” (None of the Above) or abstained. This reflects not only
differing personal views as to the qualifications of the candidates, but also
a difference of opinion within the Green Party on the need and the desirability
of running candidates in as many of the statewide offices as possible this year.
Many NOTA voters were of the view that putting party resources into one campaign,
with the aim of achieving 5 percent of the vote for that office, was more likely
to result in regaining major party status than spreading scarce resources over
many campaigns. Those who voted to endorse all three candidates, in contrast,
felt that a full ballot had a better chance of attracting 5 percent of voters
on one race.
orderly and respectful way in which the candidates and delegates argued their
cases and made their decisions was testimony to the Green Party’s own
value of grassroots democracy and said much about the party’s culture
of seeking consensus and using a process that makes every effort to hear all
points of view and take them into account. From all indications, delegates left
feeling the process had been fair and honest, and that the decisions made truly
reflected the will of the convention.
Other Green-endorsed candidates include Julie
Risser, State Senate District 41 (Edina); Jesse
Mortenson, State House District 64A (St. Paul); Farheen
Hakeem, Hennepin County Commission; Jay
Pond, U.S. House of Representatives, District 5 (Minneapolis and suburbs
to the west and north); and Kristen
Olson, Roseville City Council. Leroy
Schafer is running as a Green for Anoka City Council. Wade
Hannon, Moorhead, is seeking Green Party endorsement for U.S. House, District
7 (west and northwest Minnesota). ||
Betsy Barnum is a 10-year member of the Green Party. She has served
on the state Coordinating Committee and as a Party Chair, worked on state and
local campaigns, co-founded the women’s caucus, and was part of the planning
and facilitation team for the convention.