Green Congressional Candidates Make a StatementAgainst the War, for Civil Rights on Nov. 2
By Crescenzo Vellucci
Almost lost in the hoopla of the presidential election and big gains by Greens in local, non-partisan races on Nov. 2 was the very credible showings by Green congressional candidates from one end of the state to the other.
No Green won enough votes to take a seat in the House of Representatives, but then, as every political consultant and commentator knows, it is virtually impossible - unless the incumbent vacates the seat or is dead - to win a Congressional race unless you are the incumbent.
However, a dozen California Green candidates raised record amounts of money - close to $100,000 statewide and all from small contributors, received huge amounts of free media that focused not on personalities but on the issues and even ran paid spots on television and radio.
Probably the most significant showing came from Pat Gray, a grandmother, labor activist and former school teacher who garnered nearly 10 percent (about 20,000 ballots) in the 12th District (San Mateo, San Francisco) against now 13-term incumbent Tom Lantos, a pro-war Democrat considered unbeatable in the heavily Democratic district. Gray also very nearly beat the GOP candidate in the San Francisco portion of the district, with about 13 percent of the vote. Her vote total was about 10 times the Green Party registration in the district.
Gray collected a huge list of endorsers, including "Fahrenheit 9/11" film maker Michael Moore. She released well-researched and important "white papers" on the environment and healthcare and campaigned tirelessly in her district.
The Gray campaign also raised about $40,000, by far the most any Green candidate for Congress has ever raised in California and probably the country. She assembled a sharp staff, including campaign manger Jim Shannon.
"Those who voted for me are voicing their opposition to the Iraq War, attacks on our civil liberties and the loss of American jobs to outsourcing. These votes should sent a wake-up call to Lantos, who not only supported but has promoted the war and the PATRIOT Act," Gray said. "The next campaign to unseat Lantos starts tomorrow."
In Sacramento, software designer Pat Driscoll was up against now 14-term incumbent Robert Matsui, a Democrat who refused to debate and even complete questionnaires sent by the League of Women Voters.
However, Driscoll collected more than 6,500 votes and about 4 percent of the vote on an aggressive free and paid media campaign. He was repeatedly covered by local print, television and radio news, and purchased paid radio spots on the local Air America Station. He turned the campaign into a platform about the war and civil liberties.
Driscoll, founder of a local Veterans for Peace Chapter, built an Iraq War Dead Wall, and was arrested several times protesting the war. With virtually no support at the beginning of his campaign, Driscoll raised about $15,000 and built a precinct-by-precinct operation that ended with more than 130 volunteers.
He didn't win, but he put pressure on the incumbent, picking up about double the number of registered Green voters in the district. Matsui received thousands of votes less than his last election.
"The vote count doesn't lie. Democratic voters did not vote for him as in elections past. They either did not vote, or voted for progressives on the ballot," said Driscoll, adding that the election results clearly show that our campaign was successful in mobilizing Green voters not just from our party but from other parties, especially from the Democratic base."
In Fresno, Larry Mullen (19th District), spent just under $5,000 but wrangled free local network affiliate television spots, and purchased paid spots to reach voters in the sprawling district. Mullen called every absentee Green voter in the district, and pulled votes from declines-to-state, Democrats and even Republicans.
In the end, Mullen wound up with about 8,000 votes and nearly 4 percent of the vote. And, he forced the incumbent, George Radanovich, to quit hiding and actually run some ads.
"I refuse to concede to someone who would not get in the ring and fight. We need to take a moment to reflect on what will change because of this effort. I believe that the Fresno County Green Party has made a statement and begun a movement in local electoral politics," said Mullen.
Finally, there was Terry Baum, a Green candidate given a good chance of doing well in the most progressive district in progressive San Francisco. However, her attempt to be put on the ballot after a write-in campaign in the March Primary failed when the Dept. of Elections refused to count hundreds of ballots because of a technicality (voters failed to complete an arrow but did write her entire name in). As a result she ran in the General Election as a write-in, and still collected well over 6,000 votes, almost unheard of in write-in campaigns.
Baum, an anti-war, lesbian playwright in San Francisco, is still battling. The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted her case for review (less than 5 percent of cases submitted are reviewed) to determine if the San Francisco and the lower courts violated her rights).
Other Green congressional candidates also fared very well, including (vote counts and percentages are estimates - most counties still have ballots to be counted as of press deadlines):
- Gary Waayers (50th CD, San Diego), 5,000 votes, 2.2 percent.
- Tom Lash (46th CD, Los Angles/Orange), 8,000 votes, 3.6 percent
- Stuart Bechman (24th CD, Ventura/Santa Barbara), 6,600 votes, 3 percent
- Eric Carter (27th CD, Los Angeles), 8,000 votes, 4.5 percent
- Philip Koebel (29th CD, Los Angeles), 4,900 votes, 2.6 percent
- Ray Block-Grueneich, (17th CD, Santa Cruz), 2,900 votes, 1.9 percent
- Pam Elizondo, (1st CD, Humboldt), 11,800 votes, 4.7 percent
- Larry Rockwood (53rd CD, San Diego), 5,800 votes, 3.4 percent
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