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State election analysis presents challenges to Party growth

In this issue:

Turning the Green Party Black in 2003
Green candidates win fifty percent of local races
State election analysis presents challenges to Party growth
Whither To Grow?
Greens grow as a state force in California politics
PATRIOT Act takes US to McCarthyism, and beyond
Green Party of the U.S. Opposes Iraqi Invasion
Multiparty political system needed now
UCD Campus Greens take leading role in upgrading democracy
Endorsements matter in City Council race
Editorial: FAQ - What Does it Mean to Vote Green?
Editorial: Fear of the 'enemy' masks the danger within
Review: The War on Freedom - How and Why America was Attacked September 11, 2001
News Clips
All seven Greens who ran for statewide office in 2002 finished at or above the previous high. Why did some do better than others?

By Larry Shoup and Mike Feinstein

All seven Greens who ran for statewide office in 2002 finished at or above the previous high of 3.9% for a Green running in California, with a high of 5.8% by Laura Wells. In answering the question, “Why did some Green candidates do better than others?” we can identify several key factors.

  • number of candidates in each race, (5, 6 or 7);
  • number of women in each race, (Many voters prefer to vote for a female, and depending on the race there were 0, 1, 2 or 3. Note that the number of women on the Democrat and Republican slates was 0.);
  • incumbency (All four Democratic incumbents won comfortably, by 5 to 11 percentage points. Note that only one of the seven winners, all Democrats, received more than 50% of the vote.);
  • popularity (Governor Gray Davis had low approval ratings);
  • campaigning activity, (Some Green candidates spent more time campaigning than others.);
  • racial/ethnic background (Latino Green vote increased dramatically.);
  • each candidate’s ballot statement, newspaper coverage and endorsements.

Two clusters of outcomes resulted from the complex interplay of these factors. Four candidates, (Donna Warren for lieutenant governor, Larry Shoup for secretary of state, Glen Mowrer for attorney general, and David Sheidlower for insurance commissioner) received between 3.9 and 4.2% of the vote, while three (Peter Camejo for governor, Laura Wells for controller, and Jeanne Rosenmeier for treasurer) received between 4.9 and 5.8%. A detailed look at the results in one county, San Francisco, helps illustrate how these factors inter-played.

In San Francisco (pop. 776,000), California’s most progressive/populist multi-ethnic urban area, the Green state slate did exceptionally well. Shoup (in a seven candidate race), Mowrer (five), and Sheidlower (six), each received 7.8%. Rosenmeier got 9.4% (six) and Wells 10.6% (five), probably due to the factor of higher votes for women.

Despite being higher up the ticket, with the perception of more “risk” attendant with voting Green, Warren got 14.0% in a seven candidate race and Camejo got 15.5% in a six. The higher votes for Warren and Camejo in San Francisco were likely due to two factors. First and most important, Camejo was the most active and successful Green campaigner, traveling and speaking all over the state, giving the Green Party and the entire slate a higher level of visibility and creditability.

Second, in San Francisco Camejo and Warren received an unusual amount of newspaper coverage and endorsements. The San Francisco Chronicle gave a great deal of coverage, much of it favorable, to the Camejo candidacy. According to one reporter involved, Chronicle readers demanded more and better coverage by sending letters to the editor and emails to reporters.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian endorsed both Camejo and Warren, but no other statewide Green candidates. Like the Chronicle, the Guardian, and surprisingly even Pacifica network radio station KPFA, lacked coverage of the Green slate other than Camejo and Warren.

The African-American newspaper Bay View also endorsed both Camejo and Warren, but no other members of the slate. The coverage in the Bay View was significant for Warren, helping turn out the African-American vote there. In Southern California there was no such press and it affected the results. Without a visible alternative, African-Americans in Southern California turned out in low numbers, reflecting the distaste over Davis and Simon.

Statewide, Warren was negatively affected in the Latino vote due to the presence of Democrat Cruz Bustamante.

Southern California presents challenges

While the state slate was strongest in Northern California, with Camejo receiving over 10% in nine counties, in Southern California it struggled, a function of demographics, topographics, organization and the press. With over 50% of all statewide votes cast in the five largest Southern California counties—Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino—redressing this weakness is a clear priority for the party.

Large, diverse and generally more conservative than their northern counterparts, Southern California counties present some of biggest challenges and greatest opportunities for the Green Party.

The Southern California press is also far less friendly to the Greens than in Northern California especially the Los Angeles Times, but often even the LA Weekly. Coverage of the Green Party is less frequent and more superficial. Absent meaningful press, the region’s geographic spread out physical nature makes it difficult for a grassroots party with limited resources to organize.

Despite these difficulties, the region experienced real growth. Green registrations grew by 16% in Orange, 13% in San Diego and 11% in Riverside counties in 2002. Camejo’s vote in Los Angeles County eclipsed Nader’s in 2000, by 4.3% to 3.2%, reflecting in part growth in the county’s Latino Green voting base. And in the Spanish language press, Camejo and the Greens received significant coverage better than in the English language press helping to establish a presence there in a media market critical for the party’s growth.

Questions for the future

The California Green growth curve has been impressive, particularly over the last several election cycles. But to maintain and build upon this momentum, there are strategic questions that the Green Party must address.

How much could the vote have increased with an all out get-out-the-vote operation? What if the Green candidates had fundraised enough to afford widespread direct mail? How much depends upon the media communicating that a Green vote was a ‘safe’ vote because a race was not really close? How likely is that to happen and what can Greens do to make it more likely? What if the state and local Green Parties had the capacity to accommodate all the people who want to volunteer? What would’ve been the result on Election Day if the number of registered Greens doubled?

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