Greens grow as a state force in California politics In 2002, California Greens ran a slate for all seven statewide partisan constitutional offices, and experienced record success.
By Mike Feinstein and Greg Jan
Large and populous as a nation, California presents unique challenges to a third party seeking statewide success. Yet in 2002, California Greens ran a slate for all seven statewide partisan constitutional offices, and experienced record successAll seven candidates finished at or above the previous California Green high for any statewide race, which was 3.9%, by Margaret Garcia for Secretary of State in 1994, and Ralph Nader for President in 2000.
Gubernatorial candidate Peter Miguel Camejo received 5.3%, more than four times the previous California Green high for the office, with 393,036 votes. Second among Green gubernatorial candidates in the nation, Camejos total was also the highest California third party percentage against Democratic and Republican candidates since 1934. (In 1978 Ed Clark received 5.5% running as an Independent, before the Libertarian Party had a ballot line in the state.)
Camejos strong campaign put significant pressure on the centrist Democratic incumbent frontrunner Gray Davis, who refused to debate Camejo or even appear in the same room with him. Camejos greatest strength was in Northern California, where he finished with 10% or higher in eight counties totaling 3.8 million people, more than in 24 U.S. states. Statewide, Camejos campaign spent less than 50 cents a vote, whereas Davis spent $16 a vote32 times as much as Camejoto convince his voters. Republican Bill Simon spent $10 a vote.
Camejos campaign helped diversify the party. Focusing on living wages and labor rights, as well as solar power, universal health care and home ownership, Camejo made strong connections with the Latino community and the Latino press. A Venezuelan-American, Camejos fluent Spanish came in handy on the campaign trail, frequently appearing on Spanish-language talk shows across the state. When Davis was late to support a farm workers rights bill and refused to sign AB60 at alla bill allowing undocumented immigrant workers to obtain a drivers licenseCamejo attacked him vigorously across the state.
Camejos strong campaign and that of the entire slate raised the profile of Instant Runoff Voting as a desirable alternative electoral system for many Californians, including key Democrats. Although California experienced a Democratic sweep of the seven statewide offices, only Attorney General Bill Lockyear received a majority of the vote (51.4%) while the other six achieved between 45.4% to 49.5%.
The highest statewide Green total was for Laura Wells for Controller5.8% and 419,873 votes, the second highest state vote total in U.S. Green history (trailing only Ben Levys 450,885 for Texas State Supreme Court), and passing the 418,707 votes Ralph Nader got in California in the 2000 presidential election.
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