Friday, November 03, 2006

Green Party Pulls Out All the Stops for State Auditor

by Kyle Michaelis
Officially, there are only 400 or so registered Green Party voters in Nebraska, so I'm not going to gang up on them for being the Green Menace that gave this country President George W. Bush. But, nor am I going to excuse their every outrageously out-of-touch act under some vague and not at all self-evident notion that they're just idealists with dull instincts and good intentions.

The Green Party's record of not just allowing but welcoming their own unprincipled exploitation in campaigns across the country suggests something quite to the contrary. That's why I can't help but be a little bit suspicious at the surprising turn of events in Green Party candidate Steve Larrick's campaign for State Auditor.

Believe it or not, Larrick has begun running a TV ad in the race for State Auditor - the first time I've heard of that happening. I've caught it two nights in a row - amongst the endless stream of attack ads against 3rd District Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb that have hijacked local television. In such company, it's probably a welcome reprieve. Except, it's pretty clear the ad has little-to-nothing to do with the race for State Auditor.

Speaking into the camera with a windmill overhead, Larrick - who's approaching the kiss of death that is status as a perennial candidate - promises "greater public accountability for good jobs" (whatever that means) and that he "will work across the state with people to reduce global warming."

Got that? The State Auditor is now supposedly in the business of creating jobs and saving the environment. Good to know.

Larrick then delivers his big closing message, asking voters to "Join the Nebraska Green Party in working for justice, democracy, and sustainable development for all," right before revealing his new campaign logo that reads:
Brains - Courage - Heart
State Auditor

The only thing he left out was the ruby red slippers! Of course, if Larrick were running to be the new Wizard of Oz or even Mayor of Emerald City (quite fitting), he'd probably have my vote. As is, though, I have to agree with the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star that incumbent Kate Witek has earned a third term performing the job Nebraska's Constitution actually requires.

Why would Larrick and the Green Party waste the sort of money it takes to get on television on a race they aren't going to win with a message that has almost nothing to do with the office of State Auditor? That's quite simple. They're pulling out all the stops - throwing everything and the kitchen sink into this race - in hopes of winning a measly 5% of the vote. That 5% performance would be enough to protect the Green Party's ballot access in the next cycle, so their candidates for statewide offices don't again have to petition onto the ballot.

This was somewhat explained in a Journal-Star article last week in the context of the Secretary of State contest, where the Greens offer their only other candidate:
Doug Paterson, the Green Party candidate, knows he’s not likely to win his bid to be Nebraska’s Secretary of State....

For Paterson, real victory would be getting 5 percent of the vote on Nov. 7 and saving the Green Party the time-consuming job of collecting 2,000 signatures in each of the three Congressional districts to earn their party a spot on the next statewide ballot.

The Green Party, he said, represents core values of ecological wisdom, peace and sustainable economics.....

Paterson, who is a professor of theater at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says voters should mark his name on the ballot because, “I’m a nice guy. And Greens bring all these wonderful qualities — commitment to open government and open dialogue.”

Well, no wonder the Greens have such a hard time hitting 5% when their candidates display so little qualification for office. Nice guy? Ecological wisdom? For Secretary of State? When voters are searching for the candidate who's the best for the job, Larrick and Paterson make a mockery of that choice by running stunt campaigns to advance a supposed movement that has no real popular support.

I should say, however, that I'm not fundamentally opposed to the possibility of the Nebraska Green Party winning their 5%. Since Nebraska voters are already subjected to the off-the-wall, fundamentalist, pseudo-populist ravings of the Nebraska Party's candidates - particularly in the governor's race - there couldn't be much harm in having a (hopefully) more legitimate liberal alternative to provoke debate and maybe even make the Democratic candidate look moderate by comparison.

The perhaps worthy addition of such a voice in future campaigns just shouldn't come at the expense of Witek's reelection as State Auditor on Tuesday, particularly since that would mean swearing-in the untrustworthy Lying Legislator and religious zealot Mike Foley in her place.

Witek is the highest-positioned woman in Nebraska government. Hers is also a strong voice for the reforms and independent oversight to which the office of State Auditor actually pertains. It would be a travesty to lose such leadership because the Green Party's all-over-the-place, change-the-world alternative had undermined her support.

What a costly fake 5% victory that would be - especially since the full 5% is still unlikely to happen. 3% is more likely (Larrick received 2.77% in his 2004 Congressional bid) - just enough to perhaps tilt the race in Foley's favor but nowhere near enough to advance the Green agenda.

This raises the question of why the Green Party would choose the State Auditor's race to make its stand, where it could well be a spoiler for the superior (though not very like-minded) candidate. The circumstances that brought Witek into the race were, as I've previously noted, outside Larrick's control, so I couldn't fault the original choice....even if a Treasurer or Attorney General candidate would have been a more welcome addition to the ballot since the respective Republicans have no significant opposition.

But, both Witek and Foley are fairly well-known - every bit as much as Sec. of State Gale and certainly moreso than his Democratic challenger Jay Stoddard. Hence, one has to wonder why expend the resources to run TV ads in the Auditor's race when they would probably have made more of a difference on Paterson's behalf for Sec. of State. After all, he is a nice guy.

From what I know of Larrick, he's a decent man as well, so I don't even want to consider the possibility that he's stooped so low as some of his fellow Greens have in other states, taking Republican money to purposefully fuel a spoiler campaign. But, it's possible that enough resentment might exist against Witek for becoming a Democrat and throwing a wrench in the GOPs plans for continued one-party domination in state government that someone might just make such an attempt.

The Nebraska Green Party's website mentions a garage sale being held to raise money for Larrick's campaign. It would have to have been one hell of a garage sale to have covered the costs of his week's worth of TV advertisement. Still, I'll refrain from assuming the worst and indulging anyone's worst fears about our local Greens.

Larrick's ad says it was "paid for by Larrick for State Auditor." As yet, there is no record of such a committee existing with the Nebraska Accountability & Disclosure Commission, although it would have 10 days to file "after raising, receiving, or spending in excess of $5,000." (i.e. Witek & Foley) Assuming that such requirement has been met, I hope full disclosure can be expected immediately, so the people of Nebraska can be assured that the integrity of their democracy remains intact.

With more than $12 million of the Ricketts family's money running in Republican circles (including several thousand to Foley), it's easy to see how some of that could have found its way to Larrick. There's no evidence to suggest any such thing happened, but I'll feel a whole lot better looking over Larrick's (perhaps overdue?) NADC filing to know for sure.

The Green Party wants a place on the ballot. Fine. Then, they'd better be prepared to follow the law and to meet the same level of scrutiny as any other political entity. For future reference, recruiting candidates with a better message than "I'm a nice guy" is also a good idea if they ever want to be taken seriously on this side of the rainbow.


Anonymous A Reader said...

I agree that the party is inexperienced, and has the effect of swaying needed votes from other candidates more likely to win if they had the Green Party's vote. However, in the lecture that precedes these comments, I noted the dismissal of some important points:

1. The message about the environment must be put out there. Granted, the context in which the Greens do this is incongruent with the description of the offices for which they run. Nevertheless, I see many Nebraskans who are lazy about even little things like recycling. The level of personal responsibility for the trash each person in this states produces is minimal at best. I probably don't have to tell you that the United states produces more trash than any other nation on the globe. That is symbolic of our addiction to consumption, and lack of understanding of the realities the rest of the world faces.

2. At least the Greens understand that labor is an issue. Yesterday, I chanced upon an interview with a state senator--whose name I missed because I tuned in after the interview began--to hear the interviewer ask him what he plans to do about the idea that the economy is unstable despite the rise in the DOW, and other market indicators recently. He replied by saying that Americans must be educated about the economy. I was amazed. People's check books tell them the truth about the economy. What ever gains have been made, the proceeds are not going to increased wages, benefits, or other means that directly help those whose wages have been otherwise falling. No matter how well companies are doing, the average person is not seeing the benefits. So who is? You know the answer to that. With wages falling, globalizing increasing, and the housing market tumbling, the average person knows that those issues are tied to labor. People do not have the buying power they once did, and are uncertain about their grown children's ability to buy homes, and have the same comforts they themselves had.

In conclusion, you may pick on Green strategies all you want, but you must speak respectfully for the issues the Greens raise. These are not ideological in reality even if they are for the Greens. These are real problems that politicians need to wake up and address. These issues are in part what is driving the shift of leadership as people see that change even if politicians have missed realizing it. Even the war in Iraq is tied to labor issues state-side. This is due to high federal spending, and the awareness that domestic issues have taken a backseat.

Thank you for hearing me,

Lydia Johnson

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The so-called "spoiler effect" that resulted in an George W. Bush election is interesting alternative history but that's all it is. Alternative history is history that didn't happen no matter how much it is otherwise dressed up.

For example, how about another alternative history for "we was robbed" spoiler theory fans to consider?

Nader doesn't run, polls note California isn't in play for Bush.

Bush takes money and time spent in California (no small amounts, unlike what Gore spent in Cali) and puts them into swing states like Florida. Picks them up sans Nader.

George W. Bush wins in an electoral landslide.

But it gets better without Nader in this alternative history.

Maria Cantwell loses in the Washington State Senate race because of no crossover Nader votes. Perhaps also Debbie Stabenow loses in her close Senate race in Michigan.

Either way, Jim Jefford's possible switch to independent - a switch that gave the Democrats control of the Senate for two years (until a Nader-free election ousted them) - would then have no effect on control of the Senate.

So with this alternative history you get a landside for Bush and control of both the Senate and the House instead of a highly contested race with two years of Democratic Senate control. Pretty nice, eh?

Of course, once again, neither scenario happened so it's all speculation on what would have happened without the "Green Menace" in 2000.

And one final item to consider on why the "Green Menace" effect may have been so strong in Florida.

To the White House, by Way of the Everglades
Washington Post (June 23, 2002)

"Norris McDonald, a District of Columbia activist, said he warned Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile that Gore was losing environmentalists to Nader over such issues as Homestead.

"She said they should go [expletive] themselves," McDonald recalled."


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