Green Party’s McGaa and Tricoma face off in Senate primaries

Andrew Pritchard

After narrowly winning the Green Party’s endorsement for U.S. Senate, Ed McGaa stands to lose the party’s official backing in Tuesday’s primary election.

McGaa lost Green Party gubernatorial candidate Ken Pentel’s support last week after media reports of McGaa’s involvement in a controversial 1980s plan to remove sewage ash from the Mississippi River banks in the Twin Cities to his land near South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Now, voters will decide whether McGaa or Oakdale teacher and writer Ray Tricomo will carry the party flag into November’s general election for Paul Wellstone’s U.S. Senate seat.

“We were expecting shots from Democrats and Wellstone people,” said Karen Carlson, one of McGaa’s managers. “We were not expecting to have to fight these battles within our own party.”

McGaa has been a controversial figure since the party convention, where some delegates feared endorsing a Senate candidate would take votes away from Wellstone’s re-election effort.

Since then, McGaa has campaigned on his military service record, said he favors genetically modified food if it is regulated, and made statements some Greens interpreted as calling protesting unpatriotic.

“People need to know very clearly that when they vote Green, they are voting for a set of values,” Pentel said in a written statement withdrawing his support for McGaa last week. “Ed has simply not carried himself consistently in a way that indicates an understanding of this basic principle.”

Carlson said McGaa feels somewhat betrayed and hurt by the past week’s events but is making the best of it.

“He’s remarkably light-hearted and jovial about it,” she said.

McGaa, a Sioux Indian, lawyer, author and veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, has said the ash disposal plan was environmentally sound.

“All you people downstream, you owe me a vote in the primary,” he told The Associated Press. “I cleared up your drinking water.”

Tricomo said the ash disposal project was a “sad revelation,” but added he would not make it a major campaign issue because the facts are still disputed.

He also said the party will still be united in the upcoming election.

“It’s only the media that keeps talking about a split,” he said. “Whoever wins on Tuesday had better demand that there be no splits. We can’t afford it.”

Tricomo said if he were elected to the Senate, he would ask McGaa to work with him, particularly on Tricomo’s proposed indigenous bill of rights.

“In my campaign, the indigenous world is at the center,” Tricomo said. “It’s what I’m taking to Washington.”

Although the Green Party’s Senate candidate will face a two-term Democratic incumbent and a Republican challenger backed by the White House, Tricomo said his campaign is serious and more than a symbolic gesture.

“This is not about taking votes from Paul Wellstone,” he said. “He’s taking votes from me.”

Although Carlson said she was “totally unable to make a prediction” about Tuesday’s outcome, she said the past week’s media coverage has not necessarily given Tricomo an advantage over McGaa.

“I think Minnesota voters are more intelligent than political figures or the media assume them to be. Ö Sometimes bad media does generate good things in the end,” she said.

McGaa’s Web site registered more than 1,000 hits in 12 hours on Thursday, Carlson said.

McGaa can connect with many different people, including some who would not otherwise consider Green Party candidates, she added.

“I, from the get-go, from the convention, felt that Ed McGaa was the best chance for this party to get its 5 percent,” Carlson said.

Under state law, the Greens must get 5 percent of the vote for one of their candidates in a statewide race or subsequently lose major-party status and thousands of dollars in state election funds.

Carlson also said Tricomo is a “pseudo-indigenous person” and that McGaa’s experiences growing up on a reservation give him more credibility on American Indian issues.

Tricomo said one of his major proposals would be free tuition for college students, provided they repay society with four years of public service.

“I want to create a situation where a college student doesn’t have to work 18,000 jobs to get through school,” he said.

Andrew Pritchard covers politics and

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