Green Party should reconsider McGaa’s nomination

The Green Party of Minnesota will endorse candidates for the upcoming statewide elections next week, amid a controversy involving one of its candidates for senator, Ed McGaa. In the late 1980s, McGaa was involved in a waste disposal deal in South Dakota that could compromise the Greens’ environmental agenda, but some of the details are not entirely understood. Although McGaa recently lost his support from the Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate, Ken Pentel, he is continuing his candidacy. Delegates to the Green Party’s primary should consider whether or not McGaa’s explanations are reasonable, or whether they will be easy to refute by a critical electorate.

The controversy involves McGaa’s plan to bury ash originating from the Twin Cities’ municipal sewage system. McGaa owned 6,000 acres of land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota and approached the reservation’s tribal council about burying ash that the Metropolitan Waste Control Commission had been trying to dispose of. The tribal council – comprised of Oglala Sioux – rejected the idea, contending that the ash was of unknown toxicity. McGaa’s original intention was to build a facility that would sort through the ash to extract any valuable metals it might contain and then bury the remainder. This was not realized, and the ash was ultimately buried in the state a year later. The Metropolitan Council, which oversees the waste control commission, says that 270,000 tons of the ash were transported to South Dakota.

Although McGaa has defended both the project itself and his involvement in it, some of the details are obviously objectionable to the Green Party’s agenda. As a result, Ken Pentel has withdrawn his support for McGaa, stating that McGaa was not up front about these previous affairs. According to Pentel, “People need to know very clearly that when they vote Green, they are voting in favor of a set of values.” Pentel was also concerned that McGaa’s positions are not consistent with those of the Green Party, especially on genetically engineered crops, nuclear power and trade policy.

Although McGaa is defending his involvement in the project and is convinced that it was appropriate, it might negatively affect the public’s perception of both his candidacy and the Green Party itself. McGaa may even have reasonable explanations for the project, but it would be difficult to explain his version of events to the state’s voters. Delegates to the party’s primary should carefully consider whether or not McGaa can convince voters that he honestly abides by the party’s agendas.