Minneapolis is frontrunner for Green Party convention

Andrew Pritchard

Minneapolis is the frontrunner to host the Green Party’s 2004 national convention, said Jennifer Heiser, Minnesota’s representative to the national party, on Saturday at a Minnesota Greens state conference.

“They like Minnesota, they know that we’re well organized and dedicated,” she said. “Comparatively speaking, we have vast experience with putting on major events.”

Minnesota is one of 22 states in which the Green Party has major party status.

Heiser said Minnesota Greens and the national party want to hold the convention in June 2004 to give candidates time to campaign and to draw media attention before the 2004 Olympics.

“The convention is going to raise our exposure significantly,” Heiser said. “It’s going to bring national press in and get a lot of attention.”

Heiser said a 14-member national committee, from which she recently resigned, is seeking potential candidates and has found a few people who have agreed to be screened before the national convention.

Heiser said the convention would reflect the party’s grassroots values and not predetermine its nomination, as often happens with Republican and Democratic nominations.

“We’re not that big or

well-orchestrated yet,” she said. “Hopefully we never get to that place.”

More than 350 delegates attended the Green Party’s national convention in 2000 that nominated Ralph Nader.

Attendees at Saturday’s conference said the 2004 convention would be larger because the Green Party is active in more states.

Nader’s candidacy made the Greens a major party in Minnesota when the longtime consumer activist drew 5 percent of the vote.

Since no Green candidate received 5 percent of the vote in the 2002 elections, at least one of the party’s candidates in a statewide contest – including the presidential race – must cross the 5 percent mark to keep the Minnesota Greens’ major-party status.

Heiser said the candidates whose names have been suggested to the national organization include Nader, populist author Jim Hightower, recently unseated Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton and Harvard University professor Cornel West.

Conference attendees suggested other possible candidates, including celebrities such as Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Phil Donahue; authors and columnists such as Barbara Ehrenreich, Molly Ivins, Michael Moore and Howard Zinn, and Minneapolis City Council Member Natalie Johnson Lee, one of two Greens on the council.

Attendees who favored running a Green Party presidential candidate said that candidate could draw attention to small parties’ exclusion from presidential debates, creating a “coattails effect” to help other Green candidates and help the party keep its major-party status in Minnesota.

But some conferees said a presidential candidate would draw money and volunteers from Minnesota candidates and would not be true to the party’s local focus.

Other workshops at the daylong conference focused on the Green Party’s history, how to become a candidate, and environmental and racial issues.

Two-time Green gubernatorial candidate Ken Pentel moderated a panel discussion on organizing local affiliates to the state party, and panelists said such “locals” allow party members to focus on issues unique to their parts of the state.

“It is a new political expression that can be a tool for activism on local issues,” Pentel said.

Eric Makela, chairman of the 5th Congressional District local affiliate, said his group is considering supporting smaller locals within its territory to focus on issues in different parts of the city.

“There isn’t a Minneapolis Green Party, and I’d like to see that happen,” he said.

Organizers said approximately 250 people attended the conference.

Andrew Pritchard covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]