Greens debate party issues at U

Green Party presidential candidates argue how to run a campaign – and whether to have a candidate.

by Josh Verges

Two Green Party presidential hopefuls came to the University on Monday intending to debate, but found little to disagree on.

California Green Party members David Cobb and Kent Mesplay instead argued over how the Greens should run a presidential campaign – and whether the party should have a candidate.

“We can’t sit this one out,” Mesplay said. “We need to run whenever we can, wherever we can.”

Cobb said he would accept the delegates’ candidate choice at the national convention, whether it is another candidate or none at all.

When the candidates were not using their rebuttal time to agree with each other, they took shots at President George W. Bush.

Kellie Burriss, College Greens officer and state party liaison, brought the debate to the University, and was disappointed that only two candidates came to the debate. She acknowledged many are unwilling to run a national campaign.

In true Green spirit, Paul Glover of New York will not campaign outside of the state to avoid spending fossil fuels, Green Party spokesman Dave Berger said.

Another reason contenders are reluctant to campaign nationally is because the winner will not get automatic party support.

“The party is split right down the middle on whether to have a candidate,” Berger said.

Burriss is not sure the party should have a presidential candidate.

“I’m not convinced it would help grow the party,” she said. “I don’t want to run a candidate just because we’re a political party.”

Some Greens see the absence of a Green candidate as a chance to help another political party, Berger said. Those who support endorsing a Green candidate, however, say that’s illogical.

Others, particularly Greens in California, want to endorse a candidate to retain major party status in their state.

Because Ralph Nader, the 2000 Green Party candidate, received more than 5 percent of the vote in Minnesota, it is also one of a handful of states where the party holds major party status.

Major parties have automatic ballot access for their candidates and are eligible for public matching funds.

But without a high-profile candidate, few think the state can keep the major party status.

“Most of us don’t have any idea who these people are,” said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Commissioner Annie Young, who ran a 2000 rally for Nader at the Target Center. “Thinking about our political strategy as a whole, this is a year to sit out.”

Although he gained two delegates in the Ohio primary election, Nader took his name out of consideration for the nomination this year.

Young is not convinced Nader believes in the party ideals and would not have supported him this year.

“It isn’t just picking someone and running,” she said. “We gotta get (young) people in the pipeline. It won’t happen overnight.”

Joel Sipress, a Green Party state coordinating committee member from Duluth, Minn., said overemphasizing high visibility might hurt the party.

“We need issue organizing for several years before even running a local candidate,” he said.

Like Young, Sipress supported Nader in 2000 but said the party should start promoting its own names.

David Cobb, who earned his reputation building Green Party membership in Texas, is the current front-runner for the candidacy with 14 of the 34 delegates.

Unlike Democrats and Republicans, Berger said the Green delegates are not bound to vote for their primary’s candidate choice at the national convention.

“We have no clue what’s going to happen at the national convention,” Berger said. “It makes things more interesting.”