California's Green Party Vie For June Primary Spots
A record-high 42 percent of Americans self-identified as political independents in 2013, the highest percentage in 25 years, according to a Gallup poll. The Green Party of California (GPCA) is looking to not only increase its numbers in office, but also boost its visibility in a heavily Democratic and Republican political landscape.
Ellen Brown, GPCA candidate for treasurer, said that Americans — and specifically Californians — are increasingly open to third-party politics outside the realm of traditional Republican and Democratic platforms.
“It's a good time to be running because there's definitely more public support for independents,” Brown said. “People are so disillusioned with the two main parties, they don't seem that different anymore and you can't trust them to do what they said. The wave of the future will be politicians who will be independent of big money.”
All Green Party candidates run on a platform of no corporate money, an aspect which Green Party candidates are adamant will create fairer elections. Whether third-party candidates statistically make it past the primaries on the local, state or national levels is far less certain.
California has an open primary system which allows emergent party candidates to run in the same primary as Democrat and Republican candidates, with a run-off between the top two. But this can work against emergent parties, who are often shut out of the primaries and never make it to the November election.
“Historically, the top-two primary is horrible,” said Laura Wells, GCPA's candidate for state controller. “In November, you're only left with Democrat and Republican candidates because only they make it through the primary. We need to get the word out that the Green Party is on the side of human beings. We don't need to have the majority. We just need to have someone in power.”
Wells is currently spearheading her fourth political campaign, including two previous bids for state controller and an unsuccessful run for governor in 2010. She also holds the distinction of earning the most ever votes — nearly a half a million, or six percent, of the votes cast — for a Green Party candidate in a statewide California partisan race for her 2002 state controller campaign.
“It took ten days to determine the winner of that race, and at that point, I just decided that I was going to keep running until I win," Wells said. "The Green Party really does two things right. Candidates realize that it's all interconnected — poverty, peace, the environment, grassroots democracy — and candidates don't take corporate money. What we talk, we can walk.”
But that walk now faces a new obstacle with the passage of Proposition 14.
Proposition 14, passed in 2012, mandates that candidates from all six of California's qualified political parties must collect signatures from at least 10,000 registered California voters, or pay a filing fee equal to one percent of the elected position's first year salary, in order to appear on the June primary ballot.
Though Wells doubts Green Party candidates will be able to meet the new petition requirements by the February 20 deadline, she said she will continue to champion for her platform and remain optimistic about increasing public awareness of third-party politics.
“If there's anything I'm doing, it's just calling it like it is and trying to point out places where there are some rays of hope,” Wells said. “Hope is an essential human nutrient."
The GPCA has officially endorsed four candidates for statewide office: Laura Wells for state controller; Ellen Brown for state treasurer; David Curtis for secretary of State; and Luis Rodriguez for governor.