Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1982 Tue, 20 Aug 2019 03:20:48 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The Green New Deal New York Needs, From Its Original Source https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8195-the-green-new-deal-new-york-needs-from-its-original-source https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8195-the-green-new-deal-new-york-needs-from-its-original-source govandcuomo offshore

Gov. Cuomo (photo via the Governor's office)


In outlining his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term, Governor Cuomo said in December he would launch a Green New Deal. I have been calling for a Green New Deal since 2010 in three Green Party gubernatorial campaigns against him.

Cuomo has already nominally adopted a number of my platform planks, including the fracking ban, marriage equality, a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public college, paid family leave, and legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, the implementation of some of these measures fall short of full realization and the same appears to be true for what will be Cuomo’s Green New Deal.

The Green Party’s Green New Deal would fulfill the full promise of the original New Deal as articulated by President Franklin Roosevelt in his last State of the Union address in 1944 when he called upon Congress to enact a second, economic bill of rights, including the rights to a job, an adequate income, decent housing, comprehensive health care, and a good education. What makes it a Green New Deal is that the rapid build out of a 100% clean energy system would provide the sustainable economic foundation for the realization of economic human rights for all.

The only specific measure Cuomo announced is a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2040. The reality is that electricity accounts for only about 20% of New York’s carbon emissions. We must also zero out the other 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation, buildings, industrial, commercial, and agricultural sectors. Cuomo’s Green New Deal thus falls far short of the reduction in carbon emissions that climate science indicates is needed to avert the tipping points of runaway global warming and a climate catastrophe of widespread extinctions, collapsing ecosystems, food and water shortages, generalized impoverishment, masses of climate refugees, and resource wars.

The recent International Panel on Climate Change report says net zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all sectors worldwide is needed in order to stay under a “safe” rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial temperature. The world already reached a rise of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in 2015. Because the UN’s IPPC reports have to be approved by the major petro-states and carbon emitters such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Brazil, and the United States, their reports have consistently underestimated the pace of global warming and understated the measures needed to stem it. Independent studies by climate scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen and his colleagues conclude that global warming must be limited to 1 degree Celsius to avoid the tipping points of runaway warming, which requires carbon emissions to zero out in 15 years combined with drawing down existing atmospheric carbon through massive reforestation and rebuilding living soils through sustainable agriculture.

The good news is that a crash program for clean energy is economically and technically feasible. And make no mistake, this is an emergency that must be dealt with as such.

Following up on a 2009 study demonstrating the planetwide feasibility of 100% clean energy by 2030, Mark Jacobson and colleagues found in a 2013 study for New York that a 100% renewable energy system by 2030 was not only feasible, but would create an economic boom. It would create 4.5 million jobs construction and manufacturing jobs during the build out. It would improve public health (more than 3,000 New Yorkers die annually from air pollution) and lower electric rates up to 50% compared to the continued use of fossil and nuclear fuels.

A Green New Deal for New York should start with the NY Off Fossil Fuels Act (A5105A/S5908A), which halts all new fossil fuel infrastructure and creates a program for 100% clean energy by 2030.

The Off Fossil Fuels Act requires state, county, and local governments to adopt detailed, enforceable clean energy plans with two-year benchmarks, timelines, and reporting. It would require new buildings to have net zero carbon emissions by 2020 and new vehicles to be emissions free by 2025. It has strong environmental justice provisions for a “just transition” that ensures that low-income communities and communities of color, and communities dependent on fossil fuel and nuclear plants, are made whole in terms of jobs, wages, benefits, and tax revenues during the transition.

Climate action must be linked to economic justice to sustain political support. New York’s Green New Deal should also embrace the New York Health Act for universal health care, fully-funded public schools, tuition-free public colleges, and building quality public housing to address the housing affordability crisis.

New York’s Green New Deal should halt new fracked-gas pipelines and power plants. The corruption-ridden Competitive Power Ventures fracked-gas power plant in Orange County alone will add 10% to the state’s carbon emissions. The governor supports upgrading the Sheridan Avenue gas plant to power, heat, and cool state government buildings on Empire State Plaza. That plant has poisoned and sickened the largely low-income African-American Arbor Hill neighborhood for over a century by burning coal, oil, garbage, and now gas.

Governor Cuomo should use his authority under the Clean Water Act to deny permits to gas pipelines and power plants, which invariably negatively impact streams and watersheds. He should embrace the Renewable Heat Campaign to replace gas heating with ground- and air-source heat pumps. He should fix the existing Green Homes Green Jobs program to energy retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes for insulation, efficiency, and heat pumps. He should compel the DEC and NYSERDA to complete and report out their long-delayed study he asked for two years ago to plan a transition to 100% clean energy (a report we are now told will not be released).

Jacobson and colleagues put the capital cost for a 100% clean energy system at $460 billion. The $14 billion clean energy loan guarantee program of the 2009 Obama stimulus leveraged 47 times more in private investment. Using a conservative 10 to 1 leveraging ratio, a state investment of $46 billion would generate the $460 billion.  

The money should come from a combination of taxes and lending. The pending bills for a progressive state carbon tax would generate at least $7 billion a year, more than enough to invest $4.6 billion a year over ten years. A carbon tax will enhance the leverage of public investments by creating predictable market signals for savings from private clean energy investments. A state public bank could extend the credit for private clean energy investments at lower cost than borrowing through Wall Street, with the interest and principal returning to the state for public purposes. Taking public ownership of all power utilities, and operating them at cost for public benefit instead of at cost-plus-profits for absentee owners, will enable us to plan the energy transition for lower cost and without obstruction from the vested interests of the incumbent utility, fossil fuel, and nuclear industries.

If these measures sound like democratic socialism, they are. The federal government nationalized 25% of U.S. manufacturing during World War II in order to turn industry on a dime to build the “arsenal of democracy” that defeated the Nazis. We need nothing less to defeat climate change.

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Howie Hawkins is a three-time New York gubernatorial nominee of The Green Party and long-time climate activist. On Twitter @HowieHawkins.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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The Green New Deal New York Needs, From Its Original Source Sun, 13 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
A Lifelong Democrat and Famed Civil Rights Attorney, Michael Sussman Runs for Attorney General as a Green https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7976-a-lifelong-democrat-and-famed-civil-rights-attorney-michael-sussman-runs-for-attorney-general-as-a-green https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7976-a-lifelong-democrat-and-famed-civil-rights-attorney-michael-sussman-runs-for-attorney-general-as-a-green peace exist sussman

photo via Sussman campaign on Twitter


A 19-year-old from Flatbush, Brooklyn sat in the Iron Forge, a middle-eastern restaurant on Q Street in Washington, D.C., and looked around. He had started his internship with the Democratic National Committee, and was given the opportunity to choose from a group of candidates whose campaign he wanted to work on. He saw the men around him, who he would work with in the coming months, the fall of 1973: Georgians Hamilton Jordan, Jodi Powell, Bert Lance, and Griffin Bell, along with the governor, Jimmy Carter.

The young Brooklynite took that fall semester off from college as he transferred from the University of Chicago to Amherst College, immersing himself in politics, and went on to work on Carter’s campaign for president, meeting Ralph Nader, a well-known political activist and attorney credited with pushing consumer protection legislation such as the Clean Water Act, Freedom of Information Act, Whistleblower Protection Act, and more. He learned from Nader, and worked with him and Mark Green, later the New York City Public Advocate, on environmental issues, and went on to do his own public-interest work as a civil rights lawyer, including in the Department of Justice and for the NAACP. His most famous work came in Yonkers, New York, where he won a landmark case aimed at tearing down the city’s racial segregation, among other cases, and where he organized his fellow Democrats, holding rallies, and speaking at many public events on a variety of causes over decades.

Now 64 years old, Michael Sussman is running for Attorney General of New York as the Green Party candidate, his first run for statewide elected office after decades of political and legal work advancing progressive causes. He’s abandoned the Democrats for the Greens, he says, because “leading Democrats in the state have failed to advocate strongly enough for the interests that I care about, and I think that in some cases they’ve failed to do that because of personal interests and corruption.”

He’s running for attorney general because “from corruption to public health to the environment...these areas are all of huge and critical importance and I think you need someone as attorney general who has life experience as a litigator.”

He’s promising if elected to investigate Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is favored to win a third term this fall, and he’s pulling few punches when it comes to the frontrunner in his race, Democratic nominee Letitia James, currently the New York City Public Advocate, who has Cuomo’s full backing.

“I was a Democrat for 45 years,” Sussman said at a recent candidates event in Yonkers, addressing the crowd just after James spoke. “I ran for county executive of my county, I’ve done some of the most significant civil rights and environmental cases of my generation, but I refused in 2017 to run as a Democrat in New York State for Attorney General, for one good reason: the duopoly of corrupt practices.”

“We cannot have someone running on the slate with Mr. Cuomo expected to vigorously prosecute Mr. Cuomo and political corruption in our state -- it’s an inherent conflict,” Sussman said, “and until and unless we recognize it frontally and say we need an independent attorney general, someone like me who has 40 years of experience litigating, in every court -- Supreme Court of the United States, 400 arguments in the Court of Appeals in New York, a thousand cases in federal court...I don’t want to depend on the Trump Justice Department to clean up political corruption in New York. I want an attorney general in New York who is independent enough to clean up corruption, it’s very simple.”

If he can somehow get enough New Yorkers to hear his message and consider voting Green, Sussman believes he would be the clear choice for attorney general among voters who are overwhelmingly Democratic. He’s traveling the state, walking local communities from Brooklyn to Buffalo, he says, posting short videos to his Twitter feed, and proposing things like strengthening the public integrity unit of the attorney general’s office and imposing “a sweeping public finance law to disconnect big money from state politics.”

Lou Young, Sussman's communications director, tweeted, “If he could meet every voter in person he would win in a landslide. Michael Sussman just needs to he heard to be believed. It's that simple.”

He won’t meet every voter and it may not be that simple even if he did, of course, given the strength of James’ candidacy, which includes the powerful backing of Cuomo and the state party he controls, not to mention challenges raising money and name recognition.

While the odds of him pulling off a victory that would shock New York, and beyond, are quite long, Sussman is the type of “third party” candidate who may garner significant attention in a political atmosphere where voters on the left are frustrated with what many perceive as a corrupt and disconnected gubernatorial administration and state Legislature. But how many of the hundreds of thousands of voters who backed Cynthia Nixon for governor or Zephyr Teachout for attorney general in their respective Democratic primaries are willing to consider Sussman is an open question, especially given James’ progressive bona fides (she would also be the first woman of color to win a statewide position).

But with the question of independence from Cuomo still hanging over the attorney general race, which also includes Republican nominee Keith Wofford, among others, and given his decades of relevant experience, Sussman believes more voters should take a look at his campaign.

Roots
Sussman, born in 1954 the son of an accountant father and music teacher mother, is unsure exactly where his interest in civil rights first began. Perhaps from his father, who had done work with African-Americans in the discriminatory south but emphasized to his son that the north was no different, or from his grandmother, a radical socialist. But Sussman points to something simpler.

“I always had a feeling in the playground for the underdog,” Sussman said in an hour-long interview. “When we chose teams to play ball and I was 6, 7, 8 years old, I was a fairly good athlete then and would always take the kids on my team that the good athletes didn’t want on their team. It’s something that I can remember back a long way, feeling an affinity for people who are viewed as either nonconforming or not functional at the same level — whatever that level was — of others, and otherwise being excluded from the game so to speak. So I guess my life’s work has been about that subject in a general sense and consistent for a very long time.”

“For whatever reason and however it happened,” Sussman says, his upbringing “imprinted on me a sense of obligation that even though we were not a wealthy family, we were a middle-income family, that our job was essentially to give back.”

Sussman says he decided at age 12 he would do this by becoming a civil rights lawyer. Although he would go on to represent people of color in countless cases, Sussman says he grew up in a monoracial Flatbush. The only black person he knew was his mother’s maid, he said, adding that having a maid was “somewhat usual for even middle-income people in those days.”

“I remember trying to understand the experience of, Esse was her name, as even though she lived in New York City, in the same borough we were in, it seemed like miles away, centuries away,” Sussman said.

Later, while attending the University of Chicago as an undergraduate, Sussman had his internship with the DNC, meeting Jimmy Carter. Yet Carter’s early presidential campaign was not the most historic event he was being exposed to — his uncle, Barry Sussman, was then an editor at the Washington Post, Michael Sussman recounts, and it was in Barry’s home that the now famous Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein began their investigation.

“So I was able to see the origins of the Watergate case as it was developed in their basement in Barry’s house in Potomac, Maryland, and then during the days I worked with Jimmy Carter,” Sussman said about his 1973 experience.

Sussman says he’s sought to surround himself with people doing great things.

“I’ve always told my children, I have seven children, ‘Try to find yourself amongst the people who are doing what you think is important,’” Sussman said. “I think that you have to see what your capabilities are, you have to see who is doing work that you emulate and that you admire, and I think you have to try and put yourself in a position to learn from greatness, really.”

While Sussman is not a household name himself, he became a prominent civil rights lawyer with an acclaimed show on HBO, “Show Me a Hero,” about his most famous case.

Resume
Sussman graduated in 1978 with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was in the same class as now-CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who Sussman says “was not a stellar student.” After graduating, Sussman took his most well-known case, the aforementioned, representing a local chapter of the NAACP in Yonkers that sued the city for its segregated school districts. After 26 years of legal proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the 2007 result was $300 million in funding to desegregate schools and build affordable housing.

Out of law school, Sussman had been working at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in October of 1978, during Carter’s presidency. He worked on efforts to stop school segregation and housing discrimination. However, Sussman says this changed in 1981 when Ronald Reagan became president. According to Sussman, William French Smith, Reagan’s attorney general, said that the Civil Rights Division needed to focus on elevating the rights of white people. Sussman says he “made a fuss internally,” speaking to a former debate partner of his from University of Chicago and the man he was working under, Deputy Attorney General Edward Schmults. After getting no response, Sussman left the Justice Department, and was offered a job with the NAACP.

“I met the major forces in American Civil Rights Law at that time: Joseph Rowl, William Taylor, Thomas Atkins, Nathaniel Jones, lawyers from generations older than mine who were doing the major work as I thought,” Sussman said, “and I became friends with them and they viewed me as someone that could carry on the work. So, I was blessed to be offered a job as assistant general counsel at the NAACP national office in New York City.”

It was then that Sussman began work on the case, which had been filed by a local chapter of the NAACP in 1980. The case accused the city of Yonkers — including city officials, lawyers and judges — of being discriminatory and engaging in housing segregation, which caused school segregation. To diminish said segregation, the city and school board would have to work together to reorganize the school system and create housing opportunities for low-income people that were not in “ghettoized areas,” as Sussman put it.

Believing the Reagan administration’s stance on civil rights made it unreliable in defense, the national office of the NAACP saw an opportunity to become involved and secure a victory. Still, it was 2007 before a ruling in the case, with Judge Leonard B. Sand ruling in favor of the NAACP and ordering Yonkers to build 200 public housing units and allow 600 houses to go to low-income families in the majority middle-class and white east side of town.

Sussman’s civil rights career unfolded alongside that case, with some cases taken on behalf of friends but most dedicated to advancing certain causes, he says. He has represented a Pace University student who was shot by police in 2010 — although the Justice Department decided not to charges against the officer involved — and won $6 million for the family, and won a $45 million settlement against the state for black and Hispanic workers in a discrimination case, for example.

Sussman now lives in Orange County, where his law firm, Sussman and Associates, is based in the town of Goshen. While he’s mainly worked in Washington, Yonkers, and Orange County, Sussman has also opened “empowerment centers” designed to help underprivileged people in Liberty, Monticello, and Port Jervis.

Sussman has also worked defending students suspended by their schools, including Elzie Coleman, then a potential Olympic sprinter who was suspended for getting in a fight. Sussman argued that suspending Coleman violated his due process and would cause “immediate and irreparable harm” as it would impact Coleman’s ability to qualify for scholarships necessary for him to go to college. Sussman used this same argument in a variety of cases against school districts. He also represented Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy in a case of defamation, after the sheriff of the county accused him of harboring an undocumented immigrant, among other things — Sussman won the case, reaching a $150,000 settlement.

In a case of sexual harassment, Sussman represented an Orange County Health Department worker who accused her boss of making sexual advances, and firing her after she refused them. Sussman says his work was mainly centered around certain causes, while he occasionally took work due to relationships with clients.

“There are situations where people will come to and out of personal loyalty or out of the feeling that there is some important issue that is being raised in their case, I will defend them, if you will,” Sussman said. “Most of the work I’ve done is not based on that. Most of the work I’ve done is based on what I might call cause-driven lawyering. That is, I’m known to do cases of employment discrimination, sexual harassment, education law.”

In some cases Sussman found him defending those accused of sexual harassment, rather than the other way around. In 2002, when a coworker accused forensic scientist for the New York State Police John Graziano of sexual harassment, her complaint did not lead to any punishment, as despite human resources finding probable cause, it did not go to trial. After this, women working with Graziano started treating him poorly, and so he filed a lawsuit alleging they harassed him due to his gender, suing under Title IX. Sussman defended him in this case, which was dismissed.

One of the students Sussman represented was suspended for allegedly having sex with two girls on school property, but separately accused of forcing another student to touch him sexually. Sussman focused on the cases of sexual activity, and claimed that the school punishing him much more severely than the girls involved was a Title IX violation. He won the case.

“It posed an issue of gender stereotyping that I think is interesting and important,” Sussman said. “[The student] was engaged in what the school district defined as consensual sexual activity with two girls in school, separately, and the two girls were slapped on the wrist and he was suspended for a school year basically and I thought that was absurd.”

According to a press release announcing his 2018 run for attorney general, the Green Party highlighted that from 2006 to 2010, Sussman represented “a class of 4,700 African American and Hispanic state workers [against the Attorney General’s office] in a lawsuit challenging the promotional test used by the State of New York for civil service promotions” and that the “cae ended in a settlement of $45,000,000 for the class.”

One apparent blemish on Sussman’s record came in 2002. In 2014, the New York Post reported that in 2002 Sussman had had his law license suspended for a year for “commingling personal and client funds.”

Running for Attorney General
It is in the areas he’s focused his legal career that Sussman believes the state should be enforcing laws more strictly. He argues his experience makes him uniquely suited to do so if elected as attorney general, and should cause voters to take notice of his candidacy to become the state’s top legal officer, charged with upholding laws, defending the state in legal action, and other responsibilities.

“I feel that there needs to be vigorous enforcement of our state’s laws in those regards and I’m aware that laws are not self-enforcing,” Sussman said. “I’m also aware that there are not many civil-rights lawyers in our region that have expertise like I have in the courts.”

“It’s shameful that both in regards to civil rights laws and environmental laws and laws protecting health and safety in our state, the AG office has made, from my perspective, minimal contributions over the last 30 or 40 years, despite so-called progressive people running the office,” he continued. “Either they don’t understand the laws or they’re not really interested in enforcing them to the extent necessary in our state.”

Sussman, who had previously been on his town board as a Democrat, and ran for county executive of Orange County as one, says his shift to the Green Party in November came due to frustration over issues of corruption and failure to act by Democrats in New York.

“First of all, I feel that Mr. Cuomo is corrupt, I feel that Mr. Schumer is in the pocket of Wall Street,” Sussman said of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senator from New York Charles Schumer, the minority leader. “I feel that leading Democrats in the state have failed to advocate strongly enough for the interests that I care about, and I think that in some cases they’ve failed to do that because of personal interests and corruption. So I don’t see the Democratic Party right now as being the answer.”

Sussman gave an example of a Competitive Power Ventures gas-fired power plant being approved in his county despite residents being outspoken concerning the potential environmental and human health risks from large emissions of carbon dioxide, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and other dangerous chemicals. In this case, Sussman says neither Democrats nor Republicans would talk to protestors when trying to prevent the plant from getting approved. Yet, now that it has started operating, both Democrats and Republicans are against the plant. Both Democrats and Republicans, he believes, are seen by many as representing a politics-first mentality.

“Part of that increasing alienation is that people think both parties represent the same thing, and I think that’s true,” Sussman said. “Particularly for the attorney general race, I see a perpetuation of the same patterns of clubishness and I don’t think that’s going to solve anything.”

Sussman has been critical of James, the Democratic nominee, as seeking the attorney general position only to increase her chances of becoming governor in the future, of which there is little evidence, in part given James’ own background as a public defender and assistant attorney general. Recently, he has said that Republican nominee Keith Wofford also sees the position as a way to reach higher office, an assertion there’s also little support for as Wofford, a corporate attorney, runs for office for the first time.

“I genuinely believe that the Democratic Party candidate wants to be governor, which she has every right, but I don’t see this position as a stepping stone,” Sussman said. “With that sort of ambition, what ends up happening, is that people don’t do what they need to do in this office because of looking over their shoulder.”

At the Yonkers candidates’ event, Sussman both praised James’ work as public advocate and said that her use of the office as a litigator has been wanting, given that she has been kicked off of a number of suits for lack of standing. He said the two agree on almost every social issue, from taking on the NRA to protecting immigrants, but said that the deciding factors for voters must be his resume as an attorney and the contrast between his and James’ relationships with Governor Cuomo.

“I am ready from day one to litigate -- whether it’s Donald Trump or whether it’s Andrew Cuomo,” Sussman said. “And guess what, it’s going to be Andrew Cuomo.”

Cuomo’s shuttering of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption was “insulting to every citizen in New York State,” Sussman said, speaking just after James. “I didn’t hear my opponent say one thing about him, nor would I expect to, she’s running on the same ticket. You can proclaim independence, but you can’t be independent if that’s your running mate, it’s simply impossible.”

On Wofford, Sussman said in the interview, “The Republican candidate is not someone who has experience with public law, he’s chosen other career paths, and I don’t think that you start in public law as attorney general of New York.”

“This is it for me, and if I get the position, against all odds, then I would use the office and the lawyers in that office, 672 of them, to the fullest extent I could do enforce the laws I see in New York that deal with discrimination and environmental degradation, health threats,” Sussman said, pointing to the powers of the attorney general to uphold certain laws in New York, along with the office’s responsibilities to defend state government. But on the latter, Sussman says, “I would do much less knee-jerk defense of state agencies, which engage, unfortunately, in ongoing patterns of segregated behavior, discriminatory behavior.”

Sussman has litigated against the state on multiple occasions, and believes that a 45-day review period should be put in place for every case filed against the state, allowing the attorney general’s office to decide if the state had committed whatever alleged infraction the suit claims. Sussman says if he were to find that the behavior is as it’s alleged and if it is lawless, he would not defend it — instead, he would “settle the case, resolve the issue, take action against the individuals and agencies responsible and clean up the state.”

“I would not just knee-jerk defend them in state or federal court. I would force those agencies to comply with the law,” Sussman said. “Again, no attorney general has ever said that or done that. Certainly my opponents in this race are not saying that or doing that. Tish James was with the state attorney general’s office and was involved in the defense of many discrimination cases, which is quite the contrary to my feelings and philosophy.”

Sussman continually asserted his advantage in experience over his competition, which also includes Libertarian Christopher Garvey and Nancy Sliwa of the Reform Party, and said that if elected he would begin to clean the state of the stains of corruption by pushing public campaign financing and prosecuting those who use their positions for their own gain.

“I feel that they don’t have the depth of my experience in public law, they don’t have the depth of my experience as an advocate,’ Sussman concluded about his opponents, “they don’t have the depth of my life experience, that’s just how I feel about it.”

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

Note: this article has been updated to clarify Lou Young's relationship to Sussman and Sussman's graduation status from Harvard Law School, which had been misrepresented to do a Gotham Gazette error.

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A Lifelong Democrat and Famed Civil Rights Attorney, Michael Sussman Runs for Attorney General as a Green Mon, 08 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7664-the-contradictions-of-cross-endorsements-in-the-governor-s-race https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7664-the-contradictions-of-cross-endorsements-in-the-governor-s-race howie h gov

(photo via Facebook: @HowieHawkinsForGovernorPolitician)


That didn’t take long. On Saturday, April 13 the Working Families Party endorsed Democrat Cynthia Nixon for New York Governor. By the following Tuesday, the WFP said they didn’t really mean it.

“We will not be a spoiler,” said Bill Lipton, the WFP’s political director, indicating that the WFP will take Nixon off its ballot line if she loses the Democratic primary against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Perhaps the WFP will offer Cuomo their ballot line for a third time if he wins the Democratic primary – if he will take it.

I feel for rank-and-file WFP progressives. It’s an abusive relationship. They got double-crossed by Cuomo in 2014 when they endorsed him. This year they got strong-armed by Cuomo when they didn’t.

I would like to reassure WFP progressives that, whatever happens in the Democratic primary, the Green Party gubernatorial ticket will offer a progressive alternative in the November 6 general election.

Only three parties – Democratic, Republican, and Green – created their ballot lines by running their own candidates. The other five ballot-qualified parties got the 50,000 votes for governor needed for a ballot line by cross-endorsing the Democrat or Republican. These so-called “fusion” parties function like political clubs inside the major parties, not independent parties.

When the WFP endorsed Cuomo over Zephyr Teachout in 2014, Cuomo’s double-cross began immediately. He backed away the next day from promises he made to get the endorsement in his so-called hostage video to the WFP convention. At the Celebrate Israel Parade the morning after, Cuomo told reporters, “It’s very simple at these political conventions: you either win or you lose. Uh, and I won…At the end of the day I won the endorsement, and that’s what’s really relevant.”

On that morning after, Cuomo broke his promise of the night before to allow municipalities to raise the minimum wage. Asked about his promise to help Democrats take control of the State Senate, Cuomo said, “This is about electing people who support an agenda. I also will oppose Democrats who have opposed things that we have tried to pass."

Over the next nearly four years, Cuomo spent none of his political capital to pressure the Independent Democratic Conference to break its governing coalition with Senate Republicans. Cuomo used the Senate to deflect blame for his failure to enact so much of what he had promised the WFP, including full funding of public schools, the Dream Act, abortion-rights protections, government ethics reform, and public campaign financing. Cuomo played the WFP and took their votes for granted.

So this year the WFP was right to endorse a progressive challenger. Cuomo’s response, according to WFP leaders, was a power play to pull the unions out of the WFP and threaten to cut union and state funding for WFP-affiliated community organizations.

Then there are the scores of WFP-endorsed “Working Families Democrats,” as this nominal third party refers to them, who are running for the State Senate and Assembly. No doubt these Democrats feel pressure from the Democratic machine, and particularly the big Democratic donors who back Cuomo, to endorse Cuomo...or else.

Such are the contradictions of fusion balloting. It would be confusing for the WFP to run Nixon against Cuomo in November when it is also supporting Democrats whose ticket would be headed by Cuomo. Organizing working people to vote for the corporate-sponsored Democrats is like organizing workers into a company union run by the bosses.

The Green Party takes a different approach. We organize working people and progressives into a party that is independent of the Democrats’ corporate donor swamp of real estate barons, Wall Street bankers, media and movie moguls, military contractors, and big pharma and insurance. Our political independence forces Democrats to compete for progressive voters instead of taking them for granted. The Green vote gives us political leverage. We try to win, but we don’t have to win the office to make a difference.

The 184,419 votes for 5% in the general election that the Green gubernatorial ticket received in 2014 reinforced the 192,210 votes that Zephyr Teachout got in the Democratic primary. Cuomo, who had wanted to run up his vote for a presidential run, received a smaller percentage than he had in 2010. Seeking those votes to his left after that election, Cuomo adopted a number of Green demands, from the fracking ban and paid family leave to partial implementation of the $15 minimum wage and tuition-free public college.

Greens will demand more this year, including single-payer health care, fully-funded public schools, a stop to fracked-gas infrastructure, 100% clean energy by 2030, and public campaign finance. And we will still be on the ballot in November.

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Howie Hawkins, a recently retired Teamster from Syracuse, was the Green Party candidate for Governor of New York in 2010 and 2014 and is seeking its nomination again this year. On Twitter @HowieHawkins.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race Wed, 09 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Fusion, Spoilers, and New York's Many Ballot Lines https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7656-fusion-spoilers-and-new-york-s-many-ballot-lines https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7656-fusion-spoilers-and-new-york-s-many-ballot-lines Cuomo voting 2017 primary

Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Governor's Office)


New York’s unique fusion voting system is again in the spotlight this year, with renewed attention in the wake of Cynthia Nixon’s insurgent challenge for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination against Governor Andrew Cuomo, with the potential for vote-splitting on the left leading to a Republican victory in November. Cuomo and Nixon have each now been endorsed by a minor party with automatic general election ballot access, even as they vie for the big prize of the Democratic nomination.

Fusion voting, which allows candidates to combine the votes they receive from appearing on multiple ballot lines, is used in only eight states. But it takes its highest profile in New York, where numerous minor parties can cross-endorse rather than all having to run their own nominees, and still keep their own line on the ballot. Parties can secure a ballot line by having their gubernatorial nominee secure 50,000 votes statewide in the general election.

In New York, fusion voting has often led to individual candidates appearing on multiple ballot lines, whereby the minor parties do not threaten to play a spoiler role by costing a major party nominee victory by siphoning a determinative number of votes. For example, the Republican and Conservative parties often back the same candidates for various offices, and they appear set to do so again in this year’s gubernatorial race, behind Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Governor Cuomo has appeared on several ballots lines in his runs for office over the years, including on the Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality, and Independence Party lines during his 2014 reelection. This year, however, the Working Families Party has backed Cynthia Nixon, who hopes to defeat Cuomo in the Democratic primary, but may appear on the general election ballot regardless and therefore risk pulling a decisive number of votes from Cuomo in the general election. Having earned the backing of the Independence Party this year, Cuomo could do similarly if Nixon has the Democratic Party nomination.

The Green Party, which typically fields its own candidates, could also play a role, pulling some voters on the left. This year it is again nominating for governor Howie Hawkins, who received over 184,000 votes in 2014. The Reform Party and Women’s Equality Party have yet to settle on a nominee.

The practice of fusion voting was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as a means for minor organizing arms to defeat powerful Tammany Hall machine candidates. These tickets sometimes worked: the second mayor of the consolidated City of New York, Seth Low, defeated Tammany Hall Democrat Edward Shepard on a fusion Republican-Citizens Union ticket in 1901.

The Wilson-Pakula Law of 1947, passed allegedly to disempower the American Labor Party, which was accused of having ties to communists, prevented candidates from running in the primaries for different parties; instead, a candidate must gain permission from the minor party that they’re not registered with in order to run on their ballot line. The alleged ties to communists caused ALP members to flock to the newer Liberal Party, which did not face the same allegations; the Democrats and Republicans did not want to grant their line to members of the ALP.

Cuomo criticized the Wilson-Pakula Law in 2013 after it came under scrutiny following Senator Malcolm Smith’s alleged attempt to bribe his way onto the Republican line. Some have called for repeal of the law, but so far efforts at repeal have gone nowhere in Albany.

The minor parties gain prominence unseen in most other states due to their ability to influence the major parties, and often act more like advocacy organizations than vast political organizing machines, though some have party infrastructure. According to Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist and the Director of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center, this has made New York’s politics more ideological and polarized.

“There are people who believe that periphery-oriented politics is desirable,” Benjamin said. “Pulling to the left and right is desirable. I think pulling to the center is desirable, having a two-party system that contains the conflict within that system is centrist.” He said that the system, in a way, is “mischievous” in empowering a minority of ideologically-inclined voters to have outsized influence on the process. As such, instead of allowing for more representation on the ballot, the third parties give their lines to major candidates and influence the platform and positions of the major parties and candidates.

Benjamin also says that the parties have become more prominent over time, though not to the degree they were in the 19th century.

“Their significance is higher than in the recent past,” Benjamin said, though he noted that the parties often have disparate periods of high significance, such as when James Buckley was elected to the U.S. Senate on only the Conservative line in 1970 or when John Lindsay won the New York City mayoralty on the Liberal line in 1969. “There have been peak moments. But systemically, and through politics at all levels, I think they’re at a pretty high level of significance relatively to history.”

Though there have been minor party successes for New York City mayor and U.S. senator, none has ever alone elected a governor of New York. The Democrats and Republicans have controlled the governorship exclusively since Whig Party member Myron Clark left office in 1856. The Whigs were one of the two major parties in the U.S. before being replaced by the Republicans in the 1850s.

The liberal Working Families Party (WFP), a coalition of left-wing activist groups and labor unions, is one of the more prominent minor parties in New York. The WFP typically cross-endorses the Democratic nominee and attempts to pull its nominees to the left. Cuomo and the WFP recently split dramatically after several activist groups involved with the party endorsed Nixon for governor, which led to unions leaving the party to side with Cuomo, reportedly at his behest. The unions have provided key funding to those activist groups, whose futures are at risk, along with the larger WFP, which is taking a significant gamble on Nixon.

Cuomo and the WFP have a rocky history. Cuomo initially declined the WFP endorsement in 2010 but eventually agreed to take the line, despite their platforms not being wholly aligned, especially on the issue of taxation. As such, the WFP won 50,000 votes and retained statewide ballot access.

The WFP had more leverage over Cuomo in 2014, when the party agreed to endorse him over liberal challenger Zephyr Teachout in exchange for a pledge to unify the Senate Democrats and support a more progressive platform. Cuomo did not follow through on the agreement, and also created the Women’s Equality Party, whose acronym, WEP, is very similar to WFP. His campaign urged supporters to vote for him on the Democratic or WEP lines, omitting the WFP from get-out-the-vote emails.

Having endorsed Nixon over Cuomo this year, some have raised the possibility of a vote split on the left that could land Molinaro in the Governor’s Mansion. WFP Political Director Bill Lipton, in response, declared that the party didn’t intend to act as a spoiler, telling the Associated Press that in the event Nixon loses the primary, she would “meet with our leaders, and we will make a decision that puts the interests of working families first.” However, Lipton does not think that will happen anyway.

“The more voters learn about Cynthia's progressive values, the more they like her,” Lipton told Gotham Gazette in an email. “Working Families feels confident Cynthia will win the Democratic Primary in September and go on to be both the Working Families and Democratic Nominees in November. The real problem is Andrew Cuomo being a spoiler. It looks like he will have the WEP and Independence Party lines - what happens when he loses the Democratic primary - is he willing to be a spoiler and elect a Republican Governor?”

The Independence Party has indeed endorsed Cuomo for the third election in a row, landing him on the November ballot no matter what. He is also likely to receive the nomination of the WEP, with the new party leader telling Politico that it’s “very likely the party will support Cuomo’s reelection bid.” Neither the Independence Party nor the WEP responded to requests for comment for this story.

Nixon has taken notice of Cuomo’s Independence Party endorsement. When asked about being a potential spoiler in Buffalo, she flipped the script, according to the Buffalo News.

“Why is nobody asking Andrew Cuomo that question, who is running on the Independence line and the Women’s Equality line he created,” Nixon said.

The Cuomo campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Gotham Gazette.

“Could he win without the Democrat line? Maybe,” Professor Benjamin said, while noting that the governor losing the Democratic primary would be an unlikely scenario and that a continued run would be based on a future calculation by Cuomo. The most recent poll, from Quinnipiac University, has Cuomo leading Nixon by 28 points. However, Benjamin conceded that Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination for president was also initially seen as exceedingly unlikely.

The Independence Party has had significant showings in both of Cuomo’s elections: in 2010, it received 146,576 votes statewide, while in 2014 it received 77,762, according to the State Board of Elections. In both instances, however, it was bested by the Working Families Party in vote count.

The Independence Party is, however, by far the largest third party in New York State based on enrollment. According to the State Board of Elections’ Annual Report for 2016, the most recent year available, the Independence Party had 501,738 registered voters in the state, outnumbering the second largest, the Conservative Party, by almost 340,000 voters. WFP had 50,039 registered voters. The Independence Party’s high membership, despite a relatively low electoral profile, is due in no small part to people mistakenly registering as Independence when meaning to register as unaffiliated, or “independent,” as shown by the Daily News in 2012.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has derided the Independence Party as a “bizarre and fractious political group” that “survives on confusion” of people thinking they’re registering as independent. The editorial board urged Cuomo to reject its endorsement in 2014 in order to cause the party to lose its automatic place on the ballot; Cuomo did not do that.

Unlike the WFP, the Independence Party has not committed to endorsing either the Democratic or Republican nominee in the event that Cuomo loses the primary; as such, Cuomo could theoretically continue his campaign as the Independence nominee if he loses the Democratic primary. However, like a potential Nixon campaign as the WFP nominee, a Cuomo Independence campaign against Nixon and Molinaro would allow the possibility of a vote split that would likely send Molinaro to Albany.

Cuomo’s stormy history with minor parties goes back a long way. In 2002, he was endorsed for governor by the Liberal Party, but dropped out of the race before the Democratic primary. He remained on the party’s line for the general election, where he failed to receive 50,000 votes and thus the Liberal Party lost its automatic place on the ballot. Historically a vehicle for candidates with the backing of labor unions, the party ceded that ground to the WFP and has not appeared on the gubernatorial ballot since Cuomo’s 2002 run.

Things are looking less tense on the Republican side. Molinaro appears to have consolidated support among the state’s GOP establishment; he recently won the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and his main competition for that and the Republican nomination, State Senator John DeFrancisco, recently pulled out of the race.

There’s also the Reform Party, which has a history of maverick actions and public stunts by its founder and leader, Curtis Sliwa. Last year, the party publicly urged Preet Bharara to run for either mayor or governor; Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney who was fired by President Donald Trump, has instead become a renowned podcaster.

Now, the party is apparently split on endorsing either Molinaro or former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who mounted a brief campaign for the Republican nomination before dropping out. According to the Daily News, the party has “punted” the decision to its May 19 party convention in Queens; if the party can’t make a decision there, it will hold a primary in September. In late April, it was reported that Sliwa himself was considering a run, saying he had “no other choice” if doctors give him a “clean bill of health.” Democrats and Republicans will hold their nominating conventions toward the end of May.

“There was a motion made to table consideration of the Governor's race until the state convention so that all of the state committee members could speak with the candidates,” Frank Morano, a spokesman for the Reform Party, told Gotham Gazette.

The party has its own outsized role in New York politics compared to its membership; according to the 2016 BOE report, the Reform Party has only 900 registered members in all of New York State.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Fusion, Spoilers, and New York's Many Ballot Lines Thu, 03 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Rare Green Party Primary in Brooklyn City Council Race https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7094-rare-green-party-primary-in-brooklyn-council-race https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7094-rare-green-party-primary-in-brooklyn-council-race Brisport

(Credit via @Jabari2017)


Despite laying claim to less than one percent of party affiliated registered voters within New York City, the Green Party has two candidates competing in a rare primary this year.

Candidates Jabari Brisport and Scott Hutchins are facing each other for the chance to run against the winner of the Democratic primary between incumbent Laurie Cumbo and Ede Fox, as well as Republican candidate Christine Parker, in the 35th City Council District, which includes central Brooklyn neighborhoods like Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and parts of Crown Heights.

"It's very rare that there are two Greens in a race, that is true," said Gloria Mattera, the secretary of the Green Party of Brooklyn, in a brief interview with Gotham Gazette. "All candidates are encouraged to run."

Mattera said that the Green Party wasn’t backing Brisport or Hutchins, but that there might be an endorsement meeting soon.

In a subsequent interview, Mattera said the party saw an “uptick in people, either back or joining the Green Party” who had been active in Bernie Sanders’ campaign during the 2016 presidential election that were disappointed with the Democratic Party.

“Both, of course, with how the DNC process went, and for many, Sanders himself in terms of the decisions he made around his campaign,” said Mattera. “So I think our party has been, I would say, growing in the last year and a half.”

Of just under 5 million registered voters in New York City (4,996,975) as of April 1, there were 8,621 registered with the Green Party, according to the state Board of Elections. In Brooklyn, those numbers are 1,544,238 registered voters, with 3,172 in the Green Party. It’s not clear how many Greens live in Council District 35, and there is still time to register to vote for the September 12 primary -- according to the city’s website, new voters must submit their voter registration a minimum of 25 days prior to the election date. (The deadline to switch one’s party registration in order to vote in a particular primary has passed, though.)

The Green Party is fielding candidates in a handful of other City Council races, as well as a full slate in the three citywide races for Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate.

It’s not clear yet whether both Brisport and Hutchins will be on the September primary ballot, as petition signatures are being vetted by the Board of Elections. Brisport appears to be running a much more active campaign. He has reported raising about $15,000 for his campaign, and spending about $5,000 of it, while Hutchins has not yet filed any financial disclosures with the Campaign Finance Board. Cumbo, meanwhile, has raised about $108,000 and Fox about $74,000, all as of mid-July. Parker has reported raising just under $4,500 -- like Hutchins, she does not appear to be running a particularly active campaign.

Hutchins was not present at either of two recent candidate forums for the race, those put on by the Flatbush Tenants or the Washington Avenue Botanic Block Association. Brisport showed up to debate the two candidates of the more popular Democratic Party, Cumbo and Fox, and raise awareness of his campaign.

“If anybody here is in the Green Party, I do have a primary challenger…he didn’t show up, so don’t vote for him, vote for me,” said Brisport at the WABBA forum on July 25. “I do plan to win the primary soundly, for those of you who are not [Green Party Members],” Brisport added, in referencing to the subsequent general election.

Brisport, like both Democratic candidates, is running a housing-centric campaign, stressing that affordable housing is the most important issue in the district. He is also running on police reform, economic justice, climate justice, and an end to high stakes testing in schools.

Hutchins did not make himself available for comment for this story -- he said via Facebook that his phone was not working, but promised to call Gotham Gazette and did not do so by publication time.

Though, according to Mattera, District 35 is the only City Council race with two Green Party candidates, the mayoral race in Albany will be holding a Green Party primary in September between 22-year-old Bryan Jimenez,and Sheridan Hollow, 28. According to The Albany Times Union, there hasn’t been such a primary in Albany for mayor since in the last 16 years.

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by Jynn Schubert for Gotham Gazette
@JynnWasHere  @GothamGazette

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Rare Green Party Primary in Brooklyn City Council Race Sun, 30 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Could ‘Third Party’ Candidates Swing the Presidential Election? https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6464-could-third-party-candidates-swing-the-presidential-election https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6464-could-third-party-candidates-swing-the-presidential-election Jill Stein

Green Party candidate Jill Stein (photo via Facebook)


With the Republican and Democratic parties having nominated presidential candidates with record-high unfavorability ratings, this election cycle is turning out to be a choice between a rock and a hard place for many voters. Some, though, are looking elsewhere and still-early polling shows that this November could yield near-record voting for so-called “third party” candidates.

Those who oppose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton say she’s an untrustworthy, calculating politician with cozy ties to corporate interests and Washington insiders; opponents of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, see him as a sexist, fear-mongering, racist xenophobe with authoritarian tendencies. Though the United States has a political system dominated by two parties, Clinton and Trump aren’t the only choices, much to the relief of a number of voters. What that number winds up being could determine the election, the next President, and much of the future of the country and the world.

The third-party candidates in the 2016 race for the White House are the Libertarian Party’s nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s candidate Dr. Jill Stein, both of whom ran in 2012 and are now going all out to woo those disaffected voters who believe that neither Clinton nor Trump is a viable choice for President of the United States. While no expert would argue that either Johnson or Stein will be the next President, voters choosing one or the other on November 8 could determine whether the next President is Trump or Clinton.

This year’s presidential election is likely to once again come down to several key swing states, and polls in some of those states, like Ohio and Florida, show a close race between the two leading candidates. (In at least one national poll, Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, polled in double digits, but in other polls both he and Stein were in single digits - a candidate needs to hit an average of 15 percent in five national polls to be invited to a debate.) There is concern for some that one or both of the third-party candidates could be a spoiler for Clinton in a swing state or two and skew the election in Trump’s favor. While the likelihood is minimal, experts say, it not entirely implausible.

A Real Clear Politics poll average has Trump at 41.5 percent in Florida, against Clinton’s 41.3 percent while Johnson takes 4.5 percent and Stein takes 2.5 percent of the vote. In 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by just 74,309 votes or 0.88 percentage points in Florida. In Ohio, Clinton bests Trump by 1.4 points on average thus far; Johnson gets 6.4 percent and Stein gets 3 percent. In 2012, Obama won by 2.98 points in the state. In New Hampshire, a four-way contest has Clinton and Trump tied at 37 percent according to a WMUR Granite State poll; with Johnson at 10 percent and Stein at 5 percent. Obama won the state in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote, against Romney’s 46.4 percent.

Both Stein and Johnson have been encouraged by the high unfavorable ratings of Clinton and Trump. A Gallup poll conducted July 18-25 found that Clinton and Trump had equal favorability marks: 37% favorable and 58% unfavorable. Some believe the 2016 dynamics could create a situation similar to the 2000 presidential election, when famous third-party candidate Ralph Nader took votes away from Al Gore in Florida, the state which gave George W. Bush the presidency with a razor thin margin.

Nader addressed those concerns in a recent interview with the New York Daily News, insisting that a third-party candidate shouldn’t unjustly be termed a “spoiler” and laying the blame instead on the media, the voters, and the candidates themselves. A Florida-like situation is exactly what former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was trying to avoid when he abandoned plans of running for president as an independent earlier this year. He didn’t want to run the risk of helping elect Trump, he said, something he affirmed by speaking at the Democratic National Convention in favor of Hillary Clinton and calling upon independents to vote for her.

The most recent CBS News poll had Clinton at 41 percent and Trump at 36 percent, with Johnson receiving 10 percent of the vote. Stein was not mentioned in the poll. Among independents, however, Clinton trailed Trump by 2 points, and Johnson received 15 percent of the vote.

A new CNN/ORC poll taken after the close of the Democratic National Convention shows independents favoring Clinton, with a 37% plurality, Trump with 33% of independents, Johnson wiht 16% of independents, and Stein with 8% of independents.  

Gallup polling shows that 42 percent of registered voters identify as independents. While at this juncture in the election cycle about one-third of independents may say they favor a ‘third-party’ candidate, support for such candidates tends to drop as the general election gets closer. (The latest Real Clear Politics polling data averages put Johnson at 7 percent and Stein at 3.2 percent.)

“One primary struggle in a year like this,” said John Hudak, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, “is not that voters are in love with third-party candidates. They’ve fallen out of love with the major party candidates.” Hudak contrasted Ross Perot’s insurgent candidacy in 1992, when he ran as an independent. “Perot did quite well because people liked his message. He was inspiring people. Stein and Johnson are not providing any inspiration for voters.”

Hudak doesn’t expect that the third-party candidates will have a significant influence and that people disillusioned with Clinton and Trump will more likely stay home on Election Day than vote for Stein or Johnson. Even in swing states he said the effects of a third-party candidate would be difficult to attribute and would likely have minimal impact on the outcome.

No one discounts, however, the strong possibility that third-party candidates will get a higher vote share this year than past elections. Stein appeals to Democratic voters, particularly former Bernie Sanders supporters who felt betrayed when the Vermont senator dropped out of the race and endorsed Clinton. Last week, outside the Democratic National Convention, she made attempts to win over ‘Bernie or Bust’ protesters who had walked out of the main arena. She has proposed a “Green New Deal,” a platform that skews closely to Sanders’. It includes single-payer health care, forgiving student loan debt, transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy, breaking up the big banks, and fighting income inequality, to name a few main planks. Stein has also built some name recognition. She ran in 2012 and received about 469,000 votes, which she’s hoping to build on this year. There were a few more than 129 million votes cast that year.

Gary JohnsonAlthough Libertarian Gary Johnson (pictured) has been seen as more of a threat to Trump, on social issues his policies correlate closely with Sanders, again perhaps offering a home for voters supportive of Sanders but not attracted to Clinton. Johnson, who also visited Philadelphia during the DNC, favors legalizing marijuana, is pro-choice on abortion, and supports marriage equality. In a recent interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Johnson said of Sanders, “On the social side, we’re simpatico.” Johnson has also received more media attention than Stein and has a record as former (Republican) governor of New Mexico. When he ran for president in 2012, he received about 1.28 million votes.

Johnson’s other policies are far flung for Democrats. As a Libertarian, he wants smaller government that has a minimal role in people’s lives, not just on social issues like marriage and abortion. He wants to get rid of the entire tax code and institute a consumption tax nationwide. He wants to cut the Department of Education.

Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee, told Gotham Gazette that Johnson is an easy choice for voters as the “honest guy” running against a “bigot” (Trump) and a “liar” (Clinton) who are historically unpopular. He’s not concerned that Johnson could pull votes from Clinton and hand Trump swing states. Although if that should happen, he said it falls at the feet of the voters and not the third-party candidate. “You’re supposed to vote for who is best for the office,” he said. “Not who you hate more or less.”

Part of the struggle for both Johnson and Stein, neither of whom was made available for an interview for this article, will be getting on the debate stage, which is crucial for third-party candidates to build name recognition and get media attention. The Commission on Presidential Debates, however, only allows candidates polling 15 percent in national polls to participate in the debates. So far, Johnson seems more likely to hit the mark. “They’re going to have a very hard time getting sufficient attention to register with voters,” said Micah Sifry, executive director of Civic Hall and an expert on third-party candidacies, in a phone interview.

Sifry doesn’t think the election will be as close as the 2000 race and doesn’t see a high likelihood that a third-party candidate could give the election to either Trump or Clinton. At best, he said, Stein and Johnson will split 6 percent of the vote between them. He does see Johnson receiving votes from disaffected Republicans and from the 10 percent of Sanders supporters who “were probably never Democrats in the first place.” He also said Stein could do better in strong “blue” states, which are overwhelmingly Democratic and “where people feel it’s a safe protest vote.”

Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute, echoed Sifry’s views on the debates. “The name recognition on the national stage that access to the debates provides can be transformative,” he said, pointing out that Ross Perot in 1992 had only 7 percent of the vote in the polls before the debates and jumped to nearly 19 percent. Perot was added to the debate roster because George H.W. Bush’s campaign insisted on it, which Healy said was in hopes of tilting votes in Bush’s favor. “It can really rocket a former unknown into contender territory,” Healy said.

Healy said it was “certainly plausible” that third-party candidates could affect swing states since Trump and Clinton, “are the most widely reviled major party candidates in the history of polling.”

Should Johnson and Stein make themselves better known between now and November, they may at least drive voter turnout and encourage alternative discussion of issues on the campaign trail. “That’s part of a healthy phenomenon,” said Sifry. “You want people to have more choices. You want the major parties to fight for their votes. They shouldn’t take people for granted.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Could ‘Third Party’ Candidates Swing the Presidential Election? Mon, 01 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000