Socialist magazine Against The Current interviews New York Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins in their March-April issue. This is a comprehensive and highly informative interview about strategy, the campaign, and how the party is building on its success.
We tried to summarize the election as a choice between the Green prosperity plan and the Cuomo/Paladino austerity plan. The response to our program of ordinary people on the streets, in local events and in local radio and TV interviews was overwhelmingly positive.
Hawkins has run many times for local office in Syracuse. That attention to local campaigning was the basis for the party’s success in the election:
Name recognition means a lot. I’m well known in Syracuse. I got 41% for city council in 2009. For Governor, I got 5.3% in my home county and 3-4% in adjacent counties in the same media market where people know me and my politics. Statewide I got 1.4% overall, pretty consistently across upstate except for 2.5% in the Albany area, due, I believe, to protest votes by state workers whom Cuomo targeted for layoffs and wage and benefit cuts. We did worst in the New York City area, less than one percent in its outer boroughs and suburbs.
In local races, a campaign by a small upstart party can go door-to-door to get its message to people. We have built support for particular candidates and the Green Party over a series of local races and consistent long-term campaigns for reforms in movements as well elections.
The Hawkins/Mattera ticket was the only independent minor party to pass the 50,000 vote threshold. So the NY Green Party will have automatic ballot access for the next 4 years, while candidates with more media notoriety (Jimmy McMillan) failed the test.
We had three goals in this campaign. The first was to get enough votes to qualify the Green Party for ballot status, which will make it much easier for us to run more candidates for the next four years until the next gubernatorial race. It takes 50,000 votes for the gubernatorial ticket to qualify and we got just under 60,000, after two four-year cycles where we failed with results in the low 40,000s. So our first goal was achieved.
Our second goal was to move the debate. Here we largely failed. The media treated the Greens as marginal at best. When they did cover third party candidates, they featured on personalities over policies and focused on Kristin Davis, the former Manhattan Madam who claimed to have provided hookers for former Gov. Eliot Spitzer; Charles Barron, a Democratic member of the New York City Council who announced his Freedom line candidacy as a protest of the Democrats’ all-white statewide slate; and Jimmy McMillan, a bizarre character running on the Rent Is Too Damn High line.
Our third goal was to build the Green Party organization. Even though the corporate media characterized the only televised debate, which had all the candidates, as a “circus” and ignored me and the policies I advocated in the coverage, we got our biggest surge of volunteers and money from people who saw that debate three weeks before the election. All along the way, we picked up support as people learned of our program. We may not have moved the debate in the media and forced the major party candidates to address our policies. But we did move several thousand people to sign up with us as supporters, volunteers, and contributors.
So we did succeed in building the Green Party. We come out of the election much stronger than we went into it. Now we must organize these new people into local party organizations and campaigns for economic security, peace, freedom, and sustainability in the huge vacuum on the Left being produced by the Cuomo/Obama Democrats’ “bipartisan” program of deficit-reduction austerity, war, repression, and environmental plunder.
The entire interview is well worth reading and is available here: Renewing New York — an interview with Howie Hawkins.