Electoral Success in 1992 and Post-Election Conferences in Santa Monica and at Bowdoin College, February 1993

1992 was the first year Greens ran in large numbers across the United States, fielding 93 candidates in 13 states, including 44 in California. Twenty Greens won their races, including 11 in California. Prior to 1992, the most Green candidates running in a single year had been 21 in 1990, with nine victories.
The highest office won in 1992 was by Keiko Bonk of Hawai’i, who also became the first U.S. Green elected to a partisan office, when she was elected to the nine-member County Council on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Also in Hawai’i, Linda Martin received 49,921 votes (13.7% of the vote) for U.S. Senator, still an all-time high for a U.S. Green running for the U.S. Senate.
Also in November 1992 Dona Spring was elected to the Berkeley, California City Council. Spring would be re-elected repeatedly, serving almost 16 years on the City Council – the fourth-longest- serving Green office holder ever.
During 1992 four state Green Parties achieved ballot status: in Arizona, California, Hawai’i, and New Mexico. They joined the Green Party of Alaska, which had become the first in 1990.
Green Parties of the West Conference – Santa Monica
In mid-February 1993, 100 Green Party candidates and other party activists gathered in Santa Monica for the Green Parties of the West conference. They came primarily from states where the Greens had already attained statewide ballot status: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, and New Mexico. A major emphasis was on being a credible political party and winning races. The meeting had none of the seemingly endless remonstrances or resistance of people who wanted to question the validity of whether Greens should be in electoral politics at all. The meeting was described by its chief organizer Mike Feinstein as an incredible breath of fresh air for those who want to seriously pursue Green electoral strategies.
Conference presenters featured candidates in local races: Keiko Bonk-Abrahamson (HI), Steve Saint (CA), Kelly Weaverling (AK), and Jack Strasbourg (AR); in state races: Carolyn Campbell (AZ) and Kent Smith (CA); and in Congressional races: Blasé Bonpane (CA), Mindy Lorenz (CA), and Linda Martin (HI). Two speakers talked about Alliance Building: David Allberg (CA) and Lisa Duran (CA). Three speakers focused on Strategy: Ira Rohter (HI), Cris Moore (NM), and Ross Mirkarimi (CA).
Bowdoin College Conference
The second conference, Doing It the Grassroots Way, took place at Bowdoin College in Maine, later in February 1993. It was convened by John Rensenbrink of the Maine Green Party. As a Bowdoin professor, he and several student leaders organized a coalition of Bowdoin student groups to formally sponsor and financially support the conference. Even the President of the College chipped in.
The conference featured several speeches, including a rousing talk by Tony Affigne of Rhode Island on grassroots, citizen-centered, political organizing. There were illustrative workshops on how to do effective election campaigns and on what mistakes to avoid, as well as ideas and plans for “getting the word out” throughout the country about Green electoral challenges and prospects, putting the emphasis on a steady grassroots politics. In addition, participants celebrated the campaigns in the 1992 elections run by three prominent participants at the conference: the elected Green Party Mayor of Cordova, Alaska, Kelly Weaverling; Jonathan Carter of Maine, whose strong showing of 11% in the second Congressional District in 1992 put Maine’s nascent Green Party on the map; and Linda Martin, whose startling 13.7% of the vote in Hawaii’s U.S. Senate race helped to spur Green electoral activity throughout the country.
Of further note, the conference was joined by Sam Smith of the Progressive Review in Washington, DC; by Mike Feinstein of the California Green Party, who had just helped organize a very successful “Green Parties of the West” conference; by representatives of the Reform Party; by Rob Daniels’ “Campaign for a New Tomorrow”; and by the Center for Voting and Democracy, a national organization headed by Rob Richie dedicated to promoting Instant Run-off Voting, Ranked Choice Voting, proportional representation, and electoral reforms supported by many Greens through the Center’s FairVote organizing work.
The leaders of the Bowdoin conference reflected that for the first time they could start with the assumption that Greens must be engaged in politics and no longer embroil themselves in what seemed endless rhetoric about its precise relationship to the rest of the Green movement. For them it was also an intimation of a growing consciousness that far more than “winning office” was at stake: in addition to learning the ropes of campaigning, they needed to examine and question the quality of politics itself. Overall, it became increasingly evident that Greens in many states were acting on their own in pursuit of a Green politics bent on competing electorally with the two major parties for public office.


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