Forget red state/blue state, this third party is positively green

The Colorado Statesman

The two co-chairs of the Green Party of Colorado have a fundamental disagreement over how the party should proceed. On the one hand, Bill Bartlett is happy to have a national presidential candidate and three candidates running for Colorado congressional seats this year. On the other hand, party co-chair Art Goodtimes thinks it’s a waste of time to be looking towards federal office.

Bartlett, who owns a computer hardware and software company, is pleased with presidential contender Dr. Jill Stein, who he believes can bring the message of the Green Party to the masses. But he acknowledges that she doesn’t stand a chance on the national stage.

“It’s good to get the message out… But in the end, the party structure is only as useful as the people in the party itself, and the connections that the party makes to organizations to get things done,” explained Bartlett.

Gary Swing, CD 1

“At the end of the day, we could throw Jill Stein into the White House all we want… but the two parties in Congress are the ones who actually draft that legislation,” he declared.

That’s where Bartlett and Goodtimes most clearly disagree. Goodtimes believes the party should focus only on local races, such as the San Miguel county commissioner seat he’s hoping to maintain.

Susan Hall, CD 2

“Politics isn’t about education,” he claims. “Sometimes I wish it was. But politics is about power, and if you lose, you don’t have any power.”

Goodtimes is at odds with just about everyone in his party over that assertion. “I can’t convince the national party, or even my state party friends, that running candidates who have no chance of winning is a bad prospect. I want to prove that Greens can be winners, and I’ve proven it in my little jurisdiction.”

Misha Luzov, CD 5

If voter registration numbers are any indication, the Green Party of Colorado has a lot of work to do on the local level. There are only 10,109 registered Green voters in the state, representing 0.28 percent of the voting population through last week, according to the secretary of state’s. Of those, 3,106 voters are labeled “inactive,” which means they might not be able to vote in the November election.

By comparison, Democrats have 1,150,527 registered voters in Colorado, and 1,157,083 Republicans.

Difficult local battle ahead

Even Goodtimes — who has established himself through 16 years of service as a county commissioner, 14 of which have been with the Green Party after he changed his registration from Democrat — is facing a tough re-election campaign. If Goodtimes loses, the Greens will lose one of only three public office seats that the party holds statewide.

In addition to Goodtimes, the Colorado Greens hold a seat on the Federal Heights City Council and the Norwood Town Board.

The Green Party is also running one candidate for the Colorado statehouse and three candidates for other county commissioner seats. Nominations were made at the party’s state convention in Carbondale in March.

Goodtimes says it is entirely possible that he might lose the race in San Miguel County, which is why he believes the party should be throwing its full attention behind local races. He is being challenged by a Democrat, Dan Chancellor, who is running to the left of Goodtimes’ already very liberal platform.

A main issue in the race concerns uranium and vanadium mining in San Miguel and Montrose counties. As a county commissioner, Goodtimes negotiated with Energy Fuels, Inc., the producer in the area, to allow for extraction, but with promises of mitigation monitoring and radiation level testing, as well as allowing county personnel to inspect the mines.

Chancellor opposes the agreement. As a result, Goodtimes thinks that he and Chancellor could split the vote, handing the race to Republican nominee Kevin Kell.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the possibility exists that… [Chancellor] and I could split the vote, and possibly with the resurgence of Republicans and the tea party and with Mitt Romney, Kevin could win,” explained Goodtimes.

It may seem unusual that in this election a Democrat could take away votes from the Green candidate, thus handing the election to a Republican. But Chancellor doesn’t see it that way. In fact, Chancellor doesn’t think it’s even mathematically possible, pointing out that in San Miguel County, there are many more registered Democrats than Republicans — 2,761 to 1,146, with 2,533 unaffiliated voters and only 95 registered Greens.

“For the Republican candidate to win, he would need to get all of the Republicans, plus two-thirds of the unaffiliated voters, and the Republican that’s running is a very conservative Republican running in a very progressive district,” said Chancellor.

Republican challenger Kell did not return a request for comment by The Colorado Statesman’s press time.

Making the push for Congress

The few local races aside, and despite the disagreement within the party on how to move forward, the Green Party of Colorado does have three congressional candidates this year.

In the 1st Congressional District, progressive and perennial candidate Gary Swing is challenging incumbent Diana DeGette, D-Denver. DeGette has held a lock on the district for 15 years, and Swing faces an excruciatingly difficult battle to the top. Also running is Republican challenger Danny Stroud. Thomas Henry Juniel is running as a write-in unaffiliated candidate.

There are 2,100 registered Greens in the district, representing 0.37 percent of all registered voters, compared to 253,475 registered Democrats and 110,124 Republicans. Unaffiliated voters total 199,965.

Swing says he is “running FROM Congress,” and “FOR progress.”

His candidacy is in keeping with the Green Party platform, which includes plans to end foreign wars, control climate change and bring about campaign finance and election reforms.

“If you choose to participate in the 2012 election charades, vote for the Green Party’s candidates for progress towards achieving peace, justice, environmental sustainability, fair representation and governmental accountability,” Swing urges.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Susan Hall is competing against incumbent Jared Polis, D-Boulder. Polis, an openly gay member of Congress and a millionaire, holds a strong lead in the Democratic-leaning district, having established himself on such liberal principles as ending the drug war and legalizing gay marriage on the federal level.

Also running is Republican challenger state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

There are 2,569 registered Greens in the district, representing 0.43 percent of all registered voters, compared to 193,749 Democrats and 166,344 Republicans. Unaffiliated voters in the congressional disrict total 233,598.

Hall says that unlike Polis, she is not a millionaire, and therefore has the interests of the people in mind. She says money has taken over Congress, and that it’s destroying government.

“They’re all millionaires at this point and we’ve never seen any meaningful campaign finance reform,” she said.
“I would rather be on the right side of the moral issue and wait for people to see the importance and the right of that than to side with the wrong side and slide down the hill,” declared Hall. “I’d rather climb up with something good than slide down with something bad.”

Perhaps the Green Party of Colorado’s greatest congressional challenge is in the Republican-leaning 5th District, where U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, has held the seat since 2007. Green candidate Misha Luzov, a 25-year-old, is attempting to unseat Lamborn.

There is no Democratic challenger in the race. The Libertarian nominee is James Pirtle and the American Constitution Party candidate is Kenneth Harvell. Also running is unaffiliated candidate David Anderson.

With Greens leaning even left of Democrats, they face steep opposition in the conservative district. In CD 5, only 1,123 voters are registered with the Green Party, representing 0.23 percent, compared to 110,370 Democrats and 208,696 Republicans. Unaffiliated voters total 173,823.

Luzov acknowledges that his fight will likely be lost in the district, but he believes there is hope to at least begin to turn the tide.

“A lot of people think this is a very conservative area, and that may be true, but that does not reflect the views of the general public…” he said. “People have become disillusioned by Doug Lamborn and very disappointed with him… I feel like the main thing that I can do, what would be of benefit to the Green Party and the development of politics here in general, is making that a little more visible, a little more obvious to the people that Doug Lamborn… doesn’t represent the values of the people here.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com