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Thursday, Dec. 29, 2005 06:28 pm

Party crashers

Is Illinois too “purple” to be Green?

It still ain’t easy being green. But with moderate Republican candidate Judy Baar Topinka within striking distance of well-financed incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois Green Party must feel pretty good about its chances of getting at least one of its members elected to statewide office. In the 2006 general election, the state Greens will run a full slate for the first time. The six-member slate comprises David Black, a Rockford-area lawyer, as the candidate for attorney general; Dan Rodriguez-Schlorff, a Chicago venture capitalist, for treasurer; Julie Samuels, an Oak Park environmental activist, for lieutenant governor; Alicia Snyder, a Centralia special-education teacher, for comptroller; Rich Whitney, a southern-Illinois civil-rights lawyer, for governor; and Karen Young, a Chicago media professional, for secretary of state Unlike the two major parties, the Green Party won’t have to collect signatures for spring primary elections, although in March they must begin gathering the 25,000 signatures needed to get their candidates on the November statewide ballot. The Green Party of the United States was formed in 2001 after presidential candidate Ralph Nader played a major role in putting Greens on the nation’s political radar. With the exception of a pair of local trustees, no Green Party members hold elected office in Illinois. Still, Green gubernatorial candidate Whitney believes that voters should have an alternative to what he calls “corporate parties.”
Unfortunately for Whitney, however, the American political arrangement makes it exceedingly difficult for the Greens, and third parties in general, to gain footing in most places. This is particularly true in Illinois, where, according to University of Illinois at Springfield political-studies professor Christopher Z. Mooney, politics is more nuts-and-bolts than ideological. One scenario that might yield a Green Party victory, he says, would involve a well-known candidate possessing broad popular appeal, such as a celebrity. Nevertheless, Mooney predicts, “It’s not going to happen this year because they don’t have any major wrestlers or anything running.”
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