By Keely Sullivan SYRACUSE (N.C.C. News) – With the Onondaga County General Election only a week away, the Central New York Green Party is hopeful.
“I was not convinced it was a winnable race,” Green Party candidate Lance Denno said. “However, after talking to the Green Party supporters and looking at some statistical history, I realized that given the unique circumstance of this year’s election, this could, in fact be a winnable race for a Green Party candidate.
Denno’s situation is particularly unique. The former Democratic Councilor-At-Large is seeking re-election with the Green ticket instead. The overwhelming Democratic majority in Syracuse city politics is an issue for Denno, and he hopes his past experience in office can encourage voters to support a more independent candidate.
The Green Party, with about 50 active volunteers in the city of Syracuse, is a small third party. Liberal on the political spectrum, the party champions issues like conservation of the environment, worker’s rights, and heavy dependence on individual donations for campaign funding.
While the Green Party has participated in numerous Syracuse city elections, the party has never won elected office. But in a liberal cty with a small Republican presence, Denno hopes that the Green Party will be the competing party that voters turn to. He is one of five other Greens on the ticket this year, and he thinks that growing interest and influence both statewide and locally in recent years could heavily impact the Greens’ success this election season.
“The Green Party in New York State has increasing power in the last few years simply because they have brought forward good candidates who are attractive to the public,” Denno said.
Longtime Green Party activist Howie Hawkins has noticed this possibility, too. He has ran in over 20 local and state elections with the Greens without winning office. However, in the past five years, support for Hawkins has been at an all-time high. Last year, Hawkins won almost five percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race. Additionally, Hawkins ran in 2011 to represent Syracuse’s 4th District against Democratic incumbent Khalid Bey and nearly won, clinching 48% of the vote.
Hawkins, currently running for city auditor, says voters are responding to his and the Green Party’s message.
“When we get through speaking a lot of times [people say], ‘I wish the Democratic Party stood for that,’ or, ‘I thought that’s what the Democratic Party stood for,'” Hawkins said. “So we often say, a lot of our people say, ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.'”
Hawkins also cited the national political trend of unconventional candidates rising to the top in the 2016 presidential election, and he thinks this trend could trickle down to Green Party politics in Central New York.
The Democratic Party is noticing the Greens as well. City auditor Marty Masterpole will appear above Hawkins on the ballot next week, and he noted that despite Greens touting public support because of their independence from mainstream politics, the Greens have the Democrats to thank for the publicity.
“The Green Party candidates are a wing, if you will, my opinion, they probably see it very differently, but they are a wing of the Democratic Party,” Masterpole said. “You get the far, those who tend to lean more left in the Democratic Party, a lot of times have similar philosophies as the Green Party.”
Additionally, name recognition is still a problem for the Greens. Syracuse resident Colin Taisey said he will not vote in the upcoming election because he believes Democrats will come out on top regardless. When asked what he knows about the Green Party, Taisey cited an issue associated with the New York State Greens but not the focus of the local candidates.
“In terms of their platform, I really don’t know a whole lot about them other than the legalization of marijuana,” Taisey said.
Hawkins, however, is not discouraged. With little polling to show support, he will continue knocking on doors and making phone calls to spread the word about his and other Greens’ campaigns in hopes of large support next Tuesday.