Despite a distant fourth-place finish for Presidential candidate Jill Stein in both Louisiana and nationwide, members of the Green Party of New Orleans now plan to increase their focus on local issues and candidates as they seek to build their presence locally — starting with rallying around an unconventional mayoral candidate in Gretna.
Only two Louisiana parishes gave Jill Stein more than 1 percent of the vote, Orleans with 2,546 people for 1.5 percent of the vote and St. Bernard where 169 Green voters made 1.1 percent of the vote. Only in three other parishes — Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, St. Tammany — did her tally exceed 1,000 votes.
Still, the Green Party saw progress in the 2016 election as well, said Miranda Murray, a Jill Stein campaign organizer in Louisiana. Stein herself visited the Baton Rouge area after the floods, and her vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka visited New Orleans. Meanwhile, Congressional candidate Elliot Barron drew 6 percent of the vote in the First Congressional District.
“It wasn’t winning, but it was forward movement,” Murray said during a report on the campaign during last week’s meeting of the Green Party at Monkey Monkey coffee shop in Mid-City.
One of the goals for the party in 2017 will be to support the mayoral candidacy of William Boartfield, an 18-year-old activist who plans to run for mayor of Gretna. Political scientists say many voters decline to consider third parties simply out of habit — becoming socially conditioned to only view elections as contests between Republicans and Democrats — so local Greens said Boartfield’s age and ability to draw first-time voters will actually be an asset.
“I think the future is young people who aren’t used to defeat yet,” said party member Frances Chapman.
As they seek to increase their influence on local elections, the New Orleans Greens have begun issuing “voting advice” for sympathetic residents heading to the polls. This week, for example, the party released a slate of recommendations in the Dec. 10 election, expressing a hesitant support for Democratic candidate Foster Campbell in the U.S. Senate runoff, as well as recommendations for Paul Bonin for judge and in favor of a property-tax renewal for drainage and a new property tax for supporting the firefighters pension.
“Given those reservations, Foster Campbell has taken positions that, if implemented, will improve the quality of life of individuals as well as society as a whole,” the document reads. “… Most importantly, Mr. Campbell recognizes the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change represents a catastrophic threat to society as a whole and Louisiana in particular.”
Local activity of any kind is essential to the growth of the Green Party, said Kevin Fitzwilliam. Beyond simply fielding candidates, he urged the party to choose even simple lifestyle changes (such as reusable bags for shopping, for example) to campaign around, to give the broader public a concrete action to identify the party with.
“The only thing I’m looking for with the Green Party is the opportunity to effect something,” Fitzwilliam said. “I don’t know of anything in the 16 years that the Green Party has allowed somebody to get involved with. Right now, there’s nothing around town that anybody can point to and say, ‘I recognize the Green Party from having accomplished that.’ All I want is the opportunity to be able to do something.”
The Greens also had a visit from Jane Tardo, an activist with the Mobilize New Orleans Facebook group, which sprung up as way to organize information about progressive activities specifically after the election. Ryan Hargis, secretary of the Green Party of Louisiana, said he had already attended some of the group’s weekly meetings and is encouraged by what he saw.
“They’re kind of more responding to this collective impulse that’s happening in the city. As the Green Party, I hope that we can help and be part of how it goes forward,” Hargis said. “It is time now. A lot of things that we’ve been fighting for a long time, people are ready to fight for, but a lot of people are new to this. Whatever happens is going to make history.”