Third parties have had a miserable political history. Their candidates either get forgotten in the media hoopla or face charges of spoiling the race. But beginning with the "96 presidential campaign, the Green Party hopes to establish third parties as an election choice of the future. Its goal is to build broad-based excitement about third parties by running a virtually candidate-less campaign.
Consumer rights activist Ralph Nader has agreed to put his name on Green primary ballots, but only on certain conditions: He refuses to make many TV appearances, plans to spend less than $5,000, and doesn't want to "lead" any campaign. The Draft Ralph Nader for President campaign is currently working in over 30 states to build the broad-based organization necessary to convince Nader to be their candidate. In the West, only California and New Mexico can claim success. Nader was on the March 26 California ballot and will appear on the New Mexico ballot in June.
In speeches, Nader slams trade agreements such as GATT and NAFTA , and says he hopes to appeal to people disgruntled with both Democrats and Republicans. "He is a kinder and gentler (Pat) Buchanan," says California Green organizer Mike Feinstein. "His populism is more digestible."
Voters will see a smattering of Greens on local and state ballots throughout the West, especially in California and Colorado. New Mexico Greens are already a force to be contended with. Over the past two years, party registration has leapt from 800 to 4,000 and they have achieved major party status; on June 4 the party will hold its first New Mexico primary. Greens will decide then whether environmentalist Sam Hitt or former Green Party Chairman Abraham Gutmann will challenge Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.
Although it is extremely unlikely either Green candidate could beat Domenici, the party's presence could mar the incumbent's ride to Washington by decreasing the size of his victory. Domenici breezed through his last two New Mexico elections with over 70 percent of the vote, and this year's Democratic frontrunner, former Santa Fe mayor Art Trujillo, is not expected to be a formidable opponent.
Both Green candidates hope to hold Domenici accountable not only for his positions on logging and grazing but also for New Mexico's persistent and severe poverty.
"Domenici is seen as a guy who brings home the bacon, but really he brings money for Los Alamos labs," says Gutmann. "These are high-end jobs mostly given to people from out of state. My priority is to change the mission of labs from bomb labs to alternative energy."