This has been a very different election year. We all know how 3rd party candidates are dismissed as merely “protest votes,” or “symbolic,” or “marginal,” etc. Worst yet, they are excoriated as “spoilers”! But to the Democratic Party professionals, they are generally brushed off as a nuisance. They have been rightly defended by Greens for “raising important issues,” and indeed they do. But typical was Henry Lawrence’s 2014 run for Florida House District 6, where his courageous but underfunded campaign got 3%, which translated into 1,606 people who voted “None of the Above.”
That view of Green campaigns as “marginal” has stuck. Until now. Look hard at these numbers.
Harris and Manley — a nuisance no more.
So Elijah Manley — running for at-large School District 8 — got more votes than three of the Democratic contenders who were running for governor statewide. And Green Party of Florida Co-Chair Robin Harris — running for County Commission District 6 — got a higher percentage than five of them. Still, as they used to say …
“If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”
After all, “We’re so correct on the issues! Our program really represents the majority of the American people.” As though having the correct positions tucked away somewhere in the party platform would magically transform into votes. Or as though the corporate-owned and controlled media would do our work for us. As though being smart was good enough.
In his post-election recap, Manley hit the nail on the head:
“We got 43,000 votes on an $18,000 budget, and most of that went to outreach, most of it went to our volunteers. We probably knocked on more doors than both of my opponents combined. I personally knocked on 15,000 to 20,000 doors. My volunteers knocked on another 15,000 to 20,000. It was just the right number. We got 43,000 votes.” (More votes trickled in after Election Day.)
In other words, knocking on 40,000 doors to deliver our message got 43,000 votes.
Putting out that strong, even radical message resonated with people. Robin Harris went to a group of conservative ministers with very low expectations. As she relates:
“I hadn’t imagined getting their endorsement. I even told them their questions were a little disappointing. But they seemed to really admire my courage in hanging in there with them. And we got the endorsement. I wasn’t even sure how to utilize them. I figured they’d be willing to advocate for me against my opponent. They said they’d operate as a sphere of influence … and then they went out and knocked on doors.”
The ministers were part of an unusual coalition.
“Organize Florida hung back, and then they changed their minds. They also knocked on doors. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was one of my first endorsements. They came to me as part of Our Revolution, a lot of Sanders people. I even got endorsements in places I hadn’t known I was being considered. The big endorsement was from SEIU 1199. That shocked a lot of people.”
Manley also had significant and similar organizational support, with endorsements from the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute, Florida Student Power Network, Project Rise Up!, Pro-Choice, DSA, and Women for Justice (which was part of the Sanders campaign). Tamara James (the mayor of Dania Beach) endorsed. Tim Canova had run for Congress in 2016 against former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and now he is challenging her again as an independent. Tim Canova supported Manley.
To put it simply, this year’s numbers show that where Greens run and run hard, they now represent an identifiable voting bloc that duopoly candidates can only ignore at their peril.
They call that power.
Day after the election — not an end but a beginning.
Asked if she had a campaign team in place for the next round, Harris responded:
“I’m too tired to even think about it, but there are people who are still saying ‘we.’ I think the team is there. We have a team in place. I want to keep building the party, build political power, activate all our locals, encourage them to engage in communities of color. As state co-chair, I’d go out to those Green locals who’d be willing to have me. Knock on doors, have conversations. I think the ground is good. Even though my race was nonpartisan, people were saying, ‘Wow, you’re Green Party.’ I hope it gives us more momentum.
Harris is now preparing to go to Washington, DC to address Trump’s Kavanaugh nomination for Supreme Court.
Manley also has big plans, explaining:
“This race means that we have a base of people in this county, who are going to be following us. We’re going to be reaching out, that’s the kind of power we need. We know how many people already believe in our message. It’s 43,000 people now. So how do we turn that 43,000 into 100,000 people who believe in our message? We can do that. First, we have to remain active in our communities. So many young people out there who we have to touch. Nobody is reaching out to them. Hungry kids. Some of them are homeless. You know who I’m talking about.
“The issues that really matter are things like hunger, poverty, sexual harassment and sexual violence, rape, assault, and homelessness. That’s what people care about, not what some rich white guy says.”
“I’ll be traveling all across this nation in a few months to talk about those issues, to meet with youth leaders across the country. That’s the next step, to take what we have and build on it. Find those 43,000 people who said they heard me and believe in this. We will start to build a national infrastructure of progressive younger people who can radically transform this country into the 21st century.”
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight …
The Harris campaign was treated to the underhanded side of the Democratic Party. First, a “write-in” candidate suddenly entered the race, whose last name happened to also be Harris. Straight out of the Tammany Hall playbook. Sow confusion and split the vote. That other Harris got a measly 100 votes.
Then the Orange County Black Caucus stepped in. When printing their list of Black candidates on their “Vote the Whole Ballot” Card, they refused to give Robin the “Acknowledgement that candidate is Black/African American.” Repeatedly. Despite having met Robin face-to-face.
Harris also reports that many elderly Black voters didn’t ever get their early voting ballots.
For Manley, it started early, even before he officially announced his candidacy. On January 12, 2018, he was arrested on fabricated charges of “resisting arrest without violence,” and damaging the campaign signs of former Police Chief Bruce Roberts, the opponent of a candidate Manley was supporting. Roberts suspiciously announced the arrest as soon as, if not before, the arrest. They call it collusion.
On January 15, 2018, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward issued the following:
“It almost goes without saying that this is exactly the kind of racist, police-driven shenanigans that made the M4BL [Movement for Black Lives] necessary.”
Manley himself stated:
“Articles were filled with smears, and fabricated content with the intent of scoring political brownie points. … I know that many of you are angry and pissed off right now. Don’t let anger turn into irrationality. We know the truth.”
In April, the charges were quietly dropped.
With Manley having been “radical”-baited all through the campaign, four days before the election, the Sun-Sentinel ran its most hilarious hit-piece yet:
“Manley has raised a total of $18,000, a large sum for someone many consider to be a fringe candidate. Petty has raised about $60,000 and Korn $37,000.”
Young candidate raises money. Gasp! Details at Eleven. Another lesson here. Greens are supposed to be too “pure” to raise money. But anyone who thinks they are above such mundane hard work just isn’t serious.
We move on.
Looking to November …
The big race coming up for Greens in the next couple of months is that of GPFL Co-Chair Samson LeBeau Kpadenou challenging Democrat David Silvers for his seat in the Florida House of Representatives, District 87.
Kpadenou lays out why he is running:
“Floridians deserve a choice on every ballot this November. Since my district was created in 2010, there has never been a contested general election for this office. The Democratic primary has decided each election.
“As a result, my opponent, millionaire David Silvers, has never published a platform, not anywhere that I can find. He has never had to answer for taking Big Sugar money during a toxic algae crisis. He has never had to answer for taking Big Pharma money during an opioid crisis, while other states are preparing to sue that industry. He has never had to answer for taking insurance industry money, while the Green Party’s 18-year-old call for universal healthcare has been embraced by the majority of Americans.
“Greens have always had the platform for the people. In this critical year of war, gentrification and service cutbacks, we are determined to work harder than ever to make sure the working class people of District 87 know that there is a party that exists to serve the needs of them and their families over the special interests of the powerful.”
… and beyond.
“We in the Green Party are right smack in the middle of a wave of progressive politics that is sweeping the country,” explains Pinellas County Co-Chair Rose Roby. “A long overdue movement. But it is happening alongside the right-wing wave that has been fostered by Donald Trump and right-wing Democrats like Hillary Clinton. These waves are cutting across all party lines, evidenced by the Green Party of Florida now fielding a powerful slate of Black candidates, a slate of leaders in both the party and in their communities. It is met with progressives and Democrats now recoiling against Black candidates rising to leadership within what they though was THEIR personal turf. It is reflected in the stunning victory of Black Democrat Andrew Gillum winning that party’s gubernatorial primary.
“We are shocked that a candidate as fascistic as Ron DeSantis has won the Republican gubernatorial primary. But we see the movement in Tim Canova, a Sanders Democrat, running for Congress as an independent in Florida’s 23rd congressional district against former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Indeed, we live in interesting times.”
Finally, Robin Harris states her hopes for her own future, and the future of all of us:
“I’m hoping we can keep building momentum for the Green Party. I feel free to move forward and l feel free to become revolutionary. I’ve been thinking a lot about the words progressive and revolutionary. I think we have an opportunity to build strategically, to truly build something revolutionary.
— Jeff Roby
September 3, 2018