While mainstream America seems to concentrate only on the
presidential candidates of the two major parties, small, less known groups of
politically-minded individuals have been engaged in preparations for the 2008
presidential elections as well. In Colorado, the Libertarian Party is the third
largest political party and the Green Party has the fourth largest membership
of any party in the state.
The Libertarians, whose motto is “Smaller Government, Lower
Taxes, More Freedom,” were formed in Colorado in 1971. The party is scheduled
to hold its national convention in Denver over Memorial Day weekend from May 22
to 26. Nearly 1,000 delegates are expected from around the nation to gather at
the Adam's Mark Hotel to select their presidential and vice presidential
The Libertarian Party of Colorado, which held its state
convention on March 8 in Fort Collins, is known for running many candidates
statewide for various office levels during each election cycle, but does not
list any current officeholders on its Web site. The state party currently has
announced candidates in three State House races and four county commissioner races.
The Greens, who were organized in 1991, have a platform that
stands on four pillars: ecological wisdom, social
justice, grassroots democracy, and
nonviolence. While the national convention is set for Chicago on July
10-13, the Green Party of Colorado is scheduled to hold its annual state
meeting and candidate nominating convention on Saturday, May 3 at the Littleton Prep Charter School in Littleton.
The Colorado Greens have eight elected officials across the
state, including one county commissioner, six town board and city council
members, and one school board member. For the 2008 elections, the party has
announced three county commissioner candidates, one U.S. Senate candidate and
one State House candidate.
Below are interviews with two of these political parties’ national
office contenders, who happen to be people of color.
Interview With Former Libertarian Vice Presidential
Candidate Chris Bennett
Tell us about the candidates who are currently vying to
become the Libertarian presidential nominee for the 2008 election.
There’s about 16 candidates (all Caucasian) running for the
Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination (as of mid-April). Those who are
actively running are George Phillies, Christine Smith, Steve Kubby, Mike
Jingozian and Wayne Allyn Root, Mike Gravel, Mary Ruwart and possibly Bob Barr.
Right now, our candidates are going to state conventions trying to get support
from potential delegates. All the candidates will go to our National Convention.
A candidate will have to get a certain amount of signatures from delegates to
be included in the debates and will be given speaking time before the delegates
vote. The first candidate who gets the majority of the vote wins the
nomination. Our vice presidential candidate will be picked in a separate vote
and the same rules will apply.
Why do Libertarians run a presidential candidate when the
two major parties are so strong and always win anyway? Is the party concerned
about their candidate taking enough votes to cause a Republican to lose to a
The Libertarian Party runs a presidential candidate for many
reasons. When we run a presidential candidate our membership seems to increase.
Retaining ballot access in some states is tied to how well our presidential
Taking away votes from the major party candidate is a
fallacy. The major parties do not own anyone’s vote; their votes are earned. I
would say that in some elections in the past, especially for U.S. Senate races,
we have played the role as a “spoiler” but never have we played that role in a
national election. Read more at: www.lp.org/media/article_574.shtml.
Briefly, who are you, why are you seeking the vice-presidential
candidate nomination, and what are your top issues?
I am a senior at the University of Illinois at Springfield
and will be graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science and
a minor in economics. I have been married for eight years and have two
children. I grew up in Littleton, Colo. and graduated from Heritage High School
in 1990. I have been a libertarian activist since 1991, and have worked on
numerous of campaigns. I am running for the VP nomination because I strongly
believe that our VP nominee should be just as active as our presidential
nominee during the campaign. My top issues are to increase awareness of the
party, increase membership and bring more diversity into the party. (According
to Bennett’s Web site as of April 21, his VP campaign was on hold.)
As an African American, do you think there are specific
national issues that need to be addressed for people of your ethnicity?
There are two huge issues that need to be addressed within
the African-American community. The “War on Drugs” is crippling our community. We have more
African-American men in prison than in college. One of every eight blacks is
ineligible to vote because they are labeled as felons. Almost 50 percent of our
prison population is Black. An African American will do six to eight times more
the jail sentence of his white counterpart for the same crime, and drug
sentencing – especially the federal guidelines pertaining to “crack cocaine”
and powder cocaine – are racist and elitist.
The economic outlook in Black communities is bleak. Black
unemployment is usually two to three times higher than the national average.
Many businesses will not hire Blacks with felonies. Without jobs and a
legitimate way to support oneself and one’s family, one may turn to crime or
welfare to survive.
As an African American, what do you like most about the
I like the Libertarians because I feel we have the answers
to improve the lives of every American. Restoring our civil liberties, lower
taxes, personal responsibility and less government will allow Black
communities, individuals and families to flourish. One would be able to save
for a real retirement not the Social Security “ponzi-scheme” we have today. By
having more financial freedom, you’ll be able to send your kids to the school
of YOUR choice. Healthcare would be more affordable because the free market
will allow one to choose what kind of healthcare they want at a price lower
than what costs today.
Why are people of color in such low percentages in the
It was an African American, Richard Boddie, who ran for the
Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in 1991 and introduced me to
libertarianism. I think what turns many minorities off about the Libertarian
Party is that we are viewed as another wing of the Republican Party, and we are
NOT! Another perception about libertarians is the fact that we tend to come off
as uncompassionate, but really that’s not the case. We feel that the bigger
government gets, the more our liberties and freedoms are taken away.
Libertarians want to restore your rights and let you decide what seems fit. We
have to re-tool our message to minorities for us to compete with the Democrats
and Republicans. Hopefully in 2008, I will be able to lead the way for
increased minority membership in the LP.
Where can people find more information about the
Libertarians and your campaign?
One can learn more information about the Libertarian Party
at www.lp.org, and learn more at my Web site/blog
Interview With Green Party Presidential Candidate Kent
Tell us about the candidates who are currently vying to
become the Green presidential nominee for the 2008 election.
Four candidates are vying to become the Green Party
presidential nominee: Jesse Johnson (African American), Kat Swift (Caucasian),
Cynthia McKinney (African American), and Kent Mesplay (Native American). The
Green Party has had primaries, just like the other parties, in a number of
states, including Illinois, California, Arkansas and Massachusetts, and in
Washington D.C. In other states
with a strong Green presence but lacking primary voting, the organized green organizations
poll the state membership and poll the local chapters (much like
caucusing). The process varies
state-to-state. At a state-party
level, delegate selection is currently taking place so that representatives of
candidate support will be recognized in attending the national nominating
convention. Each candidate represents a constituency, a perspective and a
direction for the Green Party. As
of this writing I am ranked second in the delegate count.
Why do Greens run a presidential candidate when the two
major parties are so strong and always win anyway? Is the party concerned about
their candidate taking enough votes to cause a Democrat to lose to a Republican?
Greens run a presidential candidate for many reasons. To maintain ballot status once it is
achieved, it is necessary to demonstrate to each Secretary of State some
measure of ongoing support. It can be a challenge to maintain ballot status. Fielding
candidates is one way that registered Greens have of “voicing” their support
for Green candidates and values.
The Green party relies heavily on “word of mouth” and grassroots
organizing, in part because we shun corporate money and sponsorship in order to
Traditionally, alternative parties and their candidates
bring new ideas, voices and voters to introduce and advance policy. Due to its platform, the Green Party is
a viable alternative to the two main parties. Today, while green solutions are being recognized as
valuable, the Green Party has an opportunity to grow in size and
influence. A good way to do this
is to reach out to people who ordinarily don’t vote and to bring their issues
as much to the forefront as possible.
Roughly half the people who could register and vote do not bother to do
so. Greens are interested in
helping the poor, the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised.
Briefly, who are you, why are you seeking the
vice-presidential candidate nomination, and what are your top issues?
I am a scientist, a person raised in a rainforest, and an
air quality regulator, working as an inspector for the county of San Diego,
ensuring business compliance with local, state and federal air quality
standards. Climate change is the single defining issue of our time and it
represents a public safety issue of historical proportions. My motto is “sustainability
The solutions to climate change include doing what we can to
not make the situation worse. We
need to be more efficient and less wasteful so we don’t burn as much
carbon-carrying fuel. These are good steps to take anyway since our lives
become more secure, our needs are met in a more local manner, and the strong
local communities that we develop help us withstand any challenge: from job
loss, from terrorism or from weather instability. Greens want meaningful change
in how we treat water, food, energy, transportation and medicine, away from
being so dependent upon centralized control.
As a Native American, do you think there are specific
national issues that need to be addressed for people of your ethnicity?
As someone with Blackfoot ancestry, I am concerned with
supporting tribal sovereignty and enforcing treaty mandates from the U.S.
government to indigenous people.
Also, fishing and hunting treaty rights and other rights which were
supposed to remain in perpetuity for Native peoples are periodically
besieged. The U.S. Government is
trying to duck its responsibility to pay Indians the royalty payments for
natural resources extracted from Indian lands. Part of the problem is that the treaties were not developed
with adequate enforcement and compliance provisions. No third party represents tribal concerns in a truly
unbiased, independent manner. I
would work to change this as president, by encouraging appropriate legislation.
As a Native American, what do you like most about the
Greens? How is the party specifically addressing issues for people of color?
Greens want those societal benefits and supportive
structures that have long been eroded and stripped from tribal communities:
more local control, actual self-reliance, less federal influence on our lives,
languages other than just English, a real return to recognizing and respecting
a sense of place in an otherwise fast-paced, consumption-driven,
resource-intensive way of life that, due to peak oil and other challenges, is
doomed to failure. Sustainable
living is more secure. The
opportunity for those of us with mixed ancestry, for people like me who respect
science and tradition, is to find our own way in a rapidly shifting and highly
I grew up with stone-age people in the highlands of eastern
Papua New Guinea. I relate to
tribal people both because of my upbringing and because of my Blackfoot
heritage. What I like about the
Green Party is that the party has a broad enough basis of key values, allowing
and respecting diversity among its membership. The Green Party’s perspectives
are by design helpful to people from many walks of life. Having diverse candidates, such as the
current Green Party presidential candidates, helps draw in similar people to
the party. I am pleased that such
diversity is evident among the Green Party presidential candidates.
Where can people find more information about the Greens and
My URL is www.mesplay.org. The national party is at www.gp.org.