Ross Mirkarimi Switches Party Affiliation From Green to Democrat

Yesterday Ross Mirkarimi bolted the Greens and joined the Democrats in what looks to be a move in preparation for a mayoral run. In the 2008 presidential election, Mirkarimi endorsed Democrat Barack Obama much to the consternation of many Greens in California.

I have to say I’m not surprised, but it still hurts to lose one of your highest ranking and important politicians. Ross seemed like a good guy who has done a lot for his district and for San Francisco so I wish him well.

SF Bay Chronicle:

”We need to blunt those that pull the Democratic Party to the right,” Mirkarimi told the Insider. Describing himself as a ”progressive Democrat,” Mirkarimi, whose agenda at City Hall has included public power, a ban on plastic bags, community policing and regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, said he wants a platform where his values can be a meaningful part of the political debate.

What do fellow Greens think about the situation in San Francisco and the California Greens? There were a number of stories that broke right around the California state meeting that took place recently that all said that the CA Greens were in decline.

Let’s not make this a “wail on the CA Greens” thread, but let’s offer some frank discussion on/from our friends from the Golden State and see where we can jump start efforts there and other places.

Thanks to Ballot Access News for the story.


I'm a member of the Illinois Green Party.


  1. Well, I think of Ross and Matt (Gonzalez) as fairly typical politicians in that their primary focus is their political careers. We will always, hopefully, have these people in our ranks, but they should not be the center of the party IMO. The Green Party should be the party of the “Citizen Political Servant”, instead of yet another party of political professionals. I don’t mean this as a slam at Ross, but rather to point out that we must lean on one another.

    I kinda suspect that Ross will find out later if he made the right move. I fear he will realize, perhaps too late, that he is now part of the problem, not the solution.

    Can’t wait to see him holding Jerry Brown’s hand in the air, as if a revolution has come, while Brown and his cronies hand billions to that state’s already filthy rich. The Democrats don’t tolerate dissent very well, and Ross will either find a muzzle he likes, leave political life, or come back home some day. I hope it’s the last option.

  2. Let’s say Ross does get elected mayor of SF. What if he switched back to the Green Party after winning? After all, Greens switch to Democrat all the time after being elected. Ross has stated that he wants to see a viable Green Party in this country. Is it possible that he could become the first Green Party mayor of San Francisco after all?

  3. I am really, really disappointed. I quite my job to work full-time on Matt Gonzalez’s 2003 campaign for mayor in San Francisco with the idea of building the Green Party and creating a viable alternative to duopoly parties. Gonzalez has left the Green Party.

    I (twice!) helped Mirkarimi in his campaign for supervisor in San Francisco. Now he leaves the Green Party, putting his personal ambitions in front of his (and our) ideals.

    Another San Francisco politician has also sacrificed her Green principles for personal ambition. Jane Kim, who was elected to the School Board as a Green and who is currently president of the school board, has also left the Greens to further her attempt at running for supervisor next year.

    Why? Why is this happening? It’s as if the great start that Nader gave us in 2000, when we nearly made the 5 percent threshold to become a major party, was all for naught! So many sacrifices made, so many sleep-deprived hours put in… And for what? To be the stepping stone for some ambitious politicians.

    I am deeply hurt and deeply disappointed.

  4. We’re all disappointed, Mary. Don’t mourn, organize! The Democratic Party is exposing itself more every day as a corporatist, militarist pig with progressive lipstick. It’s up to us to organize the Green Party into a sustainable progressive alternative, and win back our old allies as well as millions of new ones. I’m optimistic that Laura Wells can make inroads for the Green Party in this crucial rebuilding year, but she’ll need as much help as she can get.

    Also, I hope that Matt Gonzalez can be persuaded to rejoin the Green Party. I’d love to see Matt run against Pelosi in 2012 and win. Some outstanding Green organizing this year might just convince Matt to come home to the Green Party.

  5. Understandably disturbing that Ross has left the Green Party, but comparing his moves to what Matt Gonzalez did needs more analysis.

    Matt Gonzalez left the Green Party while running with Nader. He became an Independent “a decline to state”. He is saying in effect that none of the current parties represent him.

    On the other hand, Ross Mirkarimi has Joined the Democratic Party which is now actively conducting 2 wars, including the mass murder of hundreds to thousands of innocent civilians many killed by remote controlled Predator Drones. The Democratic Party has not been able to even understand the wisdom of Single Payer let alone pass a public option. It has carried on Guantanamo, not closed the School of the Americas, condoned Israeli policy of land theft and murder of Palestinians, it has given Billions to banks and Pennies to the people. We could go on and on.

    Let us hope that a REAL opposition party forms soon; it doesn’t seem to be the Green Party.

  6. It’s no secret that Ross and other Green defectors were promised endorsements and financial support from high profile Dems for making the switch. Additionally, many supposedly non-partisan organizations continue to refuse to endorse Green Party members. This is true for almost every labor union, for example. There is a good article in the January 2010 issue of Z Magazine that describes labor’s allegiance to the Democrats and the reasons behind it. But it is not just labor. In 2004, EMILY’s List would not even consider endorsing Patricia Gray for Congress, even though she was running against a male incumbent Democrat in a district where Republicans were only 20% of the registered voters. People need to remember this when they write checks to these organizations.
    If our electoral system was not stuck in such outdated duopoly mode, it would be easier to establish a multi-party system.

  7. The democrats have feared the Greens for a decade. They’ve raided our ranks, first our registered and now our electeds. They know we stand for what they are not – principled and not bought and paid for as they have become, forsaking the people for the money. In fact, before Ross’ decision, Greens were already planning a large, statewide voter registration drive and “visibility television campaign” to bring back Greens who switched by the thousands to the Dems to vote for Kucinich and Obama. Greens in CA are targeting independents looking for a home, and progressive dems who mistakenly believe the dems would end the war, bring us real healthcare reform and serve the people of this country first before millionaires and banks.

  8. Jim, political parties don’t just form themselves–they are formed by people through a lot of hard work. Hoping for a non-Green alternative without working to build one is about as effective as hoping Obama will wake up one morning and decide to “be the Obama (gullible progressives) voted for.”

  9. I agree with Greg Jocoy that Ross Mirkarimi and possibly Matt Gonzalez (though I hope not) are fairly typical politicians in that their primary focus is their political careers. Ross ran into a roadblock and he is now a part of the problem.

    Matt Gonzalez is a registered Democrat. He will not run against Pelosi in 2012. I’m not sure if Matt Gonzales will ever run again. I will continue to respect him if he makes that decision.

    The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work, congress is NOT a career.

  10. I’m beginning to think that something is happening here in the heartland of western Pennsylvania that may not be very obvious yet on the west coast. Significant numbers of long-time Democrats…at least the issue activist ones…are leaving the dems in disgust. A good number of them are becoming registered Greens. Many more are happy signing our petitions to get on the Nov ballot. In a dozen years of Green petitioning here in the Pittsburgh area, I can’t say I’ve seen a more positive reception for Green Party candidates than right now…at least in support of our right to be on the ballot. The callous corporate elitism of the Dem Party regarding the wars, unemployment, foreclosures, the lack of a universal healthcare system, skyrocketing college tuitions, and the plunder of the planet and all of its species
    (plant and animal)…well it seems that lesser evilism is finally running its course to irrelevance, at least around here.

    for a Green Future,

    Ed Bortz
    Green Party candidate for Congress,
    14th District, Pennsylvania

  11. A couple of comments: Christina – Matt did not register Democratic. Please reread my comment above which was to distinguish what Ross did from what Matt did. To be clear Matt has not left the Green Party as a career move.

    I agree that it’s hard work building a party, and no one can accuse me of not putting in enormous effort from 2000-2008, from volunteering (most of the time) for Gonzalez when a supe on a daily basis to serving on the Green county council in SF.

    Why do Greens lose people, and why do I call for a “real” opposition party? Some like Ross is a career move; Matt going independent was necessary because running w Nader he needed to be for Utah rules. Could have gone to court of course, but one more costly court battle taking time and money away from campaigning. When the left has all the money to fight every court battle then we will have won already.

    Why have I left the Green Party? I left because this old 60s guy felt unwelcome. I left because I believe one of the biggest mistakes the Greens have made is being able to work with the left. The left has always been part of any signficant shift in political or economic structure in this country, and somehow way too many Greens think they can do it without them. They rely on creating barriers rather than outorganizing them which I think is preferable. It’s a tough fight in SF because the Left is better organized here than other places. The second major flaw with the Ca Green is hanging onto consensus. It slows thing down way too much to be effective as a quick reacting opposition party. It is a luxury that most Green Parties don’t operate with.

    I will be delighted to be proven wrong but I begin to think that organizing in the the “belly of the beast” is different from organizing in other countries which are either running dogs with the beast or the food of the beast.

    I think Ross still wants to fight that fight but to chose to fight it as a Dem is a big disappointment. If he had gone independent I would have been a lot more supportive.

  12. Good comments, all. I too was disappointed to hear about Mirkarimi’s defection, and certainly a large part of his decision has to do with ambition – much more so than any ideology.

    But there is a large part of the problem that rests within our party as well, and it would serve us well to address it frankly. For the past few years, we have not done a creditable job representing the wishes of the American people. We’ve been too concentrated on internal ideological purity and issues which haven’t been at the forefront – some for good reason, and some not – and voters haven’t responded. Cynthia McKinney’s campaign sadly reflected that: while she was speaking solely to small Black Panther luncheons and spewing baseless conspiracy theories, Americans were losing their jobs and their savings. She offered some interesting alternatives, such as public management of the Federal Reserve, but really, it was too little, too late.

    Fortunately, we still have local elections where committed and savvy Greens can make a difference. Contrast Rich Whitney to the above; he’s got fully developed platform planks on real-world issues, and he takes full advantage of current events and the missteps of his opponents.

    Even at that, we still have the challenge of less-than-democratic behavior by the duopoly, and the equally poor behavior of ideologues and egoists within our own ranks. (We can see where the latter philosophy goes: just look at the dozens of parties on the Left calling themselves some variety of the “People’s Revolutionary Socialist Labor Workers’ Party for Socialism”, or whatever. Couldn’t govern a luncheon, much less a country.) Greens should no more allow these obstructions to stop them than a pebble stops a stream. We should learn from the lesson of nature and simply go (and grow) around them.

  13. I also see major differences between Matt Gonzalez and Ross Mirkarimi.

    Big difference between criticizing Obama and registering Declined to State, as Matt Gonzalez did, and supporting Obama and then registering Democrat now that Obama has more troops and mercenaries on the ground than Bush ever did, as Ross did.

    Big difference to anyone who follows Africa as I do and thus understands that Bill Clinton has more blood on his hands than George Bush and we just don’t know about it because it’s African blood, shed in a covert U.S. war fought by the Pentagon’s paid African proxies.

    I can’t help thinking that Matt Gonzalez was driven out of the party by a prominent member of the San Francisco Greens who so hates Matt Gonzalez that he attacked him verbally on e-mail lists, news websites, and blogs whenever possible. I never understood why, having joined the party after they fell out.

    A close friend of mine who changed his registration to DTS after the last election is still so bitter about his interactions with the SF Greens that I have to hear about it way more often than I’d like, but I listen ’cause he’s a close friend, and it makes me think that the SF Greens probably have a lot to learn about outreach and inclusion.

    As a journalist, I’ve been reporting on the Rwanda Greens, admiring their discipline, strategy, and unity with Rwanda’s other opposition parties and I’m learning quite a bit by observing this.

    Final note: I really think this is the consequence of problems within the San Francisco party, not with the party beyond its bounds. The Marin Greens are doing well, as are the Mendo and Humboldt Greens. I don’t know about how Greens are doing in the rest of the U.S. besides what’s posted here, but the Global Greens, and especially the European Green Free Alliance, have turned more attention to the Rwandan situation than journalists and human rights investigators have been able to for the past 16 years. That’s a big accomplishment. I’m about to post a clip of Christiane Amanpour on the Rwanda Greens, on CNN, to We Support the African Greens on Facebook.

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