Illinois Green Party candidate for Governor Rich Whitney led all Green Party gubernatorial candidates in 2010 in total votes and percentage of the total vote, with 99,625 votes, 2.70% of the vote.
Only three times in history have Green Party gubernatorial candidates exceeded 10% of the vote. The first was in 1994, when Roberto Mondragon, who finished with 10.4% of the vote in New Mexico. The other two were in 2006, when Pat LaMarche finished with 10% in Maine and Rich Whitney finished with 11% in Illinois. (See a spreadsheet of historical Green Party gubernatorial candidates here).
This year was definitely a downturn for Greens running for Governor. In Illinois the votes for the Green Party candidate were 1/3 of the 2006 votes. In California the Greens got half what they did in 2006. Massachusetts went from 42K to 32K, Maryland went from 13K to 11K, Tennessee went from 2,700 to 1,800, Minnesota went from 10K to 6K, and Nevada went from 6K to 4K. However the Green vote went up in Ohio (from 38K to 56K), New York (42K to 58K), Michigan (20K to 21K), and Arkansas (12K to 14K), from which you can cast your own theories.
In the post election chatter, some have questioned why Greens bother to waste the resources to run for Governor when the odds are so stacked against them. In some states, ballot access and/or recognition as a political party is based on gubernatorial returns. In other states, it has no impact at all. I would argue that running a green party candidate for a high profile state-wide race has several benefits.
First, it has the potential to influence the dialogue by putting Green Solutions out front next to the partisan, safe, and centrist positions of the two corporate political parties. It forces Democrats to ask why their candidate isn’t supporting what the Green Party candidate is supporting.
Second, it has the potential to raise awareness of the Green Party statewide. It has been noted that many voters have not heard of the Green Party. If a good Green Party candidate in a high profile race actually gets some media and equal debate access, s/he has the potential to get the Green Party message in front of tens of thousands of voters, and some of them might like that message enough to join the party or even run for office themselves.
Third, it gives all the Greens out there someone to vote for. There were over 400,000 votes cast this year for Green Party candidates for Governor. Think about it this way. There are 400,000 voters in the United States that would prefer a Green Party Candidate running their state than a Democrat or a Republican. That’s a lot of people. If we don’t run candidates, those voters are going to have to hold their nose and vote for another party’s candidate. The Green Party owes it to those Greens in America to give them a candidate to vote for.
Finally, political parties run candidates. That is how they are defined. If the Green Party doesn’t run candidates, they aren’t a political party. We should personally thank all of the Green Party candidates who ran for office this year, they gave the voters something Green to vote for.
2010 Green Gubernatorial Results
- Rich Whitney (IL) – 99,625 (2.70%)
- Jim Lendall (AR) – 14,525 (1.88%)
- Dennis Spisak (OH) – 56,734 (1.51%)
- Morgan Reeves (SC) – 19,807 (1.51%)
- Jill Stein (MA) – 32,816 (1.43%)
- Howie Hawkins (NY) – 58,123 (1.37%)
- Laura Wells (CA) – 92,892 (1.22%)
- Harley Mikkelson (MI) – 21,312 (0.66%)
- Maria Allwine (MD) – 11,022 (0.64%)
- David Curtis (NV) – 4,437 (0.62%)
- Deb Shafto (TX) – 19,475 (0.39%)
- Farheen Hakim (MN) – 6,188 (0.29%)
- Howard Switzer (TN) – 1,886 (0.12%)