From Philadelphia Weekly:
Glenn Davis is just about the only politician you’ll ever meet who doesn’t go out of his way to make sure you know right up front that’s he’s a military veteran. “I’m proud of that, but that doesn’t make me honorable,” he says, chatting over a bite at the McDonald’s at 56th and Vine. “I was a veteran of a foreign war—but I grew up. I realized I was fighting for corporations, and if I’m out in Iraq or wherever, who’s fighting for my family on the street?”
Now, after several post-military careers—including a stint doing maintenance at this very fast food chain—Davis is the chair of the oft-floundering Green Party of Philadelphia, and he’s running for state representative in the 198th District against Democrat Vanessa Lowery Brown. Brown made headlines earlier this year when she was named as one of five Philly pols to take a bribe in a state Attorney General’s office-conducted sting operation, and almost lost her Democratic primary because of it. PW talked with Davis about his campaign and what might lie in the Green Party’s future.
How has the campaign been going, in your opinion? The campaign has been going fine. This is a grassroots campaign—no big business. The truth is getting around; I’m getting support. We already made history by getting on the ballot, so we take a lot of pride in that. Now… we’re just trying to capitalize on that and win the game.
What do you mean, you already made history? I mean a Green Party member making it on the ballot in a mainly Democratic area with a demographic who, first of all, don’t know who the Greens are, and everything like that. [Nonetheless] we were supposed to turn in 300 signatures—and we turned in 800.
When you knock on doors and explain you’re from the Green Party, what’s the initial reaction from people? The initial reaction isn’t so much to the Green Party at first. It’s like, “OK, I’ll sign. Let’s get another person in there, another voice.” They just want something different. People are disenfranchised with the two-party system.
How long do you think that’s been going on—and have you always felt disenfranchised? Before I became a Green, I was always independent and voted Democratic… and just felt that there was something wrong. I came across [local activist] Cheri Honkala’s campaign for sheriff [in 2011], and it spoke to me with that zero foreclosure policy… That sucked me in.
I’ve been covering the Green Party since I’ve been a reporter. And everyone has always said, “We want the party to grow, we’re ready for the party to grow.” Yet around every turn, there’s always some obstacle that stops it from happening. Earlier this year, gubernatorial candidate Paul Glover didn’t even collect enough signatures to make the ballot. Why do you feel now is the time? Looking at the Green movement [nationally], before they were running candidates, they were the best. That’s why in 1999, they were able to say, “Let’s run somebody.” [Consumer advocate Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000 on the Green Party ticket.] And they had a pretty good turnout for the first time.
But for the next seven years, there were obstacles to make sure that didn’t happen again.
You mean, for instance, the “Bonusgate” cheating scandal that saw several Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans going to prison for handing out bonuses to their political staffs for doing campaign work—including, among other things, paying them to challenge Ralph Nader’s 2004 ballots? Yes. That’s one thing. And you have to realize that we’re grassroots. This is the people’s money; this is not corporations’ money. And once people spend money on these campaigns and see it’s not going anywhere, they get disillusioned, you know? [But now] we’ve been on the rise since 2011, when Cheri Honkala started running. Then Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala ran [as the national Green Party’s 2012 presidential ticket]. We got some new members, we’re getting some awareness that this is another party. I’m trying to instill this [understanding] now—we do not have committee people and board members. We need to start from the bottom and work our way up.
Getting a committee person on a local ballot is probably the easiest thing a third party can actually accomplish. How come the Green Party hasn’t picked that up yet? Because I haven’t been chair long enough yet.
Good answer. That’s something I want to implement, but it’s hard… One of the reasons I ran is, when you ask people who their state rep is, they don’t know. Politicians don’t talk about the real issues affecting the 18- to 35-year-old citizen, then they don’t vote because they feel disenfranchised. If you start focusing on them, maybe they’ll start caring again and say, hey, there’s a representative who is actually for us.
Have you attempted to hold a debate with Rep. Brown, or have you engaged her at all? No. I really haven’t. I engaged her beforehand. I have people telling me she’s scared and I should. I try to look at the grassroots aspect of it, though—I didn’t want this to be a smear campaign because she’s in the news for what she’s got going on. Really, I want to engage the people who support her; I want to know what it is that they support. I just felt as though I need to be old-fashioned—I have to talk to the people about the issues. To debate her is to debate the Democrats. I don’t need to do that. I want to find another demographic that understands how to vote.