Election 2016

As Greens Nominate Stein For President, Party Aims For Longer-Term Success

The chance of a third party winning the White House in 2016 is microscopic. But capturing as little as 5 percent of the vote nationwide could help the Greens or Libertarians mount more serious challenges in 2020.


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Herb Gonzales
Delegate Herb Gonzales (at microphone) of San Antonio casts Texas’ votes at the Green Party presidential nominating convention.

Delegates of the Green Party met at the University of Houston on Saturday to nominate Dr. Jill Stein as their presidential candidate.

One of the biggest speakers at the convention was Julian Assange. The Australian founder of WikiLeaks spoke via satellite feed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remains to avoid facing criminal charges in Sweden. He slammed the idea that Americans only have two real choices in this year's presidential election.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

"What the Clinton campaign is doing at the moment is trying to say, ‘Yes, maybe we subverted the integrity of the Democratic primaries, but you'll just have to swallow that, or else you'll get Donald Trump,'" Assange said. "That's a form of extortion."

Jill Stein
Jill Stein

But if Green Party members were expecting an endorsement from Assange, they were disappointed.

"What is happening now, with the Green Party and [Libertarian Party presidential candidate] Gary Johnson, is very, very important. But it must be seen past this political moment," he said.

In other words, the Greens might attract some Democrats turned off by Hillary Clinton. The Libertarians might draw some Republicans alienated by Donald Trump. But if either third party hopes to break out of the two-party system, they'll need to work for lasting electoral reform.

"One thing that Jill Stein in particular can do is that if she wins a large enough share of the vote – and that share differs across the states from half a percent to, say, 5 percent here in Texas – she can help the Green Party have ballot access in 2018 for sure and possibly 2020," says Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute.

That would be significant for the Greens. They've spent most of their resources this election cycle just trying to get on the ballot. A party that polls 5 percent of the vote nationwide becomes eligible for federal funds in the next presidential election.

"For the Greens," Jones says, "that could mean somewhere around $10-15 million in 2020, and for a party that probably has about a $1 million budget this year, that's a tremendous amount of money."

Getting to 5 percent is the challenge. Many voters fear supporting a third party could tilt a close race to a candidate they detest.

Green Party activist Martina Salinas challenged that argument when she addressed the convention.

"Let's address the issue of a wasted vote," said Salinas, who is running for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. "How many of you have heard that? You know what? In Texas, it's so red, a blue vote is a wasted vote."

That's one of the main reasons the Greens met in Houston. They're running candidates in 19 congressional races in Texas, more than in any other state in the country. It's part of a larger push to build out the party's infrastructure nationwide and, they hope, compete with Democrats and Republicans on a more even footing in the future.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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