(*Editors Note | In what appears a rather remarkable change of tactics Ralph Nader has not only endorsed a Democrat, but cited 'likelihood of winning' as a valid consideration. -- ma)
Green Candidate Miffed After Nader Backs Wellstone
By Rob Hotakainen and Shira Kantor
The Bakersfield Californian | The Star Tribune http://www.truthout.org
Saturday, 10 August, 2002
In a speech to congressional interns this week, Ralph Nader said that Ed McGaa, the Green Party's Senate candidate in Minnesota, is a newcomer who has little chance of winning: "He'll be lucky to get a few thousand votes."
At the same time, Nader, the party's presidential candidate in 2000, offered to appear at a news conference with McGaa's opponent, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, to promote corporate reforms. Assessing Wellstone's prospects in the November election, Nader said: "I don't see how he's going to lose."
While Wellstone's campaign welcomed Nader's remarks, McGaa was puzzled by them. "It's bewildering to me. ... I will prove him extremely wrong," he said in a telephone interview Friday.
Cam Gordon, chair of the Green Party of Minnesota, said that Nader's remarks "demonstrate that we are in a bit of a dilemma here with the Senate race in Minnesota, and I think that Ralph recognizes that."
Here's the dilemma: With McGaa drawing support from 3 percent of Minnesota's potential voters in the most recent Star Tribune poll, many Green Party members say it could hurt Wellstone, who's virtually tied with Republican Norm Coleman. If Coleman wins and Republicans take control of the Senate, some Greens fear it could hurt their party.
"People are definitely expressing concerns about being the spoiler," said Gordon, who's backing McGaa.
Two years ago, many Democrats said Nader was the spoiler in the presidential race, drawing votes that likely would have gone to Al Gore and helping elect George W. Bush.
McGaa said he voted for Gore and that he told that to delegates of the Green Party's state convention in St. Cloud.
"(Nader) might have heard about that and probably felt slighted," said McGaa. "But I honest-to-God voted for Gore because I did not want Bush to win. ... I'm probably stupidly honest, but I'm honest, and I wasn't going to lie."
Nader was out of the country Friday and unavailable for comment, according to his assistant.
Jim Farrell, a spokesman for the Wellstone campaign, said the senator had not received Nader's written offer.
"We'll look at it, and we'll certainly consider it. ... Paul's certainly done a lot of good work with Ralph Nader over the years," he said.
But Farrell said "the stakes are very high this year," adding that the Wellstone campaign will try to win Green Party voters by stressing the senator's record and reminding them of the "need to keep some balance in Washington, and that means keeping the Senate Democratic."
As the Greens try to get comfortable with their new political muscle, the Minnesota Senate race emerged as a hot topic at their recent national convention in Philadelphia.
Robbie Franklin, a Green Party member from Houston, said that given the tight race in Minnesota, the Green Party should not be backing a candidate against Wellstone.
"He's not down with us on everything, but you don't need to be," Franklin said. "And if we really do make a difference in the outcome of the race there in Minnesota and, for heaven sakes, actually remove a fairly liberal senator - one of the few - is that that really what we want to do?"
At the Minnesota convention in May, Winona LaDuke, Nader's 2000 running mate, wrote an open letter to delegates, urging them not to endorse a candidate.
She said that Wellstone, who's regarded as a champion for environmental causes, is "the closest we have to a Green in the U.S. Senate."
"If Wellstone loses this November, it is a defeat for the Green Party, for all progressives, and for the agenda we share," LaDuke said in her letter.
But Dean Zimmermann, 6th Ward Minneapolis City Council member and a Green Party member, said that Wellstone is responsible for collecting his votes, not the Green Party.
"They can't take votes away from (Wellstone) ... They're not his votes," Zimmermann said.
Nader made his remarks Wednesday as he fielded questions after delivering a speech on Capitol Hill. He called himself an independent and said he does not direct the Green Party, but he defended the party's right to endorse a candidate in Minnesota.
"You can't say to the Green Party, 'Hey, pick and choose. Just float a candidate against the bad guys or the mediocre guys, but not against the good guys,'" said Nader.
Bob Lamb, a Green Party member from Minneapolis who voted for Nader, said Nader was wrong. "Of course, you can pick and choose. It's called strategy." He said that Wellstone is "a genuine progressive" and that it's the wrong strategy to run a Green against him.
"You don't nominate a candidate who's going to alienate thousands of progressives across the state of Minnesota," Lamb said. "That's not the way to build a progressive Green Party throughout the state."
Nader said that he sent a letter to Wellstone offering to appear at a joint press conference to discuss new organizations for shareholders, bank depositors and insurance policyholders.
"We'll see how he responds," Nader said. He praised Wellstone as "very articulate" and described him as a well-funded candidate who spends much time in Minnesota in his green bus, a campaign trademark.
"I can't imagine how he's going to lose because he's done a lot of good things, although he's not quite as good as he used to be," Nader said.
Dean Myerson, the national Green Party political coordinator in Washington, said the issue is one for the voters to decide.
"If the voters feel that Wellstone is close enough to Green Party positions ... they can vote for him," Myerson said. "If they don't want to, they don't have to. But we don't need to micromanage these decisions for voters."
Anita Rios, co-chair of the national Green Party, said she always thinks "it's best to vote for the Green Party candidate," noting that anything can happen in Minnesota.
"I would not say that it's inevitable that that Green Party candidate is going to lose," she said. "I mean, you're Minnesota. Look at Jesse Ventura."
Gordon said it's not realistic to predict a victory for McGaa, but said: "I stand behind the party's endorsement." He said that Nader is "walking a middle line."
"I don't know that I want to second-guess his decision. ... I appreciate not being in his shoes," said Gordon, adding: "We would love it if Ralph would come to Minnesota. ... He could stand with our endorsed candidates, including Mr. McGaa."
McGaa, who lives in Edina, said that he has been receiving "tremendous press" and that Nader will be proved wrong on Election Day.
"I have tremendous credentials," he said. "You know, I'm very well-educated. I happen to be the only veteran in the race." And he said that many Minnesotans will vote for him "'cause I'm a breath of fresh air."
"Let's wait and see," he said.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)