The November election results represented an important political breakthrough for the Green Party of California. Nationally, including California, the Green Party fielded 375 candidates for 66 different elected offices in 38 states. Prior to the November general election, the party held at least 223 local, municipal, county and state elected offices nationwide.
In a dramatic election development, Green Party of Contra Costa County candidate Gayle McLaughlin stunned local Bay Area political observers by capturing the City of Richmond mayor’s office.
In terms of population and significance, Richmond is one of Northern California’s largest cities after San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland. Mayor-elect McLaughlin defeated a sitting Democratic Party incumbent mayor seeking re-election—by any measure, a remarkable and nearly unprecedented electoral accomplishment.
Ms. McLaughlin’s victory against incumbent Richmond mayor Irma Anderson—who brazenly accepted $110,000 from Chevron Oil, Pacific Gas and Electric and other corporate interests during her campaign—sent a political shock wave across the Bay Area by highlighting the Green Party’s organizational maturity and strong progressive values. True to her Green Party principles, Ms. McLaughlin refused corporate contributions during her campaign.
Meanwhile in Oakland, Green Party City Council candidate Aimee Allison received a solid 46 percent vote total in an unsuccessful but spirited effort to topple incumbent Councilmember Pat Kernighan, an establishment politician backed by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and corporate real estate developer interests.
Along with Oakland mayor-elect Ron Dellums’ earlier election victory, Ms. Allison’s strong progressive campaign has arguably transformed Oakland’s political landscape: the progressive movement centered around Ms. Allison’s campaign has injected new political energy and space into Oakland that is now acting to counter—and confront—the entrenched political forces that have operated in Oakland with impunity for decades.
In a testament to the political momentum generated by Ms. Allison’s campaign, during the City Council campaign’s final weeks, Ms. Allison’s Democratic Party opponent desperately repackaged herself as a progressive candidate in her literature, and attempted to distance herself from her closest City Council ally, Ignacio de la Fuente, whose Council office is currently under FBI investigation for corruption.
In Berkeley, incumbent City Councilmember Dona Spring—the longest serving Green Party City Councilmember in the nation—won re-election with a 70 percent vote margin. An unprecedented four Green Party candidates (seeking five open seats) won commissioner seats on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.
In Sonoma County, the City of Sebastopol maintained its Green Party City Council majority by re-electing Larry Robinson. Green Party City Councilmembers have served as a majority in Sebastopol for six consecutive years, since 2000.
In San Francisco, Green Party Board of Education candidate Jane Kim captured first place out of 15 total candidates seeking three open School Board seats. A second Green Party candidate won a city Community College Board seat.
Outside of California, Illinois Green Party governor candidate Rich Whitney captured 11 percent of the statewide vote, a historic margin matched only by a third party candidate 86 years ago. Mr. Whitney’s vote total enabled the Green Party to receive ballot status in Illinois, the first time a national third party has achieved ballot status since 1920.
Meanwhile, Maine Green Party governor candidate Pat LaMarche won 10 percent of her state’s vote, another historic vote total. Also, Green Party-supported or promoted ballot measures calling for US troop withdrawal from Iraq passed in at least 150 municipalities and cities across Wisconsin, Illinois and Massachusetts, including the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee.
The 2006 election was an unqualified success for the Green Party as the party continues to make important gains in membership, political recognition and ballot access both in California and nationally.
Chris Kavanaugh is a Berkeley resident.