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Campaign Beat

Shades of Green

City's Green Party Candidates Hit Streets To Get Campaign Message Out To Voters

Frank Klein
IT'S OUR PARTY: Members of the Charm City Greens, including (from left) Maria Allwine, Chris Bush, Myles Hoenig, and Brandy Baker, have been spending their days stumping for Green Party candidates who will appear on the ballot on Nov. 7.

By Erin Sullivan | Posted 10/25/2006

Myles Hoenig, Brandy Baker, Maria Allwine, Chris Bush, and Ed Boyd are standing on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Washington boulevards at 11 on a recent Saturday morning. They hold placards bearing the smiling likeness of Boyd, who is running for governor as a member of the Green Party, and wave to cars whizzing by. Many motorists drive by without acknowledging the crew standing on the street corner, but lots of drivers do respond, offering supportive whoops, horn honking, and cheers. Around 11:30 or so, one vehicle races by and a young male passenger hangs out the window whooping and flipping them the bird. For a minute, the sign-toting party says nothing, then someone yells, "He just said we're No. 1!"

The five gleefully call out, "Yeah, No. 1, we're No. 1!" and get a few more honking horns for their enthusiastic efforts.

So begins another day of campaigning for the city's Charm City Greens, one of the two local branches of the Maryland Green Party. The Charm City Greens started about two years ago, according to Myles Hoenig, who co-founded the chapter with his wife, Baker, and is actively backing a slate of candidates, including Allwine (who is running to be state senator for the city's 43rd District), Baker (running for House of Delegates in the 43rd), and Boyd for governor, as well as James Madigan (running for lieutenant governor as Boyd's running mate). There are a couple of other Green candidates running for seats in the city as well: Jan Danforth is running for House of Delegates in the 40th District, and David Greene and Richard Ochs are both running for seats in the House of Delegates in the 43rd. None of the candidates has been elected to public office before, but all of them take active roles in community organizations, ranging from the Iraq Pledge of Resistance to the Herring Run Watershed Association to the Greater Homewood Community Corp.

Hoenig says that the Charm City Greens' goal--and indeed, the goal of the Maryland Green Party in general--with this campaign is to build "a base of not just solid Greens, but building a base of serious and credible candidates. With Brandy, Maria, Ed, James, and others, we are building a base to have that happen."

The candidates share similar platform points and goals: They want to act as candidates for working-class, progressive Marylanders who are tired of the current representation. Allwine, a legal secretary who ran for U.S. Senate in 2004 and wears pins reading things like honor the dead, end the war and if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention, says she thinks the party is finally in a position to gain the momentum it needs to get people interested in its goals. She says that during her campaign two years ago, she had a harder time getting people to listen to what she was saying. "They were much more concerned about the spoiler issue," she says, noting that most progressives felt that the Democratic Party was looking out for their best interests or hesitated to draw votes away from Democrats facing Republicans. "Now people are much more ready than they have ever been to stop voting Democrat. . . . They have stolen our democracy. And I do not say that lightly."

Most egregious to Marylanders right now, Allwine says, is how the deregulation of the state's utility industry nearly slapped state residents with a 72 percent increase in their electric bills. The crisis was temporarily diverted, and it's all but disappeared from the news, but she says people resent that their representatives in Annapolis let it happen--and know that the issue will arise again next year, when the state's Band-Aid solution (a cap on the utility-rate increase good through this year) expires.

"They have done nothing for us in the statehouse," Allwine says. "They sold us out on BGE. . . . Today I didn't have a single person refuse my literature, and I've had many people say, `Oh, I know you, I'm going to vote for you.'"

Likewise, Boyd says he's heard similar sentiments in his campaigning and electioneering. Boyd, a disabled veteran who spent a brief time homeless after his discharge from the Navy and is now a recruiter for a temp agency, says he's been welcomed warmly around the state, especially in working-class neighborhoods where people know "you'll have to spend $5,000 to get a chance to talk to O'Malley or Ehrlich. You don't have to spend $5,000 to get a chance to talk to me."

Like Allwine and Baker, Boyd's platform embraces the Maryland Green Party's "Marylandization," or state ownership, of the utility industry. It's an issue that the party knows will resonate with voters this year, and one it hopes will give its candidates a better leg up at the polls than in previous years.

Ochs, for instance, says he was a Democrat all his life until he recently became "disgusted by a number of important things" his representatives in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill did. So he registered as a Green last year.

"One would be the war in Iraq," he says. "Can't do too much about that in Annapolis, but it's definitely a state issue because the reason we don't have money for our schools or other things we need is because they are blowing it in Iraq. The Democratic Party has been weak on that, and I'm disgusted by its performance. And, of course, it was on the Democratic watch in Annapolis that they gave away the power plants [with utility deregulation]."

Ochs, who is the director of the Maryland Safe Energy Coalition, says that Greens across the state are supporting the use of eminent domain to take over the power plants located in Maryland to bring them under state control. The state could then "run the company as a publicly owned utility on a nonprofit basis," he says, noting that the nonprofit would not have to make enough profit to pay shareholders as a public utility would. "It would have to be mandated by legislation in Annapolis."

Hoenig says this year people are paying attention to what the Greens are saying--even people who have never even heard of the Green Party are listening to the candidates talk, "and once they hear what [they] have to say, it's like, `Where have you been?'"

As far as the two gubernatorial candidates go, Hoenig says they have similar stances on all the major issues. "They both support the death penalty," he says. "They are both environmentally rotten. They both don't give a shit about the students, about the schools. They both support developers over communities."

The city's Green candidates are anti-death penalty, pro-single-payer health care, for releasing $1.08 billion from the state's rainy-day fund to Baltimore City schools, and for an end to the war in Iraq.

"Folks are tired of being browbeaten," Boyd says. "They are tired of putting their hope in a leader and being let down."

And with that, the blare of the horn from a cherry-red pickup truck headed south on MLK Boulevard cuts him off. A bearded dude wearing a baseball cap hangs out the window, screaming, "Go get 'em, Boyd!" before it zooms off.

It's a good way for the Charm City Greens to start their day. Their next stop along the way will be the corner of Green Mount Cemetery, where they'll join the Baltimore Algebra Project in a protest against the Maryland State Board of Education. And later on in the evening, they'll be up in Owings Mills, protesting outside the offices of Maryland Public Television, because Boyd was not invited to take part in gubernatorial debates sponsored by the station.

It's tough to be in the Greens' position, because they have to run their campaigns on limited resources, limited funding (as of a campaign-finance report filed on Sept. 1, the Baltimore Green Party had just $2.59 in its account and the Charm City Greens did not yet have an account on file), and limited exposure. "The mainstream media refuses to let it be known that there is anyone but Republicans or Democrats running for office," Boyd says.

Ochs says he doesn't think it's the Green Party's image or message that holds it back--he says it's the party's inability to get that message out.

"I think if there was an even playing field, some Greens would definitely get elected this year," he says. "By evening the playing field, I mean getting the message out to the public. The fact that Democrats and Republicans have more money, take money from BGE and other special interests, means they get their messages and their signs up all over towns. The Green Party can't afford that. . . . We're working at a disadvantage. Not our fault, but that's the facts of life. If you are going to eschew the big influential dollars, then you are working at a disadvantage."

Which is why Allwine, Baker, Boyd, Hoenig, and others are out on those street corners, waving signs and shaking hands. And will be right on down to Election Day, stumping for the forward-thinking economic, environmental, and social policies they think Marylanders deserve--even the ones flipping them the bird as they drive by.

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