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Campaign Beat

Power to the People

Green Candidate Wants To Give Working Class Stronger Voice In The Governor's Office

Frank Klein
OUR NEXT GOVERNOR?: Ed Boyd is the Green Party's pick to succeed Robert Ehrlich.

By Laura Laing | Posted 11/1/2006

How about a last-minute election quiz?

Who is Ed Boyd?

a) Michael Steele's puppy.

b) Martin O'Malley's campaign manager.

c) The Green Party's gubernatorial candidate.

d) The city advocate and former Democrat featured in Robert Ehrlich ads.

Those of you who answered c) have been paying attention--very close attention. While Mayor O'Malley and Gov. Ehrlich have enjoyed the spotlight in television ads, newspaper interviews, and debates, third-party candidates like Ed Boyd and Populist Party candidate Christopher Driscoll are simply trying to get name recognition.

Without the campaign war chests of the Democratic and Republican parties, Boyd admits he's at a disadvantage. His campaign can't afford TV advertising, and he was not invited to participate in the League of Women Voters or Maryland Public Television debates. But this doesn't quell his passion for getting his message out to the public. He wants the average person to feel connected to government, and he's hoping that his message resonates with the more than 430,000 independent voters in the state.

"Ehrlich and O'Malley don't speak for the people," he says. "They speak for big business. Both of them eat from the trough of big business and greed."

A disabled vet and formerly homeless, Boyd doesn't mince words.

"Mainstream media and mainstream politics have made it impossible for poor people and people of color to be heard," he says. "We [people of color] still think the Democratic Party is going to bring us to the Promised Land. That's a joke."

Raised in Miami, Boyd has no political experience. He is quick to say that he doesn't have all the answers, but he's also eager to talk about the details of his platform. As a recruiter for a minority-owned temporary employment service, he says he is the working poor.

"I've never wanted to be a politician," he says. "But my whole life, I've known that I need to take responsibility."

As a Navy aviation firefighter instructor, he broke his leg without knowing it. After the leg became infected, military doctors told him it might need to be amputated. Boyd didn't accept that possibility.

"It took me a year, but I'm walking," he says. "I don't believe in the word impossible. Things will be tough, but impossible? No."

Myles Hoenig, founder of Charm City Greens and an English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher with the Baltimore City Public School System, was drawn to Boyd at a Veterans for Peace event in August of 2005. Boyd remembers that he had just come back from "sleeping in a ditch in Texas, supporting Cindy Sheehan."

At first Boyd thought Hoenig was kidding about running for governor. "I told Myles, `I don't have the experience of a politician. I'm just a regular guy.'"

"He wasn't a smooth-talking, slick, snake-oil salesman like O'Malley and Ehrlich," Hoenig says. And that's just what the Green Party was looking for in its first gubernatorial candidate in Maryland.

"We're breaking ground here," Hoenig says. "He's the first African-American to head a major-party ticket in Maryland."

Boyd's major issue in the race is what the Green Party calls the "Marylandization" of the state's energy utilities--an effort to de-privatize the state's energy industries. "In that way, the plant, the power lines, all of it will belong to the citizens," he says.

More than 2,000 municipalities across the country--including five in Maryland--have put such plans in place. By placing ownership of utility companies in the public domain, rates could be based on cost, not market value, Hoenig says.

But you won't hear this proposal from the other campaigns. "Ehrlich and O'Malley won't even touch it," Boyd says. "Because BGE has put money in O'Malley's and Ehrlich's pockets."

Boyd has plans for public education, too. He promises to "get that $1.08 billion that is owed to the Baltimore City public schools" by the state, an estimate based on Judge Joseph Kaplan's rulings in Bradford v. Maryland State Board of Education.

"We see schools that look more like prisons than schools," Boyd says. "We build more correctional facilities than we build educational facilities." He also proposes to fully fund free post-secondary education by closing corporate welfare loopholes, as well as provide educational grants to those who come back to live and work in the city's poorest neighborhoods.

O'Malley's and Ehrlich's solutions to the state's problems are very similar to one another, Hoenig says. "Actually, it's a two-way race," he says. "O'Malley and Ehrlich are similar--Republican and Republican Lite. We're seeing O'Malley as a spoiler in this race--O'Malley is a spoiler for progressives."

Furthermore, Hoenig says, the Democratic Party has lost its way. "The Democratic leadership has no backbone," he says. "It's like an invertebrate organization. There's a disparity between the leadership and rank-and-file Democrats."

Hoenig notes that the Green Party is the fastest-growing third party in the state, with more than 8,000 members. But with all the tough talk about the issues and the race itself, Boyd and Hoenig are downright frustrated with the difficulties facing third-party candidates in Maryland. Boyd notes that in Texas two third-party candidates were invited to participate in statewide debates.

"As backward as Texas is, they did better than Maryland," Boyd says. "And we're supposed to be progressive."

If nothing else, Boyd is encouraging voters to think outside the two-party system. "It's happening all over the world," he says. "It's time for America to get right with it. I can't think of a better place for it than Maryland."

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