D.C.'s “Second Party”?

Statehood Greens have five citywide candidates

The D.C. Statehood Green Party styles itself the District’s “Second Party” -- a barb directed not just at the city’s Republicans, but also at the notion that D.C. is a one-party town.

This year, the Statehood Greens have five candidates running for citywide office.

The party nominated perennial candidate, noted trumpet player, and former Marlon Brando paramour Faith for mayor, though with some reluctance -- Faith actually received only 40 percent of the votes in the September primary, despite running unopposed. (The remainder went to write-ins.) While Faith has signs up around the city, and has appeared at several candidate forums, she’s not likely to be much of a factor next week. (Her signs point voters to a campaign website that hasn’t been updated in three years.)

Other contenders are making more serious efforts. Rick Tingling-Clemmons is challenging Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, while Joyce Robinson-Paul is on the ballot for shadow representative. Two veteran Statehood Green activists, Ann C. Wilcox and David Schwartzman, are running for citywide D.C. Council seats. (The party also has a candidate in Ward 1, Nancy Shia, who was nominated after winning the primary there as a write-in candidate.)

Wilcox, who finished third of five candidates in at At-Large Council bid four years ago -- outpolling the Republican contender -- is now running for Council Chair. Wilcox, an attorney who served on the D.C. Board of Education back in the 1990s, says her campaign is primarily about raising the visibility of the Statehood Greens.

“It is probably a long shot for the Statehood Green Party to win the chairmanship,” Wilcox told me. “However, all of our campaigns work to raise the visibility of the party, its progressive agenda, and its status as a viable, progressive alternative to the established Democratic Party.”

So what’s the difference between the Democrats and the Statehood Greens? Wilcox says her party will do more to focus on those left behind by the District’s rush to development.

“I would emphasize preserving economically diverse neighborhoods with affordable housing; and preserving the social safety net programs,” she said. These “are often small line-items” in the city budget, “but provide critical support to youth, families, and seniors.”

David Schwartzman, a Howard University environmental science professor, is running for At-Large Council, one of four candidates in a race where the top two vote-getters win. Schwartzman’s goal is to finish second to Democratic incumbent Phil Mendelson but outpoll independent incumbent David Catania to win a seat.

Schwartzman suggests that voters who rejected Mayor Adrian Fenty should reject Catania as well.

“I stood against the Fenty-Rhee-Catania agenda for so-called educational reform that closed neighborhood schools and unjustly fired experienced teachers and staff,” he told me. He says the “most relevant factor impacting student performance” is family poverty, which has been ignored.

Schwartzman, a political activist for more than 50 years, says the District government should focus on the needs of the “working and middle-class majority.” This would entail the adoption of a progressive tax structure and the creation of a “D.C. Municipal Bank” to fund green jobs and economic development, as well as affordable housing. He accuses Catania of “consistently voting against modest tax hikes for the wealthy and for hurtful and avoidable cuts” in social services and adult education.

Scott McLarty, the party’s media coordinator, told me that one goal for 2010 “is to maintain our status as D.C.’s second party in terms of votes received.” Though there are just 4,300 registered Statehood Greens compared to 29,700 Republicans in the District, McLarty points out that “in recent elections, D.C. Statehood Green candidates received more votes collectively than Republicans on the ballot, even when we’ve run the same number of candidates.”

In the 2006 mayoral race, the Statehood Green candidate received 4 percent of the vote, while Republican David Kranich got 6 percent. (Democratic nominee Fenty took 89 percent.) But in a run for an At-Large Council seat two years ago, Schwartzman received more than 18,500 votes, and other 2008 Statehood Green candidates received 7 to 13 percent of the vote.

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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