Activists Collect Signatures as Cheri Honkala Is Chosen as Green Party VP Candidate
John Gonzalez has been a loyal Democrat most of his life. But on a recent Tuesday afternoon, there he was, knocking on doors throughout Kensington, asking mostly Spanish-speaking residents for their signatures to help get Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein on the ballot in November. The Philadelphia accountant and father of two says his conversion began last year when local poor people’s activist Cheri Honkala began running for Philadelphia sheriff on the Green Party ticket.
Gonzalez says he was sick of Philadelphia Democratic party politics running the city, he says, for the worse.
And he’s among many reasons Philadelphia’s Green Party may be set to break out. Casually depicted as old hippies and environmentalists riding their hybrids to and from the food co-ops in Northwestern Philly, it turns out there’s a new Green Party center in Philadelphia. And it’s based in Kensington.
According to Green Party spokesman Chris Robinson, Kensington is about the only spot in Philadelphia where registration is on the upswing. Since 2009, Green Party registrants in the 31st Ward, which includes Kensington, has grown 54 percent. And that’s in a city and a party where anything above 3 percent is considered a success.
“The number of Greens in Kensington has really grown since last year, when Cheri started running,” Robinson notes. “She has great appeal to people. I attribute it to her personally. I don’t attribute it to anything I did or anyone else did besides Cheri.”
Robinson says Honkala’s polling, earning 6 percent in the sheriff race, sent a message to the Philadelphia Democratic establishment.
And today, the Stein campaign announced that Honkala would be chosen as her vice presidential running mate on the national ticket.
“[That 6 percent] proved that we could do it,” says Gonzalez. “I believe that if we did that much that time, we can double the damage this time.”
Robinson adds that damage was done in the polls because of Honkala’s presence on the ballot and in her Kensington neighborhood.
The recent signature-gathering operation stemmed from Honkala’s home. “We’re Jill Stein people,” said Honkala, who noted at the time she favored Roseanne Barr for vice president.
Stein won Pennsylvania’s Green Party primary in May, after which she called for “an end to unemployment, health care as a human right through Medicare for All, an end to student debt and foreclosures, free public higher education, bringing the troops home, ending climate change, and especially putting an end to fracking.”
The Massachusetts physician is pushing what she’s calling the ‘Green New Deal,’ which emphasizes pulling out of the United States’ foreign wars and moving that money to green and sustainable industry in the United States—similar to what Philadelphia City Council called for in June.
Since her evidentiary loss, Barr (who was endorsed by Philly Greens) has taken to Twitter to push several new and old conspiracy theories.
“[C]heck this out: the usual faction of fuckers has ruined the future of the Green Party in CALI!! capitalism is a TOOL of humans,not r master,” Barr wrote after losing the California primary.
And when it became clear Barr would not be the Green Party nominee, she accused the party of silencing her.
Jill Stein’s campaign lists Pennsylvania as a state she is “still petitioning” on her website. Her campaign did not respond to an inquiry this week from PhillyNow.
“Ever since deciding to run for President, I’ve been thinking about who would have the strength and courage to take up this fight with me,” said Stein in a statement released today. “Cheri Honkala has shown tremendous perseverance and leadership, despite remarkable odds. Her selflessness and demonstrated capacity to inspire make her the perfect Vice Presidential candidate to help me reclaim democracy.”
Added Honkala: “It’s immoral that children are hungry and homeless in the richest country in the world. It’s time for the 99% to stand united to serve our collective human needs instead of selfish, corporate greed. The Green Party is the only one standing up to Wall Street, and Jill Stein’s Green New Deal is the best plan for saving this sinking ship. I’m honored to fight beside her.”
Third-party candidates have typically run into problems getting on the ballot in Pennsylvania, as Philadelphia Weekly has repeatedly written about. A case stemming from Ralph Nader’s 2004 run for president is still pending. Former Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli owes about $80,000 in legal fees to the Democratic Party, as well, stemming from his 2006 campaign in which he tried to challenge now-Sen. Bob Casey and Rick Santorum.
Stein is currently on the ballot in 21 states. She has until August to file her Pennsylvania petitions. She is required to hand in about 22,000 signatures, but noted when she came to Philly in April that she will likely turn in 50,000 to get past signature experts and Democrats whose job it may be to kick her from the ballot.
Honkala’s place as vice president on the ticket will likely bring more attention to the Pennsylvania problem with third-party ballot access.
The Green Party national convention begins tomorrow in Baltimore, Md., and goes until Sunday.