July 9, 2012. Chicago. There’s an unwritten rule in opposition and third-party politics – save your limited resources and attacks for the Democrats and Republicans, not other independents. In Republican circles, they call it Reagan’s golden rule, ‘thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican’. In independent and third party politics, it’s simply a requisite for survival. Now, the Cook County Green Party is knocking the Presidential candidates of the Socialist Party, Constitution Party and 2 independents off the Illinois ballot this November.
Rob Sherman, Cook County Green Party Chairman. Image courtesy of RobSherman.com.
The scene is Illinois, one of the most difficult states in the nation for independents and third parties to run for elected office. While Republicans and Democrats need only hundreds of petition signatures, parties like the Greens, Constitution and Socialists must collect at least 25,000 certified and valid petition signatures. That is, unless nobody challenges their petitions. In that case, any candidate of any party can get on the ballot while submitting as few as 1 signature.
That rarely ever happens however. Typically, Democrats and especially Republicans, successfully challenge the candidacy petitions of every independent and third party candidate. This year however, the two establishment parties appeared to drop the ball – none of the petitions were challenged and it looked like all 6 independent and opposition party Presidential candidates would be on the ballot here.
As Whiteout Press reported last week in the Chicago Independent Examiner, the November general election ballot in Illinois was shaping up to be the most exciting and inclusive in recent memory. In addition to President Obama and Mitt Romney, voters in the Land of Lincoln were about to have other candidates to choose from including; Gary Johnson and the Libertarians, the Green’s Jill Stein, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, the Socialist Party’s Stewart Alexander, independent Rocky Anderson and Michael Hawkins with a new party.
Read ‘Illinois Libertarians file 47k Ballot Petitions for November’ for further details.
For the record – The national Green Party, as well as virtually every other independent and third party activist from all the opposition parties, has disagreed with Rob Sherman, County Chairman of the Green Party of Cook County. Based on statements by Mr. Sherman, he has been inundated with phone calls, blog posts and emails insisting he withdraw his challenge.
Here is a break-down of each Presidential candidate and the number of petition signatures submitted as detailed by the national Green Party (25,000 signatures required to be on the Illinois ballot):
Libertarian Party – Gary Johnson – 47,000
Green Party – Jill Stein – 30,000
*Constitution Party – Virgil Goode – approximately 300
*Rocky Anderson – independent – 2
*Socialist Party – Stewart Alexander – 1
*Together Enhancing America – Michael Hawkins – 1
*petitions challenged by Rob Sherman
Green Party official response
In a published response to the multi-party confrontation in Illinois, the national Green Party has officially declared their opposition to the petition challenges being made by their party Chairman out of Cook County. The statement includes:
‘National Greens have come out against the challenge to the petitions of the Socialist, Justice Party and independent campaigns…Among ballot access advocates and Green Party organizers, this has become a problematic situation. While third parties share in common a complex set of exclusive ballot access laws, there has been a general sense of solidarity on the ballot access front. For an apparently significant Green Party leader to take the lead position to knock possibly four other third party candidates off the ballot in Illinois is significant, and possibly damaging for the Green Party. On the other hand, the Greens and Libertarians clearly put together the volunteers and resources to qualify for the ballot in Illinois, far in excess of the number of signatures that the four challenged parties submitted.’
Socialist Party’s Stewart Alexander
In an email response by Socialist Party Presidential candidate Stewart Alexander, the SPUSA nominee calls on Rob Sherman to withdraw his legal challenge. Being one of the 4 Presidential candidates about to be knocked off the Illinois ballot, Alexander appeared to be appreciative of the Green Party’s support and he saved his stinging criticism for Mr. Sherman alone.
Socialist Party Presidential candidate Stewart Alexander begins his statement with a call directly to Sherman, “Fight against the corporate parties – not each other.”
“This year in Illinois, the Democrats and Republicans were asleep at the wheel,” Alexander remarks, “Even though we in the Socialist Party USA filed paperwork with one signature, they didn’t challenge our application. They didn’t have to. The Illinois Green Party did the work for them. Or, more correctly, Rob Sherman the Chair of the Cook County Green Party is the person who filed the challenge to get us thrown off the ballot.”
Going on to raise the issue of the independent and third party ‘golden rule’, Alexander concludes, “In doing so, he violated the golden rule of Third Party politics – namely that we don’t do the dirty work for the two corporate parties.” The SPUSA nominee shows his frustration when he writes, “Despite several protests from Third Party advocates, including many Green Party members, Sherman refused to remove his challenge. He told our campaign that he would only do so if Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President and Howie Hawkins, the person standing in as the VP candidate, told him to do so.”
Stewart continues on to the conclusion that Dr. Stein and Mr. Hawkins have already done so. One only needs to look at their public writings and positions in support of open ballot access. In closing, Alexander sums up the conclusion that many have already come to – Mr. Sherman’s own Presidential candidate Jill Stein will suffer the most from his divisive actions.
The Socialist Party’s Stewart Alexander concludes, “Besides the candidates that Rob Sherman will throw off the ballot, the innocent victim in all of this is Jill Stein. Jill seems like a sincere and honest person who does an excellent job at offering the Green Party vision of change…However, blocking the Socialist Party and other parties in Illinois will be a black eye for her campaign. Green Party claims to support open electoral laws will be permanently suspect unless Sherman removes his challenge.”
Rob Sherman responds
With nationwide criticism being directed toward him, Mr. Sherman released a statement, quoted in part below (in a statement to IndependentPoliticalReport.com):
“I’ve read every word of every Illinois Green Party post during the past three days, plus many direct e-mails from concerned political party members from around the country. Here’s my perspective on the controversies regarding my challenges to presidential candidates, in which one set of candidates that submitted one signature (just 24,999 short), one set of candidates that submitted two signatures (24,998 short) and one candidate for president who submitted one signature and didn’t even list a Vice Presidential candidate. The Illinois Green Party, on the other hand, submitted over 30,000 signatures, collected by hundreds of volunteers and supported by thousands of dollars in donations to cover volunteers’ expenses and the expense of the operation.”
Mr. Sherman goes on to argue that not challenging the other third party candidates’ petitions would have led to a desertion of Green Party volunteers in future elections over the coming years. He sums up his conclusion saying:
“If you want to have volunteers, donors and paid staff willing to contribute the next time, you absolutely cannot disrespect their efforts by telling them that they just wasted ALL of their time and money, because candidates could have gotten on the ballot without doing ANY of the things that our people did. You won’t have volunteers and donors, the next time, if you do that.”
Sherman, the Cook County Green Party Chairman makes a lengthy argument that because he has personally walked countless streets in the summer heat and winter cold to collect ballot access signatures over the years, he and he alone has the authority to decide what presidential candidates the people of Illinois can vote for. Mr. Sherman explains:
“Our donors and volunteers wouldn’t publicly complain if I dropped my objections, but I doubt that they would be back to do it, all over again, the next time, if they thought that they were completely wasting their efforts. I’m not going to just throw away all of their efforts and walk away from all of their hard work, by telling the challenged candidates that they can have the same ballot benefits as us, without putting forth any of the effort, time or money that we did.”
The fact is, independent and third party precinct workers almost ALWAYS lose, but they almost ALWAYS come back again. They’re not in it for money, or a patronage job or any of the dirty politics that fuel Republican and Democrat volunteers. Mr. Sherman’s reason for throwing the other third party candidates off the ballot is just plain false.
In fact, this life-long resident of Illinois knows how rare this election could have been. The Democrats and Republicans never fail to throw the independents and third parties off the ballot here. They typically do it even when the opposition candidate files more than enough signatures. That’s how they protect their monopoly on government. This election was more-likely a rare, one-time gift to all of America’s independents and third parties.
Instead, Rob Sherman comes across like the rich man who throws half his sandwich in the garbage, and then calls the police on the starving homeless kid for fishing it out of the dumpster. Why? Because the homeless kid didn’t work for that half of a sandwich like the rich guy did.
Except in this case, nobody can legitimately challenge the record of blood, sweat and tears that candidates and precinct workers for the Socialist Party and Constitution Party have put in over the years. For Mr. Sherman to say that men like Stewart Alexander, Virgil Goode or any of the others or their precinct workers, haven’t put in the time and effort collecting ballot access signatures is utterly preposterous. Having to gather ten times the number of signatures as the Democrats and Republicans, third party volunteers have put in more than their fair share of work. And that’s why they don’t challenge each other’s ballot access, at least until now.
For more information on the Presidential candidates, read any of the following recent articles:
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