On the right, Eric Jones, Green Party candidate for Erie County Executive. On the left, his principal campaign donor.
On the right, Eric Jones, Green Party candidate for Erie County Executive. On the left, his principal campaign donor.

Public Record: All About the Green

by / Oct. 21, 2015 1am EST

GREEN PARTY EDGED OUT: Something important was missing from last week’s debate between candidates for the office of Erie County Executive: a third candidate. Eric Jones, the Green Party contestant for the seat, was not invited to join Republican challenger Ray Walter and Democratic incumbent Mark Poloncarz last Wednesday in the studios of WNED-TV.

Typical major-media prejudice against minor-party candidates? Probably, though it is also true that, by the measures typically used to determine a candidate’s viability, Jones is so long a shot as to defy the laws of physics: At the time of his latest filing, he had $101.92 in his campaign account, which he started in August with $200 of his own money; there are just 1,558 registered Green Party voters, out of 572,633 total registered voters, in Erie County. But if Lincoln Chaffee is permitted to put on one of his late father’s suits and join Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a Democratic presidential debate, what harm might have come from inviting Jones to debate Walter and Poloncarz? 

The Green Party earned a line on the ballot by addressing issues and adopting positions that attracted a significant share of the electorate in recent gubernatorial elections. Its candidates should be invited to the table, if only to enrich the conversation.

THE REAL GREENS: If you are inclined to vote Green Party, be careful which lever you pull. The local comittee has three candidates running for office: Eric Jones for Erie County Executive, local chairman Charley Tarr for the Niagara District seat on Buffalo’s Common Council (against incumbent Democrat David Rivera), and Anthony Baney for the Erie County Legislature’s Third District (against incumbent Democrat Peter Savage III). Anyone else whose name appears on the line is not a member of and not endorsed by the Green Party, which does not offer its endorsement to candidates who are registered to other parties: If you want to go Green, you have to register Green.

Except, of course, you don’t: In New York State you can file an opportunity to ballot, under which “party members may also circulate petitions to create the opportunity to write in the name of an unspecified person for an office in which there is no contest for the party endorsement,” according to the New York State Board of Elections. If you open up a write-in campaign for a ballot line in a race where there is no bona fide Green Party candidate, then you need only get a handful of party members on your side to win—and to do that, you need only get a couple of your pals to change their party affiliation in time to take part in the primary. That’s how Ted Morton, a Tea Party conservative trying for a second term on the Erie County Legislature, happens to appear on the Green Party line this November, despite being the political antithesis of everything the Greens represent. That subterfuge probably won’t cost his Democratic opponent, Debra Liegl, any votes. However, Morton also won the Working Families Party line using the same ruse, and that could damage Liegl. An Erie County Democrat failing to carry the WFP line is a serious failure of campaign management. 

GREEN CODE COMING AT LAST: It’s been more than five years since Mayor Byron Brown announced his administration’s effort at comprehensive reform of the city’s zoning and land use codes. On Thursday Brown will return to Larkinville, where he launched the initiative in April 2010, to declare that the resulting “Green Code” is finished and ready for review by the Common Council. Its release has been delayed by conflict with contractors, consultations with developers and community groups, and a litany of political considerations, obvious and arcane. Its proponents argue that it will be transformative; its critics that it empowers developers over residents. All will be revealed—and the real discussion will commence—this week.