RICHMOND, Va. – Green Party candidate Jill Stein sees an opening to woo disaffected Democrats, environmentalists and young radicals inspired to political action by the candidacy of Democrat Bernie Sanders. Things to know about Stein, a longtime activist who has never won statewide or national political office:
This isn’t Stein’s first foray into presidential politics. She ran on the Green Party line in 2012, failing to crack 500,000 votes or generate any significant spotlight. She thinks this time could be different, thanks to Sanders. Stein wasted no time swooping in on his political revolution, campaigning in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention and rallying throngs of angry Sanders’ supporters outside of the convention hall when the Vermont senator conceded the nod to Hillary Clinton.
Stein’s running on a platform of erasing all existing student debt, mobilizing what she calls a wartime effort to switch the United States to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and disengaging from foreign wars that she says the United States has no business being in. She’s offering a dark view of the future, saying both Republicans and Democrats are leading the country into imminent disaster.
She’s admitted that winning the presidency isn’t quite the ultimate goal. Instead, Stein’s hoping to capitalize on fresh interest in third party candidates to build momentum for the Green Party, which has had success in some local elections but has largely failed to make a dent in state or national politics. Stronger than normal turnout for Stein could help keep the Green Party on state ballots and provide additional public funding for future elections if Stein cracks 5 per cent, a tall task at this point.
Stein dismisses Democratic critics’ comments that she’s a spoiler who could help hand the election to Republican Donald Trump. She says she won’t be able to sleep at night if either Clinton or Trump is elected.
Stein, 66, graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1979, going on to work in internal medicine with a focus on young adults.
As a mother and doctor living in Lexington, Massachusetts, she turned to environmental activism in the 1990s. She joined efforts to regulate coal plants in Massachusetts and reduce mercury in the food and water supply. Using her medical background, Stein testified before several legislative committees on the harmful effects of mercury and other pollutants in child brain development.
In 2002, the state’s Green-Rainbow Party recruited her to run for governor. A political newcomer, Stein thought achieving electoral success could help advance her activist causes. She lost the race, and went on to lose every race after, including bids for the state legislature in 2004, secretary of state in 2006, governor again in 2010 and president in 2012.
MOMENT TO REMEMBER
Cries of “Jill Not Hill” dotted the streets outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last July.
Stein hit a peak of sorts that week, when angry supporters of Sanders stormed out of the convention hall to protest the Vermont senator’s decision to endorse Clinton. On the convention’s second night, Stein led a rally of hundreds in sweltering heat right outside the convention hall.
Her language sounded familiar: She pledged to continue the “political revolution” Sanders had started and said only she could be a vessel for the change Americans were truly seeking.
Stein’s also been forced to explain away some of the comments her running mate, human rights activist Ajamu Baraka. He’s called President Barack Obama an “Uncle Tom.” Stein told The Washington Post’s editorial board she would never use the same language, but said Baraka is speaking to a “disenfranchised demographic.”
HOW MANY VOTES?
In her various campaigns for public office, Stein’s barely amounted to more than a blip on the radar.
She’s won just two elections: Her races for town meeting members in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 2005 and 2008. Those races took about a few hundred votes to win.
In her state and national races, she did once crack double digits. Running for secretary of state in Massachusetts in 2006, she took 18 per cent of the vote — which amounted to just about 350,000 votes. She won 76,000 — or less than 4 per cent — in her 2002 gubernatorial bid. In 2010, she won even fewer, bringing in less than 33,000.
Ralph Nader, the last Green Party candidate to make a difference in a national election, won nearly 3 million votes in the 2000 presidential contest.
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