Green-ing in a red state

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Being lavender in a red state means a search for political representation, not political condemnation. Many parties exist beyond the ‘Big Two’ – Democrat and Republican. The spectrum ranges from Libertarian, Family Value, Peace and Freedom to the Pansexual Peace Party as well as the Green Party.

Not only is the Green Party international, its roots are as well. The Green Party began its infancy in Germany in the early 1960s. Formerly known as the Association of State Green Parties from 1996 to 2001, it then became the Green Party of the United States. Our local Knoxville Green Party seedlings were planted in 1998, taking root in 2000.

Greens tout Ten Key Values: grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, nonviolence, decentralization, community-based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability.

Norris Dryer, the Green spokesperson and GLBT liaison for Knox County, credits a pen for his Green initiation. At Gay Pride on Market Square in 2002, he visited the Knoxville Green Party table. As he signed the solicitation form, a staffer recognized his name and suggested he run for office. After politely declining the offer, Dryer reconsidered after meeting with several party members and realized how Green values and concerns were similar to his own. He ran for an at-large seat on Knoxville City Council in 2003.

"I had a great experience, including the making of friendships within the Party that I still very much enjoy today," reflects Dryer.

For the 2006 campaign season, the Tennessee slate contains several Green candidates including Chris Lugo for US Senate. Howard Switzer will be on the ballot in the Governor’s section, and Katey Culver is up for the 7th United States Congressional District seat. Ginny Welsch is running for the Fifth Congressional District seat, and Bob Smith in the First Congressional District.

These candidates along with Dryer were asked to respond to questions of concern to the GLBT Community.

Q: Why did you choose the Green Party?

Chris Lugo: The Green Party has a reputation as a progressive third party doing good work nationally and I felt that their nomination would benefit the campaign. Supporting wishy-washy candidates and political parties that are willing to make scapegoats out of a minority group is not a position I would want to be in. That is why I am running as a Green. I intended to run for office this election season as a peace candidate. I needed to do something more than protest, educate and write to my elected officials about this illegal and immoral war. So I decided to take it to the next level and offer Tennesseans a chance to vote for peace. It was at this point that I decided to go to the Green Party.

Bob Smith: The Green Party chose me. I followed and supported the 10 principles from the day they first were published.

Katey Culver: I chose the Green Party to be my political party in 2000 with Nader’s second run. I had supported them before 2000 but also had interest in the natural law party. In 2000, I made the commitment to the Greens due to their platform and clear set of values.

Howard Switzer: I saw the two major parties were only serving a small segment of the population’s interests and I concur with the values and principles the Green Party stands on.

Norris Dryer: We have felt that the Greens offer a fresh and needed alternative to what some people refer to as Demicans and the Republicrats.

Q: How long have you been affiliated with them?

Culver: Solidly since 2000. I became the Tennessee Delegate to the GP-US National Committee in Dec. 2000 and have served in that capacity ever since. Term limits prevent me from continuing in this capacity after July, but I will then serve as an Alternate Delegate. I am currently running for a GP-US National Committee Steering Committee seat.

Lugo: I have attended meetings off and on for ten years.  

Switzer: We started talking about the founding of the Green Party in Tennessee back in 1992 and I have been involved more or less ever since.

Q: Why did you choose this office?

Lugo: I chose this office because of its importance in terms of framing the debate on federal policy issues. The federal government is a representative government and it should really be bottom up in terms of representation, but instead it is top down. This means…they get to act first and then deal with the consequences later. I would think of this candidacy as the consequence of their bad choices.

Switzer: Healthcare has long been an issue I feel strongly about and can speak to. I have known and worked on advocacy with Tony Garr of the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign for many years now.

Culver: I chose to run for the 7th District Congressional seat due to the horrendous voting record of the incumbent, Marsha Blackburn. My district desperately needed some representation. She ran virtually unopposed in 2002, and I couldn’t let that happen again. As it turns out there are at least four independent candidates vying for this seat. When it rains, it pours.

Q: What does the Green Party allow you to do as a candidate that another party did not avail/ support?

Lugo: The Green Party is a grassroots party. We are simply a collection of diverse citizens who have in common that we support the 10 Key Values of the national Green party. We have had candidates as diverse as the spectrum allows within the progressive and liberal left, which is quite broad honestly.

Switzer: It is all about the values; the party gives us as much support as it can.

Dryer: To run for City Council as an openly gay person with the full support of the Knoxville Green Party. In fact, they ran the campaign! Do you think for a nanosecond that would have been possible within either the Democrat or Republican Party?

Smith: I do not have to take pac money, and also I can run and not feel like I am part of a criminal conspiracy.

Q: What issues for the GLBT community do you and the Green Party advocate?  

Lugo: I support full civil liberties for the GLBT community. I believe that gays and lesbians should have an opportunity to legally marry in every state and that they should receive all the same rights that heterosexual couples receive. I support non-discrimination legislation in any form. I support a woman’s right to choose and will work in the Senate to preserve Roe and to ensure that fundamental privacy rights are guaranteed. I support continued research and investment in the AIDS crisis and support research efforts to find a cure. I support the rights of members of the GLBT community to adopt. Although it is a State issue, I do not support this year’s efforts to amend Tennessee’s constitution to define marriage.

Culver: The Green Party advocates for the GLBT community quite extensively. In our National Party Committee, we allow traditionally disenfranchised members of society to form Caucuses, made up entirely of members of the community, which have a seat at the table. This is to ensure that we hear the issues of the GLBT community in ALL our deliberations. Personally in my campaign, I am standing on Right to Marry issues. I will not support, and actively fight, any amendment that denies full rights to the GLBT community.

Switzer: Equality, full recognition of constitutional rights and protections, the freedom to marry and love openly. The party has an LGBTIQ Caucus as a way for empowerment within the party.

Q: What message do you have for the GLBT community?

Lugo: I first became sensitized to GLBT issues while in college when I began my work as an activist and was exposed to the broad range of issues that the GLBT community represents. I fully support the GLBT community. In my lifetime, I have seen the community make huge strides forward politically, socially, culturally and economically. I believe that every human being has the right to self-determination and self-identification.

I have seen my friends struggle with acceptance from their family and have seen how prejudice and intolerance still shape so much of the rhetoric and dialogue in contemporary America, but I also have hope.

Social justice is a process and it is a struggle. Americans have kept this issue in the closet for most of our history, and the door is only beginning to slowly open. There is still much work to do, but much has also been accomplished and this is what gives me hope.

Switzer: Human rights are human rights, we are you, you are us; love is supreme.

Culver: My message is the same for all of us. We need to create policy with care as the lens through which we view: care for earth and care for people. I feel a responsibility to bring forth ideas and legislation that move us forward on many fronts. Please let me know what the issues are for you.

Dryer: The Knoxville Green Party endorses without reservation the positions and agendas of the Human Rights Campaign and all other progressive pro gay civil rights groups.

Smith: I do not think that any lifestyle decisions are the business of the Federal government. My sister…has been openly gay all her life. She had to hide it while she was in the Navy, but lives with her longtime girlfriend and with my blessings.

Q: Will you appoint a GLBT liaison to your staff if elected?  

Switzer: Members of the GLBT community would be an important creative and productive element in my staff and would probably be one or more of the agency heads. What can the GLBT community do to support Green Party? Join, get active, build the party, run for office. Help us transform the politics, economy, and attitude of this nation.

Lugo: The most important thing, in my opinion, is not to compromise on your fundamental values. The GLBT community should vote its conscience this election season. If members of the community feel that supporting the Greens is good for the GLBT community, then you should support us.

Dryer: We invite all members and supporters of the community to visit our Party meetings. Our business meeting is the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunspot, 1909 Cumberland Avenue in Knoxville. Our party sponsors a monthly open discussion group on the third Sunday of each month at 2:00 p.m. at the Golden Roast on Melrose Place. More info: 865-523-6775.  

Q: Come Election Day, how will the populace be able to cast a Green Party vote?  

Culver: On Election Day, remember that the Green Party is the only party that believes in local control of politics.

Lugo: Go to the polls that day. We will all be there, and you can vote for us. I hope you will.

Q: How can the “O&AN” readers contact your campaign or make contributions?

Switzer: Please go to www.h4gov.com to donate through PayPal or for my address.

Lugo: If readers would like to make a contribution to Chris Lugo for US Senate they may visit www.chris4senate.com, and they can donate online. My campaign address is Chris Lugo for Senate, 9 Music Sq So #164, Nashville, Tenn. 37203.            

Culver: Kathleen Culver Candidate for Congress Tennessee’s 7thDistrict – www.kate4congress.com. Address: 668 Hurricane Creek Rd Linden, Tenn., 37096.

Smith: Email me at 1bigtree@adelphia.net. Address: Robert Smith for Congress, 6565 Lonesome Pine Trail, Greeneville, Tenn. 37745, or drop it by and say hello.

The election is imminent, and Culver admonishes, "A hero of mine says: ‘If you don’t turn on to politics, politics will turn on you.’”