Cynthia McKinney Greens Up Ruta Maya

Green Party presidential hopeful visits Austin for fundraiser

Like any political party, the Greens hope visiting presidential candidates will add momentum and contributions to national campaigns. As part of her Power to the People tour, former Atlanta U.S. rep turned Green Party presidential hopeful Cynthia McKinney joined the Travis County Green Party at a Dec. 5 fundraiser at Ruta Maya. McKinney, who lost her seat after a primary defeat in 2006, had been courted in 2000 and 2004 by the Greens as a potential vice presidential running mate for Ralph Nader. Among five Green candidates, she is the only one with Capitol Hill experience. However, she said, the party's problem is not a lack of policies or organization but of public exposure. "In some localities, they've had great success. In others, they're virtually ignored," she said. "The first challenge is to spread the good news throughout the 51 political entities about what it is to be a Green."

While Austin is traditionally friendly to Green Party values, that may make it harder for candidates to make gains against incumbents. "There's a lot of complacency in the progressive community," said Scott Trimble, who hopes to challenge Lloyd Doggett for his U.S. House seat. "They think, 'We've already got progressives in office and on City Council' – but they're making a lot of decisions that are pro-business. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but when it's business interests over people's interests, it's not progressive."

McKinney argues that Greens have the opportunity not simply to split votes from the Democrats but to appeal to discontented moderate Republicans, not to reach across the aisle but to be the aisle. Travis Co. Precinct 3 com­mis­sioner candidate David Griffin, an Austin public-access TV producer, sees this broad church approach as fulfilling a necessity. "After seeing politics like I have firsthand, I'd prefer to work as an independent," Griffin said, "but it doesn't really work without a party behind you, even if it's a third party to break the logjam and shake things up."

McKinney says she's optimistic about finding candidates for national, state, and local races and is sanguine about the potential difficulty of being a third-party president governing in a two-party system. "Congress has ceded a lot of its power to the executive branch," she noted wryly.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Green Party, Cynthia McKinney

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