Green behind the ears

Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  April 10, 2014

When I think of Maine’s Green Independent Party, I think of … uh … well, to tell the truth, nothing much comes to mind.

In part, that’s because I live in a section of the state where the Greens have virtually no presence. There may be a few of them studying impractical subjects at the University of Maine at Farmington or becoming one with the universe in a commune in Temple, but in most of Franklin County, “green” is strictly lower case and refers to money, freshly cut firewood, or our principal cash crop.

The other reason I rarely pay attention to the Greens is because they’re of little political consequence. Outside of an infestation in Portland’s city government and a sprinkling of midcoast activists protesting stuff that probably won’t happen anyway, the party isn’t really part of the debate.

The Greens’ high-water mark in the Legislature was electing one state representative in 2002, although a former member of the party, independent Ben Chipman, currently serves in the House. The Greens didn’t run a candidate for governor in the last election and won’t this time, either. For years, they’ve been a non-factor in congressional races. There are only about 38,000 registered members in the state, slightly more than the number of hunters with any-deer permits.

Even so, the latter group has a lot more political clout.

There are 15 Greens running for the Legislature this year, an increase over the last couple of election cycles, but less than in 2004, when the party had 20. In the two decades the Greens have been an organized party in Maine, they don’t appear to have learned much about winning political races, so the odds of any of the current crop being sworn in as elected officials would have to be considered somewhere between long and nonexistent.

That’s not simply because the Greens have recruited weak candidates (although they seem to have a few of those), but because the party offers little in the way of intelligent support. The Green organization (use of that word may be a serious overstatement) doesn’t seem to have a lot of experience with how successful campaigns are conducted.

Several of this year’s legislative candidates have no websites or Facebook pages. Those that do often offer amateurish efforts filled with blunders that wouldn’t be tolerated in the Republican or Democratic parties.

For instance, Daniel Stromgren of Topsham is listed on his official Green Independent Party website as being “our Candidate for Senate Dist[.] 19.” Which is odd, because Stromgren is actually running for House District 54.

The first thing visitors to this candidate’s home page learn is that he “was born in Cincinnatti (sic), Ohio.” Maybe Stromgren didn’t stick around his hometown long enough to learn to spell it, but regardless, it makes no sense to start your conversation with a Maine voter by emphasizing your non-native status. While we’ve occasionally elected people from away — Angus King (from Virginia), Jim Longley Jr. (from Mars) — foreigners generally have a distinct disadvantage. Anybody with the political wisdom of sushi would know that.

Samuel Chandler, candidate in Portland House District 36, starts off his website biography by announcing that he’s recently completed a degree in “jazz piano performance.” I’m not sure how that’s applicable to the job he’s seeking. Later, he informs us he favors “cooperative models of Social Services,” but never bothers to explain what that means.

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