She’s number four

Can Grace Ross get a little respect?
By ADAM REILLY  |  September 27, 2006

060929_ross_main
NOT EASY BEING GREEN: Grace Ross tries to fight invisibility.
Grace Ross is dressing me down. “You didn’t do your homework,” says Ross, the Green-Rainbow Party’s candidate for governor, her tone a mix of disappointment and frustration.

She’s right. A few weeks back, I wrote that three of the candidates then running for governor — Democrats Chris Gabrieli and Deval Patrick and Republican Kerry Healey — were graduates of Harvard College. But I didn’t mention that Ross, too, is a Harvard alum. Why not? Simple: I didn’t know. And I didn’t know because I didn’t check. And I didn’t check because I didn’t think of Ross as a real candidate.

I’m not the only one. Even though her place on November’s general-election ballot is assured, and even though she’s shared the stage with her better-known rivals at debates and forums for the past several months, Ross is treated as an afterthought when the governor’s race comes up, if she’s lucky enough to be mentioned at all. (The September 25 Boston Herald/FOX-25 debate was a notable exception.) There are a host of possible explanations, all fairly obvious and reasonably convincing: Jill Stein, the 2002 Green-Rainbow nominee, got just three percent of the vote; Ross has barely registered in the polls so far; she doesn’t have any money; there’s absolutely no way she’ll win. Of course, the rejoinder is equally obvious: how can Ross become a viable candidate if everyone refuses to take her seriously?

Not your average lefty
Just to be clear: these are my words, not Ross’s. During a lengthy interview with the Phoenix, the topic of her treatment at the hands of the mainstream media came up only a couple of times — a pleasant surprise, since all too many public figures on Ross’s end of the political spectrum (e.g., Dennis Kucinich) tend to luxuriate in their perceived victimhood.

In fact, even though Ross looks like an agonizingly earnest lefty from central casting — billowy clothes, dangly earrings, bad haircut — she plays against type, coming across as pragmatic and self-effacing, and demonstrating a wry sense of humor. (However you read it, Ross's description of her most embarrassing moment in the Herald’s pre-debate questionnaire — “I was a budding teenager and my mother said to our minister, within my hearing, ‘Who’d have thought I would have a daughter who was such a sex-pot?’ ” — was inspired stuff.)

Her political critiques, meanwhile, tend to be pretty incisive. For example, here’s Ross on Massachusetts’s new health-care-reform bill, which was passed with much fanfare earlier this year: “They say they passed a universal plan: it is neither universal, nor is it a plan. It was cobbled together from the very right and the very far left, and what we got is so shaky that [Governor Mitt] Romney — the next day, when he was signing the bill — vetoed four pieces of it. So whatever consensus they supposedly reached didn’t even last through the night. What we have is a mishmash. It’s not going to work.”

What’s more, Ross notes, the originally proposed penalty on companies that don’t insure their employees — $295 per employee per year — is a bargain compared with actually providing insurance. “The problem is the folks who don’t have any health coverage at all. They didn’t provide health coverage for them; what they did was say, ‘If you don’t get it yourself, we’re gonna take your individual tax deduction away.’”

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Grace Ross, abridged
Ross was born in New York and came to Massachusetts to attend Harvard College. After studying at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, she started working as a community organizer and activist, playing a central role in the fight to keep for-profit hospitals out of Massachusetts — or, barring that, to force them to be good neighbors. The 45-year-old Worcester resident is also a former Green-Rainbow party chair; earlier this year, she left her post at Sisters Together Ending Poverty to run for office full-time.
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