The Green party of the United States is selecting its 2020 presidential nominee. Its primary voters, however, may be denied a meaningful choice. Some Green activists think that the current front-runner, Howie Hawkins, only leads thanks to his supporters’ machinations.
GPUS co-chair Gloria Mattera promised me ‘an exciting and a radically-democratic primary process’. Still, since we spoke in mid-September, the field has remained the same. Then and now, only two candidates — Hawkins and Dario Hunter — have received the national party’s recognition, which is required to be nominated.
This recognition process requires candidates to ‘meet certain minimum criteria for running a serious campaign,’ such as signature and donation thresholds, as well as a candidate questionnaire and approval from the Presidential Campaign Support Committee.
In a small, decentralized party like the Greens, these requirements can be insurmountable hurdles for candidates who lack resources and connections.
Some of these candidates now allege that party leaders are trying to rig the primary to hand Hawkins the nomination. Hawkins is one of the party’s co-founders and overtly counts many of its officials, such as Mattera, as past or present political allies.
On October 16, five candidates — Dennis Lambert, Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry, David Rolde, Ian Schlakman and Chad Wilson — released a joint letter calling on party officials to reform the primary process.
The authors did so in response to the party’s purported announcement that on November 4, all unrecognized candidates would be removed from the running list available on its website. (At the time of writing, their names are still on there.) They also called for the rescinding of Hawkins’s Green recognition because he campaigned for (and has now received) the Socialist party’s nomination, in a possible violation of GPUS rules.
Just 16 signatures shy of the 100 required, candidate Schlakman declared on October 18 that he would be boycotting the national party over its ‘fundamentally unfair and biased’ primary.
‘If nothing changes, Hawkins will be the nominee,’ Schlakman told me.
Schlakman doesn’t think Hawkins has a mandate from the party’s members. ‘He is being pushed very hard by an anti-democratic minority in the party,’ he said. ‘Their objective is to push Hawkins, no matter what, using party infrastructure, even when the primary is in full swing.’
Chad Wilson, another candidate, wrote to me to document how the Hawkins cabal ‘use their influence to shame and bully others for speaking out.’ Schlakman said ‘anyone who complains about the process is being labeled as someone’s who’s literally against the party.’
Their intimidation seems not only procedural but also personal. On his campaign’s blog, recently retitled ‘Howie Hawkins Watch’, Schlakman posted an email he received from Kevin Zeese, a Hawkins spokesman. In the email, Zeese insulted Schlakman’s ‘terrible’ and ‘failed’ campaigns as a Green candidate, saying ‘Why are you even running?’
Claiming it was a personal appeal, Zeese rejected Schlakman’s interpretation of the private letter. ‘Friends should tell their friends the hard truths that they may not want to face,’ he wrote me to discuss their past affiliation through the Baltimore City Green party.
But now, Zeese takes a hard stance against his former friend: ‘Ian’s views are not worthy of being covered because they are false, misleading and inaccurate.’
Andrea Mérida, Hawkins’s campaign manager, Schlakman claims, is also a chief conspirator. She served in that role and as a national party co-chair concurrently. Schlakman says she only stepped down from the party’s steering committee when her term elapsed.
In a typed statement, Mérida disputed that while her tenure in these roles overlapped, there was never a conflict of interest. ‘I was not in a position to force any decisions in the committee that oversees the primary process,’ she wrote me. She also dismissed the allegations of rigging: ‘The criteria for recognition are quite low, and any serious campaign should be able to meet them.’
Schlakman is more than skeptical. ‘If Tom Perez took the debate stage and said, “I’m the DNC chair, and I’m also Joe Biden’s campaign manager,” people would boo him off of it. There’d be a national outcry,’ he said.
‘But, here we are with the Green party, and people are like, “Let’s not jump to conclusions.” Well, we should be past jumping to conclusions. There’s a conspiracy. But I don’t think most Greens have a clear understanding of how rigged this primary process is.’