Last Thursday, Presidential candidate Jill Stein came to Middletown. The Wesleyan College Greens, a student group dedicated to Green Party politics, arranged for her to give a talk at the First Church of Christ on Court Street.
Ross Levin ’15 founded the campus chapter of College Greens this past fall. Since then, the group has brought several speakers to campus, including the Green Party candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia Cheri Honkala, the Green Party 2004 presidential candidate David Cobb, and most recently Stein. According to Levin, Stein is most likely to become the Green Party’s official presidential candidate, but the Party still faces challenges to getting her name on the ballot.
“It’s also the start of a state-wide ballot access drive,” Levin noted. “The Jill Stein event will be the formal launch of the petition drive.”
According to Levin, Democrats and Republicans are usually guaranteed placement on the ballot in most states, but third parties are required to obtain signatures to get on the ballot. Because of this, the Green Party must go from state to state gathering support and signatures to get on the ballot.
Levin noted that Pennsylvania requires a large number of signatures to get candidates on the ballot and that the number of signatures required varies by state.
“[Pennsylvania is] one extreme,” he said. “Connecticut falls kind of in the middle but more toward Pennsylvania than towards the freer states.”
This year, the party needs to collect a minimum of 7,500 signatures in Connecticut. According to Levin, they have set a goal of 12,000 signatures. College Greens members plan to go around campus and Middletown, collecting signatures for their ballot access drive.
“We’re going to be doing this ballot access drive, [so] I am sure you’ll see us around campus collecting signatures to get Jill Stein on the ballot,” Levin said. “There’s also this state Senate candidate that we’ll be helping. So I think what we’re also going to try to do is use those two campaigns, for a lack of a better word, to build the College Greens as an interminable presence.”
He also noted that the goal of College Greens is different from the goals of other political student groups on campus.
“If you’re going to compare us to Wesleyan Democrats, our focus is different,” Levin said. “It’s more like raising awareness that the Green Party is a viable option, rather than this kind of ‘helping out the machine’ that the Wesleyan Democrats do.”
Although the group will be working with specific political candidates, College Greens member Dan Goldman ’12 and Levin both stressed that the goal of the group is to spread awareness and education about alternative political parties.
“Knowing that there is an alternative is a really powerful thing,” Goldman said.
Jill Stein ran for governor in Massachusetts in 2002 and 2010 and other state government positions in the past several years. Her talk on Thursday focused on her “Green New Deal,” which addresses global warming and financial crises. Her talk also addressed the Green Party’s views on legalizing marijuana, ending the war, eliminating student debt, and helping the economy.
“I think these are issues which a lot of people on this campus would agree with,” College Greens member Jeremy Keim-Shenk ’12 noted.
After the talk, she held a question-and-answer session where many students and Middletown residents inquired further about her policies and asked about the controversial third party “spoiling” of the vote. Afterwards, she went around the Usdan University Center and spoke to students.
“I would just say that this is your ballpark,” Stein said when asked what her message to students is. “This is your challenge, and this is your opportunity to create the kind of world that you really need. It’s falling apart right now on your shoulders, and this campaign is a chance to create an alternative that really is about you. It’s of, by, and for you and the future.”
With about 65 people in attendance, Levin and Keim-Shenk were slightly disappointed with the student turnout.
“Overall, I would say I think it was fairly successful,” Keim-Shenk said. “We were maybe hoping for a few more students, but given that it wasn’t on campus and given that it was snowing, it was all right.”
Levin also noted that he hopes that this event and the College Greens’ general presence on campus will involve younger people in the Green Party.
“One of the reasons I have felt so good about investing so much energy in this event is that it’s a way to promote activism on campus,” Levin said. “My hope is that people will be brought into the fold of civic engagement.”
The event was held at the First Church of Christ in Middletown, in part to broaden its scope, according to Levin.
“We also wanted to make this more of a Middletown-wide event and Connecticut-wide event, rather than just Wesleyan,” Levin stated.
Levin and the College Greens have been working closely with Middletown resident Vittorio (Vic) Lancia, a local Green Party supporter. Lancia has been involved in Green Party efforts in Middletown for about ten years, according to Levin.
“I’m hoping this [event] is something to get things cooking in Middletown and to kick off Jill Stein’s campaign and also the energy of the students,” Lancia said. “I’ve been able to connect with the students because there’s nothing going on [in Middletown], so I have got to go where the action is [on campus]. And I really like their idea of bridging the gap between Wesleyan and Middletown.”
College Greens plan to continue bringing speakers to campus and Middletown. According to Levin, they hope to eventually bring the Green Party’s 2000 Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader. They will also continue to work on the ballot access drive, and, according to Goldman, possibly sponsor a screening of “An Unreasonable Man,” a documentary about Ralph Nader.