This article contains interviews with Maryland's U.S. Senate candidate Kevin B. Zeese and leaders in the three parties that nominated him. Zeese elaborates on a procedure that has eluded virtually every other political candidate and party in the last several decades, the joining of similar, but divergent political parties. The interview with Mr. Zeese regarding the formation of the formidable and seemingly impossible feat of uniting three parties begins with:
Zeese --I appreciate Stephen Gordon, Press Secretary for Libertarian Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik mentioning my campaign. He has been following it closely and we worked together in the aftermath of the 2004 campaign as I was his counterpart in the Nader Campaign. We are creating a "Unity For Change" campaign in Maryland uniting the Libertarian, Populist and Green Parties in Maryland to support my campaign and have received the nomination of each party. I also have people on my campaign committee from the Republican and Democratic Parties as well as independents. I'm pleased you recognize the challenge involved in bringing these diverse groups together -- I'm actually amazed the mainstream media does not see the interesting thing we're doing in this campaign (yet). Not only are there challenges within the parties -- many of whose members want to only support candidates from their party and can't understand how we can work with "them." But there are also legal problems -- both by-laws of political parties and state laws. So, it is a challenge.
How is it that you have not received a 4th party nomination
from the Reform Party?
Zeese --They do not have a party in Maryland. So, there is no one to endorse me!
Question: Could you explain the process you used to gain acceptance by these groups?
Zeese --I went after all three simultaneously. They all had their own schedule regarding nomination so the schedule was set by that more than by me. Libertarians were very supportive of many of my views on the drug war (where I've been recognized as a national leader for almost 30 years), on the antiwar issue (where I direct a national antiwar group) and on democracy (where I lead TrueVoteMD and was a cofounder of VoteTrustUSA). And, my association with Ralph Nader gave me credibility regarding corporate welfare, good governance and corruption.
They disagreed with me on issues like single payer health care -- but I explained how that approach actually increases freedom by giving patients rather than insurance companies control over which doctor or what type of health care they wanted, helped business by removing a very expensive and uncontrollable expenditure, stopped corporate welfare with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries as well as tax breaks for businesses.
There was a discussion of this on a libertarian site -- Hammer of Truth. The Populists were the easiest -- as they put Nader on the ballot in Maryland thus they are very supportive of me. The Greens were the most difficult, but going to the meetings of their locals and answering their questions convinced them of my support for their views as well. There is a lot of common ground between these parties on major issues and they all recognize the importance of challenging the two party system and that this can be done more effectively from a larger and stronger base.
Question: Your statement about being amazed at corporate media coverage really surprised me, as you do not seem naive and certainly had seen the lack of corporate press response to both Badnarik and Nader?
Zeese --That was probably the wrong wording -- disappointed is more accurate. One of the goals of uniting the parties is to show the media and voters the breadth of support for my views. I exchanged emails with the Baltimore Sun's top political reporter today and he indicates that I may still get a story about it.
Question: One would expect the state laws to be formidable, as in general the elitist parties in power have done all they can to suppress all new parties, let alone a co-op of them. Would you share your insights?
Zeese --In fact, in the last weekend of the legislative session, the Democrat controlled legislature passed a law to block me from having three parties nominate me -- they required that candidates be registered with the party that nominates them. We may be going to court over this. And, they did it as emergency legislation -- no signature by governor required and immediately takes effect -- emergency legislation is supposed to be used to protect the health and safety of Marylanders? -- I guess protecting the health and safety of Democrat politicians is what really counts.
Interviewer's note: SB 129 information: David Nitkin on state politics, editor of the Baltimore Sun, who recites a --legislative analyst review with no mention of fusion parties, only the political elitist's version of it being a reform measure from 2003. Neither Nitkin, nor the legislative analyst make mention of emergency legislation, but Nitkin does quote the review's relevance. Was this really rushed through to prevent Zeese from running a fusion candidacy? Going directly to the bill itself, it's an emergency bill with a basket of issues for cover and no mention of fusion parties either in the description, or a readily discernable reading of the basket of issues. So here we have an emergency bill supposedly based on court ordered reform for voting rights from a 2003 case. Seems very ironic that emergency legislation was needed to put three year old court reform into law, when there was an election in 2004 and there was no need for the reform law then. Even more ironic that the Democrat senate had time for SB 129, but not enough time for SB 713, which would have implemented voter verified paper ballot legislation, also known in the house as HB 244 which passed 137-0.
Ballot Access News reported: --Maryland: on March 31,the legislature passed SB 129 on an emergency basis. Since it is an emergency bill, it does not need gubernatorial approval, and it takes effect immediately. It implements the 2003 court victory Maryland Green Party v Bd. of Elections, that eliminated nominee petitions for minor parties. It also removes a law that had seemed to legalize fusion in federal elections, although that law was murky and the State Election Board did not acknowledge that it had that effect. Now that is analysis on state politics, Mr. Nitkin, and Ballot Access does all the states, not just Maryland. There must have been grins and giggles all over the senate floor when they showed those Greens what happens when you dare push for voting reform. With an arrogance and gall worthy of our president, the Democratic senate took a favorable Green Party/citizen voting reform tort and twisted it to prevent unity of the parties from being seen on the ballot.
Question: Blind allegiance to the individual party by part of the membership and some of the leadership seems to be one of the main problems with a 3rd party's coalition. Your thoughts on the subject?
Zeese --But it can be solved -- we need candidates that understand the parties -- can balance the interests of each and highlight their areas of agreement.And, more and more people in the new parties are recognizing that dividing ourselves ensures we will be conquered. So, some are pragmatic. Many really want to mount a challenge to the two old parties and know their party cannot do it alone. They also recognize the broad areas where we are united -- ending the Iraq War, preventing a war in Iran, reevaluating U.S. funding of Israel, ending corporate welfare, restoring civil liberties and a constitutional balance in government as well as between the government and the people, ending the failed war on drugs, and a whole host of reforms to make our democracy more vibrant. That is a lot to build on. Plus, more and more people recognize that where we disagree we can actually learn from each other and enrich out views.
One advantage I had was a long history -- a history that Libertarians appreciate because I have challenged the drug war for nearly three decades. Also, I have a history of coalition building within movements -- bringing organizations that are sometimes rivals (even though they agree on policy) together. In addition, the Green Party and Libertarian
Party in Maryland have worked together in non-candidate ways on ballot access and election law cases over the year.
Question: With your past activism in politics, you are aware of the voting irregularities present in 2004 regarding electronic voting. However, you may not be aware that they still exist, at least in Iowa, on 06-07-06, election reporting had to be stopped so that a hand count could be performed. The hand count was significantly different than the electronic count. How sure are you that votes cast will actually be counted correctly in your state?
Zeese --I've been working for transparent voting -- paper trail with our computerized voting machines -- for three years. We founded TrueVoteMD.org to work on that and developed a political base of several thousand active Marylanders. A year ago or so I was a cofounder of a national group working on the same issues -- VoteTrustUSA.org. So, this is a major issue in my political life. Interestingly, Maryland is one of two states (Georgia the other) that will be voting entirely paperless in 2006. And, the group that stopped voter verified paper ballots was the Democrats in the Senate especially Sen. Mike Miller the President of the Senate (the longest serving senate president in the US -- he even has the senate office building named after him while he is still in office!) and Sen. Paula Hollinger, the Chair of the committee responsible (she is running for the U.S. Congress seat being vacated by my likely opponent in the Senate race, Ben Cardin). We're still fighting for it - but the legislative session is over now so it won't be this year. Those of us in independent politics agree when the Democrats say the Republicans steal elections and the Republicans say the Democrats steal elections -- they're both right! That's why we need transparent elections that can be verified before the eyes of candidates, parties and voters.
Interviewer's note: Maryland governor no longer has confidence in a fair and accurate election in 2006 based on the current machines, and other problems with the 2006 election. After researching the facts, this reporter finds that the governor's statement is not nearly as political as it is factual and truthful. This move by Maryland's Democrat machine seems to surpass even Louisiana's well know corruption and highlights the desperately needed unity of the new parties so as to allay the "he said, she said" deceptions of truth in the old party of elitists.
Question: While it is early in the campaign, through your years of political activism and the unity of political parties, you may be assembling the largest 3rd party political base for a state candidate in the history of Maryland. What would you like to tell your supporters?
Zeese --For a unity campaign to be successful, those who fund political parties and third party candidates need to get behind the candidate -- funding is the key. One of the hopes of bringing multiple parties together would be that each of the funding bases would get involved in the effort by supporting our campaign.
Question: You being one of the very few candidates to accomplish this extraordinary task, what advice/suggestion can you make to the national parties?
--We can't make it easy for them to divide and conquer us by dividing
and conquering ourselves.
Mr. Douglas E. McNeil, current member of the Baltimore Libertarian Party Executive Board, Director of Marylanders for Democracy, a nonpartisan fair ballot access organization, a senior member and election law advisor of the Zeese campaign committee, gives his views on the unity process from the Libertarian Party perspective.
Question: Mr. McNeil, this is a fairly unique occurrence in our present political climate and I am interested in your insights into how this happened within your party?
McNeil --What we did -- or rather what Kevin did -- seems to be unprecedented. As far as I can tell, no one has ever been nominated by both the Libertarian and Green Parties, anywhere in the country. Richard Winger, the Editor of Ballot Access News, told me that he knew of no other case where this had happened. It's an impressive testimony to Kevin's considerable political ability.
The Zeese campaign began at a joint meeting on May 12, 2005 between Libertarians, Greens, and Populists to explore the possibility of a Unity campaign. Kevin is a cofounder of the Maryland Populist Party and is well known among Greens, but he felt that it was impossible to win without Libertarian support.
he made his pitch, and it turned out that he's a very libertarian guy.
My main concern was two "deal breaker issues"-- if he were a socialist
or in favor of gun control, then no Libertarian could possibly support
him. But he convinced me that he's not a socialist and never had been,
and he's a strong supporter of the Constitution, including the Second
Amendment's right to keep and bear arms.
McNeil --There was a lot of opposition to him within the party, but on the other hand he kept convincing one respected party leader after another to back his effort. (E.g. three-time MLP chair Steve Boone, two-time MLP chair Lorenzo Gaztanaga, Baltimore LP chair Jack Mitcham, etc., etc.)
The opposition within the party was for various reasons. Some blindly opposed him because of his association with the Greens, and we have a lot of reports that many Greens are equally suspicious of his working with Libertarians and his position on gun rights. Others more reasonably felt that although individual Libs could support him we shouldn't nominate him, because we need to establish a distinctive "brand name" in the political marketplace, and nominating someone who's a member of another party muddies up our distinctive identity. Others wondered how the party would benefit from nominating him. Still others opposed him because he supports single-payer health insurance, which is undoubtedly the biggest disagreement we have with him -- we agree with almost everything else that he's running on. (I strongly disagree with Kevin's position on that issue myself, but support him anyway.)
Kevin was able to pull this off because he's focusing on the major issues that all the small parties agree on -- get us out of Iraq, end the drug war, repeal the Patriot Act, end corporate welfare, etc.
Question: As a key figure in the Zeese campaign, currently, what would you say is the greatest strength of the campaign? And the greatest weakness?
McNeil --We knew that this would be an uphill fight all the way. The campaign's greatest strength is the rapidly growing number of active volunteers. People are signing up to work for the campaign in droves, so we're scrambling around the state trying to organize them all into effective groups. Having more volunteers than we can easily deal with is the kind of problem that we like to have.
Mr. Tim Willard, recently elected co-chair of the Green Party of Maryland, relates the Green Party perspective of the Unity Campaign.
Question: Mr. Willard, this is a fairly unique occurrence in our present political climate and I am interested in your insights into how this happened within your party?
Willard --It was not very difficult for us to support Kevin. He is a registered Green and is running on the Green Party line (thanks to the Maryland legislature preventing him from running on all three lines.)
Question: Did you encounter any resistance from your party membership?
--There was some skepticism about a unity campaign initially. However
Kevin has run a great campaign and has won over people to the benefits
of a unity campaign. The issues where all three parties agree; the war
in Iraq, the war on drugs, NAFTA, etc., are so important that a unified
campaign makes a more powerful statement about our opposition.
The only lingering skepticism about a unity campaign concerned some of the Libertarian Party positions with which the Green Party strongly disagrees, but I think that most of these people were won over by the end.
Question: To your knowledge did any of the other parties or their membership discourage your participation in the unity alliance?
Willard --There was no attempt at all that I know of to influence our decision by the other parties. The Green Party initiated a caucus/primary process this year to choose state wide candidates which gave every registered Green the opportunity to vote on the decision, so it would have been difficult for the other parties to have any influence on the decision. We are pleased with the outcome.
Chris Driscoll, Chairman, of the Populist Party of Maryland relates the Populist Party workings toward unity.
Question: Mr. Driscoll, this is a fairly unique occurrence in our present political climate and I am interested in your insights into how this happened within your party?
--Maryland Populists initiated discussions about running one or more 'coalition'
candidates in 2005, first talking to the Libertarians and later to the
Greens. With the War in Iraq taking center stage, with civil liberties,
even our democracy being threatened by the Patriot Act and corporate dominance
in American politics, we felt it was time to start looking for all possible
allies in the electoral arena. Democrats and Republicans in Congress brought
us the war and the attacks on liberty and democracy. It's only reasonable
to turn to a coalition of third parties to build a credible opposition.
So from the get go, our membership was onboard and ready to sail with a coalition candidate. Kevin Zeese, having been Ralph Nader's press secretary in 2004, and therefore having already supported a similar third-party coalition effort, was one of the key initiators of the idea from the beginning. He was also already a member of all three parties. He was one of the founders of the Populist Party. He had worked for years with the Libertarians through his drug policy efforts, and he is a registered Green. He also is the Director of Democracy Rising, a leading antiwar group founded by Ralph Nader and has for years been a leader in the movement to defend civil liberties. In a word, Zeese was a 'natural' as the first coalition candidate in Maryland. His campaign is a model I hope we can build upon throughout the country.
Question: Did you encounter any resistance to unity from your membership or from the other the other parties membership?
Driscoll --The vote for Zeese in the Populist Party of Maryland was unanimous, and I don't remember ever hearing any opposition to the idea. Being the new kid on the third party block, the Populist Party is still pretty small, and so we have a chance to have thoroughly democratic discussions before voting on anything. In that sense, we craft our policies together and everybody gets a chance to participate, to object if they don't agree and to put their personal stamp on the New Populism we are forging. I believe there is still a minority of opposition to the supporting the Zeese unity campaign in the Green and Libertarian parties, but I would rather let leading Greens and Libertarians explain that.
With Congressman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) the likely Democratic Party candidate and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steel the likely Republican candidate, Kevin Zeese will be the only antiwar, anti-Patriot Act candidate in the race. Yet close to 2/3rds of Marylanders favor bringing our troops home. Those voters deserve at least one candidate who is on their side. That's Kevin Zeese!
There has been a tremendous amount of work and efforts to bring this campaign to fruition with years of past activism in multiple areas through many organizations. The corporations and corporate media will not feed the hand that bites them. With 53% of adults wanting a new major 3rd party, 50% of eligible voters disenchanted with current elections and not voting, and the strongest unified new party, the citizens of Maryland have a rare chance at regaining a true election process with actual significant differences in those being elected for their state and even the nation. But, they must support this new party for it to work. Hopefully, they will support it to the degree their rights and liberties are worth.
"With earnest prayers to all my friends to cherish mutual good will, to promote harmony and conciliation, and above all things to let the love of our country soar above all minor passions , I tender you the assurance of my affectionate esteem and respect." Thomas Jefferson
Independent writer/Media Liaison
Coordinator, LA Branch of Indiana Civil Rights Council.
Founder U-STEPUP USA and Divisions.
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