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Greens Pick Pennsylvanian for VP

Jill Stein (left) and Cheri Honkala speak at a Q&A session in D.C. July 11.

Green VP candidate Cheri Honkala calls Pennsylvania home, but that won’t be enough for the Green Party to get on the ballot. With state law requiring roughly 10 times the number of petition signatures, Honkala and Green presidential candidate Jill Stein are facing an uphill battle.

Honkala, an anti-poverty activist, in known mostly by the work she’s done through an organization she founded in 1991, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. Greens have praised her for having “taken over abandoned buildings and churches, built tent cities and demonstrated before public officials, in order to provide basic dignity to the homeless, especially homeless families.”

Prez candidate Stein of Boston is the first Green Party candidate to qualify for federal matching funds, and hopes to show that the party of Nader is gaining footing across the country without accepting corporate donations.

The Green Party is already on the ballot in 21 states, and expects to land at least 24 more.

But despite this unprecedented strength, there are still hoops to jump through if the pair want to see their names on the ballot – especially in PA.

PA state law favors Democrats and Republicans. Third parties are required to collect an amount of signatures equal to 2 percent of the total number of votes gathered by the highest vote-winner in the district the previous year.

For the presidential race, “district” means the whole state, and the amount needed is 2 percent of the vote David Wecht received in his 2011 run for state Superior Court – in other words, 20,600 votes.

To protect themselves from a court challenge, the Greens will likely gather twice as many signatures as necessary in order to provide them with a safe overhead, should some votes get thrown out. It is expected the party will aim for around 40,000 signatures.

By contrast, Obama and Romney need only 2,000 signatures each.

Court challenges are a common move, especially since they can prevent a potential rival from gaining ground early on. This saves time and money, and keeps voters’ attention on the two majors parties.

Traditionally, Green candidates have been more of a threat to the Democratic Party, because they siphon voters who would otherwise have been in the Dems’ corner. Stein and Honkala could scoop up liberal voters frustrated with Obama, but who disagree too strongly with Romney to see him as an alternative.

Romney would have faced similar troubles should the Tea Party have chosen to run a candidate.

The last time the Green Party made major headway was in 2000. The Dems accused them of diverting critical votes from candidate Al Gore, despite the fact that they had no chance of winning the White House.

But the Greens are not deterred. Pa Green Party Chair Carl Romanelli of Luzerne said that he is proud of Stein and Honkala, and believes they will put forth a competitive agenda and attract voters.

“Equally, we are pleased to see Pennsylvania continuing to play an important role in Green politics in the U.S.,” Romanelli said, adding that national meetings have been held in Philadelphia and Reading over the past decade.

“Now we have a Pennsylvanian on the national ticket. This is remarkable considering the bullying we have been subjected to by the old parties here.”

Stein said she plans on organizing her candidacy around a “Green New Deal,” focused on an Economic Bill of Rights (that includes single-payer health care and free college tuition), as well as development of renewable energy sources and the repeal of the Patriot Act. Stein has also said she would eliminate corporate personhood and legalize marijuana.

She maintains that this agenda is easily funded through savings from for-profit health insurance, redirecting war funds and ending corporate welfare.

In a funny twist, with VP Joe Biden – who was born in Scranton – and a Stein-Honkala ticket possible, two Pennsylvanians could be on the ballot this fall. And although the rumors of Rick Santorum as Romney’s VP pick are few and far between, such a move would ensure that the Keystone State is represented in the White House – no matter what.

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