I am delighted to hear that Greens are already coming forward to run in the 2010 legislative elections, so here's a tip for anyone thinking of joining the candidates club.
Running for office as a Green requires registering as a Green voter. If you're already a registered Green, no problem. But if you're registered as a Democrat or Unenrolled, now is the time to switch.
Switching to Green is a two-step process. Stage one is easy. All you have to do is go to your city or town hall and let the election officials know that you want to change your party affiliation. Stage two is a little more complicated because it involves a choice; you have to let the election officials know which of the two Green designations you're opting for.
Yes, there are two Green designations in Massachusetts: the Green-Rainbow Party (GRP) and the Green Party USA. When I defected from the Democratic party I opted for the latter, mainly because if you run for office under the Green Party USA designation you get the letter G after your name. In contrast, the GRP designation enjoys (if that's the right word) the letter J.
One of these days I plan to run for office again, and I would like to make things as easy as possible for the voters. I'll be reaching out beyond the core of registered Greens to people who have traditionally voted Democratic, voters who are used to seeing the letter D after their chosen candidate's name because (at the risk of laboring an obvious point) D is the first letter of the word Democratic. It would be a reasonable assumption on their part that the Green candidate's name will be accompanied by the first letter of the word Green, i.e. G.
Persuading large numbers of traditionally Democratic voters to vote Green will present challenges aplenty before the voters enter the polling booth, so I don't want anything -- and I mean anything -- putting them off at the very last moment. For those wavering voters who won't decide how they will vote until they are actually holding the pen over the ballot I would like to remove as many deterrents to voting Green as possible, including the cognitive dissonance that could set in at the sight of the word Green followed by the letter J.
For me, then, there are advantages to registering as a G. On the other hand, registering as a J makes you part of the GRP, a political party with almost 7,000 registered voters (compared with the Green Party USA's tally of roughly 1,000 Massachusetts voters) an infrastructure and a respectable electoral track record. For example, in 2006 the GRP's nominee for Secretary of the Commonwealth, Dr. Jill Stein, won more than 350,000 votes and the GRP nominee for Treasurer, James O'Keefe, did nearly as well with about 320,000.
Winning over a quarter-million votes in Massachusetts was a significant achievement and I think it's safe to say that in 2010 the GRP will do even better if it contests any of the statewide offices. So for Massachusetts voters on the lookout for an organized, on-the-ground Green presence the GRP is the only game in town. Another reason for registering J as opposed to G is the ability to participate fully in the GRP. For historic reasons, full voting membership in the GRP is not open to people who, like me, are registered G.
My advice in a nutshell: If you're completely and utterly hung up on the silliness of the J issue or simply cannot bring yourself to join a party with the word "rainbow" in its name, register G. Otherwise, tell your voting officials that you would like to affiliate with the GRP. Either way, now is the time to turn Green. If you look in the mirror and see a Green join the party.