Green Party gains political foothold

By Se Young Lee

The Green Party has gained a political stronghold in Urbana-Champaign, an important step in its efforts to increase its presence and establish itself as a major force in Illinois politics.

The Prairie Green Party of East Central Illinois will appoint more than 20 Precinct Committeepersons at the Champaign County Clerk’s Office at 9 a.m. today, signaling a political legitimacy in the Champaign County Districts that cover all of the University campus and most of Urbana and Champaign. The appointments became entitled to the party when its 2004 County Board Candidates in Districts 7, 8 and 9 gained more than 5 percent of the votes – qualifications to become an established party according to state laws.

Its newly gained standing greatly reduces the burden of ballot access requirements for Green Party members and gives them the right to a primary.

Susan Rodgers, who earned 19 percent of the votes cast in the 2004 County Board election in District 7, said the Green Party committeemen would run the party’s activities in their respective precincts to raise its political visibility and maintain and increase party support.

“They’re going to do literature drops and go about organizing campaigns in those areas,” Rodgers said.

Deb Griest, treasurer of the Champaign County Republicans, said the Green Party’s increased presence in the County Precinct Committee is its legal prerogative based on the state’s election laws.

“I consider (the appointments) a part of a process,” she said. “It has the potential to more fully develop the issues and bring more issues forward for the voters to consider.”

Danielle Chynoweth, the Champaign County Democratic Party’s representative for District 8, said she does not think the party’s increased political presence will affect the Democrats activities in the district.

“I don’t have the same kind of fear, in the local level, that some people have about the Green Party at the national level,” she said. “I think that, in Urbana, we have been able to build strategic coalitions to elect candidates who will serve our values.

“I worked with some Republicans to elect Laurel Prussing (in the Urbana Mayoral Democratic Primary),” said Chynoweth, who was endorsed by the Green Party when she ran for the 2001 Urbana Elections as a candidate for the 4th Ward’s Alderperson on the Urbana City Council.

Rodgers said the Green Party now has a base to build political support.

“It brings more strength for the local party and furthers the progressive movement in Urbana,” she said.

Rodgers said the party will get to use the established political standings as a springboard for greater political efficacy.

“In the next county board election, we’ll get people on the ballot (in other districts) and see if we can get committeemen for those districts and grow the Green Party until we become an established party in Champaign County and Illinois.”