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Minneapolis activist Ken Pentel has announced his candidicacy for governor as a member of the Green Party. The Green Party became one of four major political parties in the state when Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader garnered over five percent of the vote in 2000. Pentel says the major themes of his campaign will be improving the state's environment, its election system and help poor people.
Pentel made his announcement on the Capitol lawn, where his campaign handed out bright orange soap boxes with his name, party and the slogan "refreshingly clean politics."
Pentel says if elected governor, his brand of "clean politics" will include a state holiday for the November election and reforms to the state's election process. He says the Green Party may be the state's youngest political party but its policies on the environment, health care and social issues will appeal to voters looking for an alternative to more established parties.
"Once you see the Green Party positions, it basically reveals the phoniness of the existing political discussion within the three parties in the state, the Democrats, Republicans and the Independence Party," he said.
Pentel also says he'd like to end the state's five-year time limit for welfare recipients and provide Minnesotans with universal health insurance. He wasn't specific on where he'd find the money for the progams. He said he would create and fund these programs after he's elected and examines the budget.
Pentel also said his plan to deal with the state's nearly projected $1.4 billion deficit over the next two years would include increases to the state's income tax. He would also like to impose a luxury tax on boats, furs and expensive cars.
"Who can afford to pay and who can't and right now we're seeing economic extremes grow since 1998. Somebody basically makes $300,000 a year plus has had their income tax reduced about $2,500. So we've seen a different kind of shift here and I'm not a big fan of it," he said.
"It would have a major impact on the DFLers. The DFLer would have to worry about the left wing falling off to the Green Party candidate."
- Bill Morris, political analyst
Pentel said he'd like to see the state shift its reliance on property and sales taxes to put the state's lower income residents on better financial footing.
Since Ralph Nader received over five percent of the vote in the 2000 election, the Green Party candidate for governor will receive public subsidies for the election. Four other Green Party members are running for governor. They are Nick Raleigh, Richard Klatte, Stephen Adams and Ray Tricomo. Klatte is the only candidate who says he will not abide by the party endorsement and challenge the endorsee in a primary.
Pentel was the Green Party candidate for governor in 1998 and received point three percent of the vote.
Augsburg political science professor Bill Morris says the Green Party could tap into the DFL's traditional political base. Morris says a four-way race could make it difficult for a DFLer to win in the general election.
"It would have a major impact on the DFLers. Not only would Jesse crowding him among the younger voters and among working-class voters, which was his strength the last time and seems to still be there to some extent, but the DFLer would have to worry about the left wing falling off to the Green Party candidate," Morris said.
DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson says he's not worried about Pentel or other Green Party candidates. He says the party's beliefs and issues will help draw voters to DFL politicians.
"My concern is not having more political parties on the ballot, I think that's a healthy thing. My concern is that Democratic candidates for office have an opportunity to get their message out and to be heard on the issues. If we have campaigns on the issues, regardless of what the topic is I think we'll do very well this fall," Erlandson said.
Pentel and other Green Party members say they hope their major party status will allow them into more debates. Green Party candidates protested a gubernatorial debate in Minneapolis after they were not invited. The Green Party political convention is May 18 in St. Cloud.More from MPR