Less than a week before the primary election, there is a growing divide in the Green Party over who should represent the Greens in the U.S. Senate race. A political newcomer -- Ed McGaa -- won the support of Green Party delegates at their convention earlier this year, but he has since said several things that conflict with the Green party's platform. Some relatively well known Greens are now distancing themselves from McGaa and getting behind his primary challenger, Ray Tricomo.
Ed McGaa describes himself as a popular candidate. The combat veteran, who grew up on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, has entertained audiences at every debate in which he's taken part.
On gun control, for example, McGaa says people who want assault weapons should join the Marines. He's also proposed a constitutional amendment that would mandate the Senate be comprised of one man and one woman from every state.
More than anything, Ray Tricomo, who is challenging McGaa in the Green Party primary, has taken offense to McGaa's frequent talk about his status as a veteran.
"I do have very real concerns with this constant, with due respect and brotherly love, but this constant emphasis on the military issues, the military record," Tricomo said during a debate on MPR's Midday program. "I think we need to -- in the words of that wonderful African American gospel number -- we need to study war no more."
McGaa defended his military service and said despite his experience, he is the type of peace candidate, the Greens should be backing.
"I will never be ashamed of being in the United States military, in the United States Marine Corps. And the veterans, there's a huge veteran vote out there and if you're going to be a senator, you're going to have to appeal to that vote. I am the only candidate, the only Senate candidate, that strongly disagrees, when you see in the papers where they list you, I strongly disagree against that Iraqi war," McGaa said.
Military service aside, many Green Party activists are concerned about comments McGaa has made on other subjects. He's repeatedly suggested opening up more motor use in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for World War II veterans and handicapped people.
He has also indicated nuclear power should remain part of the mix of energy options, and he's signaled support for allowing the president to expedite trade agreements without Congressional approval.
McGaa has clarified some statements that have drawn criticism, still a growing number of Greens are distancing themselves from McGaa's campaign and supporting Tricomo.
Earlier this week the party's endorsed gubernatorial candidate, Ken Pentel said he could no longer support McGaa. Pentel's announcement came the same day the Star Tribune published a report about McGaa's involvement in a plan to dispose of solid waste ash in South Dakota.
Previously the Duluth Green Party, announced its support for Tricomo and Tricomo's campaign Web site includes a list of notable Greens who are supporting him -- not McGaa.
"This is a very unique situation for the Greens and for the Senate race," says Green Party chairman Cam Gordon, who calls the McGaa situation "difficult."
Gordon acknowledges he shares concerns about McGaa's past statements, but Gordon is not publicly distancing himself from McGaa. Still, in a departure from typical behavior of party chairs, Gordon is not urging Greens to back the endorsed candidate.
"Ever since the endorsement and when people started expressing concerns about this, some people were turning to the chair or the executive committee or the coordinating committee; our position is the next opportunity we have to hear from our members and our voters is in the primary," according to Gordon.
Gordon says he expects next week's primary contest between McGaa and Tricomo to be very close.
Complicating the McGaa-Tricomo race, is another movement within the Green party to back DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone. Wellstone, who is widely recognized as one of the most liberal members of the Senate, is in tight race with Republican Norm Coleman; so tight, in fact, that some Greens worry even the loss of a small number of voters to a Green candidate, could tilt the general election in Coleman's favor.More from MPR