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Minnesota Green Party gathers for convention in Bemidji
The Minnesota Green Party holds its state convention in Bemidji this weekend. Party members will sort through more than 200 proposals to amend their party platform. They'll also select 28 delegates to go to the national convention later this month in Milwaukee. Perhaps the biggest issue will be selection of a presidential candidate. Some delegates still support Ralph Nader. But many don't want the party to run a candidate at all.

Bemidji, Minn. — Things were a lot simpler for the Green Party in the 2000 presidential race. Back then, Ralph Nader was the clear favorite to carry the Green Party banner. But Nader is running as an independent this year. Though Nader says he'll accept the party's endorsement, he's not seeking their nomination.

Nick Raleigh, chair of the Minnesota Greens, says the Nader camp in Minnesota is still strong. But Raleigh says there's growing support for one of the Green Party's own.

"In terms of the national delegates that have been elected so far by other state parties, it looks like our national delegate count is leaning towards an endorsement," said Raleigh. "That endorsement would most likely go to David Cobb."

David Cobb is an attorney from Texas. He was the party's choice for Texas attorney general in 2002. Cobb was expected to attend this weekend's convention. Raleigh says Cobb is the most credible candidate. He's one of only a few who are actively seeking the Green Party nomination.

It's not clear if Minnesota delegates have warmed up to Cobb. In a straw poll taken during the Green Party's precinct caucuses in March, most of those polled did not want the party to run a candidate at all this year. There's fear a Green candidate would pull votes from Democrat John Kerry and help reelect George Bush. Second place in the straw poll went to "none of the above."

Raleigh says he doesn't expect a big shift in those positions.

"As far as the none-of-the-above and no-candidate voters, I think those delegates are probably going to stay pretty firmly positioned in their original positions there," he said. "That particular camp is particularly diligent about maintaining their position that we shouldn't be running a candidate this year."

I feel like we have an unprecedented amount of power right now. There's 300,000 registered Green Party members in the United States. And that alone, when you have a country that seems so obviously split down the middle, is enough to sway a national election.
- Daniel Alvin, alternate Green Party delegate

Party officials say about 18 percent of Minnesota's 130 state delegates are undecided. Daniel Alvin, an alternate delegate from Bemidji, says he may throw his support to either Cobb or Nader, or he may decide not to support anyone.

"I think that I want to hear a lot more from the party membership this weekend, and then nationally at the end of June in Milwaukee before I make up my mind," Alvin said.

Alvin says he's optimistic about the strength of the Green Party nationally.

"I feel like we have an unprecedented amount of power right now," said Alvin. "There's 300,000 registered Green Party members in the United States and that alone, when you have a country that seems so obviously split down the middle, is enough to sway a national election."

Minnesota Greens will also take care of issue-related business this weekend. The March caucuses generated some 250 proposals to amend the party's platform. They range from opposition to a proposed coal gasification energy plant on the Iron Range, to calls for health care and election reform.

"Never have I seen that many proposals from the Green Party," said Audrey Thayer, the party's vice chair. "And it's nice to know that people are interested in those issues and feel like they have a party they can funnel it through. To me that's exciting."

The Green Party gained major party status in Minnesota when Ralph Nader got more than five percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election. Party officials admit that's unlikely this time around. But they predict the party will get stronger. They're trying to elect Green candidates into a number of city, county and school board seats across the state. There are also several Green candidates seeking legislative offices.

The party's convention in Bemidji gets underway at noon Friday and runs through 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The national convention in Milwaukee is set for June 24-27.

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