The New Party went 3-for-3 in ballot initiatives and won 14 of 25 races
on general election day, showing that it is possible to run campaigns that
are progressive and populist.
New Party Scores on Election Day
In Little Rock, the New Party helped defeat a "jail tax," a permanent
sales tax increase to expand the county jail. NP elected city director,
Paul Kelly, got off the best line of the campaign: "Fighting crime
by building more jails is like fighting cancer by building more cemeteries."
Kelly and state Rep Michael Booker, also NP, argued that drug prevention
and treatment, not the construction of more jail cells, was the proper way
to fight crime. The coalition against the jail tax was by far the most multi-racial
effort in recent city political memory.
In Minneapolis, both of Progressive Minnesota/NP's charter amendment campaigns
won impressive victories. The "Stadium" initiative, a straight
anti-corporate effort aimed at preventing public funds from being used to
subsidize construction of a new stadium, won 70 percent of the vote. The
measure prevents the city from spending more than $10 million on sports
facilities without a public vote. Billionaire Carl Pohlad has threatened
to move the Twins baseball team out of Minnesota if he does not get a new
A second charter amendment, to bring the police department under the jurisdiction
of the city's Civil Rights Ordinance, was approved with 65 percent of the
vote. Both efforts won support from minority and white working-class voters.
Organizationally, the campaigns were a huge boost as well. More than 100
new members joined Progressive Minnesota/NP this summer, and hundreds of
volunteers did phone banking, lit drops, door-knocking, and visibility events.
Also, nine of 14 Progressive Minnesota-backed candidates won municipal seats
in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The toughest loss was in Missoula, Mont., where real estate and road-paving
interests spent $50,000 on what for Missoula was an enormous tv, radio and
print advertising buy against the NP. "We countered with a first-rate
field campaign, hitting the doors as hard as we could. We were outspent
by at least 10-1," New Party spokesman Adam Glickman said. NP incumbents
Craig Sweet and Linda Tracy both lost, Tracy by merely 14 votes. But NP
member "Landslide" Dave Harmon won his race by 15 votes. That
keeps four NP members and two friendly progressives on the 12-member council.
In Long Island, three of six NP-backed candidates won, as Roger Corbin and
Lisanne Altman were both re-elected to the Nassau County Legislature, and
May Newberger re-elected as Town Supervisor in North Hempstead.
In Boston, NP member Frank Jones failed in his long-shot bid for an at-large
seat on the city council (no incumbent has lost a seat in more than 2 years!).
However, Jones was the top vote-getter in 40 percent of Boston precincts
-- primarily African-American and working-class districts. And in the Dorchester
and Mattapan precincts the New Party worked, he was not only the first place
finisher but beat the next candidate by a 2-1 margin. Jones is in good position
to run for a district council seat if, as expected, the current incumbent
runs in a special election for a state legislative seat next Spring.
And in Houston, NP-backed candidate Larry Marshall made it into a run-off
for a school board seat next month despite being vastly outspent by the
incumbent. "Marshall has a lot of ground to cover in the next month,
and we wish Progressive Houston/NP well in its first electoral push,"
Couch wins elections again
VOTING IN THE 1997 general elections was down again, according to
Robert Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy. Turnout in the Virginia
governor's race was 48 percent of registered voters -- down from 67 percent
and 61 percent in the state's previous two gubernatorial elections. "And
that doesn't even count eligible voters who never registered," Richie
wrote. "Turnout among eligible adult Virginians was an abysmal 34 percent."
Virginians' turnout at least was better than Broward County, Florida, where
only 7 percent of registered voters made their way to the polls. Detroit's
mayoral primary turnout was 17 percent of registered voters. Charlotte's
primary drew 6 percent. General election turnout was under 40 percent of
registered voters in Miami and New York City and under 30 percent in Boston
and San Francisco. And of course 25 percent of eligible voters typically
"There weren't many legislative elections in 1997, which is probably
just as well. Hardly any legislative races -- truly, on the order of fewer
than one in twenty -- were competitive," Richie wrote. The rest were
In New York City, for example, only one of 51 city council races was won
by less than 10 percent. Democrats won 45 seats, and every winning Democrat
won at least 60 percent of the vote. In New Jersey's lower house, no incumbent
was defeated. In Virginia, while all 100 House seats were up for election,
only a small number were seriously contested and two seats changed hands.
In South Carolina, where five black incumbents were challenged in a special
election following a court-ordered redistricting, two of the five were defeated
by white challengers, even though they had the advantages of incumbency
and were in districts that had many black voters -- 44 percent and 47 percent,
respectively. "But as followers of winner-take-all mathematics know,
51 percent is the magic number for winning elections in single-member districts,
and not too many white voters apparently supported the incumbents."
Richie advocates proportional representation, which allows minorities to
elect candidates in multi-member districts.
USDA Poised with
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT of Agriculture is preparing to publish 600 pages
of long-awaited rules on national organic food standards by late-November,
the newsletter Food Bytes reported, citing informed sources in Washington.
Following official publication in the Federal Register, the public
will have 90 days to send in their comments and criticisms on the standards.
Comments will be accepted via email, fax, or regular mail. At the close
of the comment period the USDA will publish a revised, final version of
the rules for final Congressional approval, with likely implementation of
these regulations by the summer of 1998. The USDA has announced that it
will be posting the full text of the proposed organic standards on the Internet
Under heavy pressure from factory farm and biotechnology interests, the
USDA reportedly intends to weaken current organic standards, which are presently
upheld and enforced by 40 private and state organic certification boards.
The most controversial proposed regulations to be put forth in November
by the USDA will include: (1) allowing genetically engineered foods and
crops to be eventually considered on a case-by-case basis as an allowable
"synthetic" and thus be labeled as "organic"; (2) allowing
inhumane, intensive confinement of farm animals, and not explicitly prohibiting
factory farm-style operations; (3) precluding "private label"
and state organic certification programs from upholding and enforcing stricter
organic standards than those required by the USDA.
Finally the USDA plans, according to government sources, to work with the
Congress and the Clinton administration to amend the 1990 Organic Foods
Production Act so as to weaken or eliminate the present "veto power"
of the National Organic Standards Board, an official advisory group, over
what can be considered as an allowable "synthetic." The 14-member
NOSB currently supports relatively strict organic standards, at least in
comparison to what the USDA advocates, including a recommended prohibition
on considering genetically engineered foods and crops as an allowable "synthetic."
Since June, when the USDA handed over its proposed rules to the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB), controversy over organic food standards has
been steadily building. A campaign called "SOS" (Save Organic
Standards), is designed to build up a nationwide network of activist-inclined
consumers, farmers, progressive retailers, community-oriented restaurants,
and food professionals. Contact the Pure Food Campaign, 860 Hwy. 61 East,
Little Marais MN 55614; telephone 218- 226-4155; email firstname.lastname@example.org
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