Sunday, March 28, 2004

Green Party advocate Peter Camejo said yesterday that voters have no choice without a strong third party and urged a crowd gathered in the District to support Ralph Nader’s bid for the presidency.

“This may be the last time he ever runs for office, and he wants to use his power and is willing to sacrifice his name to give voters a choice,” Mr. Camejo said.

In a forum at the University of the District of Columbia, sponsored in part by the International Socialist Organization, Mr. Camejo told a group of about 50 people — mostly Green Party members — that the agonizing of Democrats over Mr. Nader’s candidacy was tantamount to denying the people the right to vote.

“Ralph Nader ran in 2000 fighting for everybody in this country at every level,” said Mr. Camejo, 64. “And now these Democrats all come out and tell Ralph not to run, which means the citizens of America shouldn’t stand up for their rights. Well, let the voters make that decision.”

The speaking engagement is part of a tour supporting the Avocado Education Project, a group formed by several Green Party members to educate Americans about multiparty political systems.

The event also included short talks from local Greens and a speech from Jesse Hagopian of the Washington Teachers Union.

“People really wish that they didn’t have to hold their nose and vote for Kerry, that’s the sentiment that is out there,” Mr. Hagopian said. “And we can see that once the Democrats have the support of the left, they don’t have to do anything for them. That’s why we aren’t hearing any promises from them.”

Mr. Camejo pointed to the near-upset in San Francisco’s mayoral race in December as proof that the Green Party can and will be a nationwide player in the future.

“The Democratic Party split in San Francisco,” Mr. Camejo said. “And some Democratic leaders, like [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi, started noticing that the Democrats were getting buddy-buddy with the Greens … and then we came within an inch of winning the mayorship of a major city.”

In San Francisco, Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez pulled in 47 percent of the vote to City Supervisor Gavin Newsom’s 53 percent.

Democrats still complain that Mr. Nader, who is running as an independent this election, stole votes from Al Gore in 2000, costing them the election.

Mr. Nader is embarking on an effort to secure ballot spots in all states, a formidable task because of laws that make it difficult for anyone but a Democrat or Republican to be on the ballot.

The Nader campaign wants to gather the signatures of 1.5 million voters to gain ballot access in all 50 states.

There also is a movement to draft Mr. Camejo as the Green Party’s presidential candidate, although he has said he will not accept, in deference to Mr. Nader.

“For the Green Party not to help him and back his campaign would be a huge mistake,” he said.

The Green Party’s presidential candidate will be selected during a national convention in Milwaukee in late June. The party might opt to back Mr. Nader.

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