Green Party Candidate Finds He's a Rpublican Pawn

By Sam Howe Verhovek
Published August 8th 2001
Young S. Han, who graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School in suburban Seattle two months ago and was a volunteer for Ralph Nader last fall, describes himself this way: "I'm just an idealistic guy out there that wants to make some changes."

So early last month, just as he was flirting with the idea of running as a Green Party candidate for the Legislature, the 18-year-old Mr. Han was flattered to get an e-mail note from a man named Stan Shore encouraging him to go for it.

Mr. Shore showed up several days later to help organize a "legislative district convention" at which Mr. Han's name was put in nomination. Mr. Shore paid for the hotel room where it was held. He brought doughnuts for the two dozen delegates.

And several days after that, Mr. Shore returned to take Mr. Han out to lunch at Red Robin, a local hamburger chain, and persuade him to take the final step of filing his declaration papers with the state. Mr. Shore wrote out a campaign donation for $250.

"He seemed really decent," the teenager recalled. "He said he was this guy who wanted to help take down the establishment."

But whatever passion Mr. Shore may have exhibited for the Green Party, he is in fact a longtime campaign consultant for Washington Republicans. And here, in a part of the country where the Green Party has the proven ability to siphon votes from Democrats in close races, Mr. Shore, who never identified himself as a Republican consultant to Mr. Han, now says that is exactly what he hopes will happen. Gary Settle for The New York Times Young S. Han, a Green Party candidate, returned a $250 campaign donation to a Republican who he said only wanted to hurt Democrats.

"This is like the friendship treaty between Russia and China," Mr. Shore said today of his role in helping the Greens. "There are some commonalities of interest here."

Mr. Shore's role in the state legislative race, and that of his wife in a similar situation in a county race in Seattle, are at the center of a growing political fracas featuring accusations by the Green Party that Republicans have been infiltrating their ranks and cries of shame and foul by Democrats.

In Mr. Han's case, the seat he seeks in the Seattle suburbs in a special election next month is hugely important to both major parties: with the state House split, 49 to 49, control of the chamber is at stake. There are two Democrats vying in a Sept. 18 primary to face Joe Marine, a Republican. If Mr. Marine, who was appointed to the seat last year after the incumbent stepped down, loses, the Democrats will be in the majority.

The Greens and the Democrats have accused the Republicans of hypocrisy for aiding Mr. Han and another Green candidate in the Seattle county race, Michael Jepson, 21, who had no prior involvement with the party.

The Republican state chairman, Chris Vance, disavowed any advance knowledge of Mr. Shore's tactics, but said today that he had no reason to condemn them.

"I feel like that character in `Casablanca' who says he's shocked to discover gambling going on," Mr. Vance said in a telephone interview. "What a surprise! Politics is involved in politics. Getting the right mixture of candidates on the ballot is a tactic that goes back to the first parliamentary elections in England. It is a standard tactic."

That assertion drew outrage from Democrats.

"Business as usual? I'm frankly shocked by how matter-of-fact they are about it," said Jim Kainber, the executive director of the Washington Democratic Party. "It's not appropriate. It's not ethical."

To which Mr. Vance replied: "Oh, please! They're not shocked by it at all. I believe the Democrats have on occasion gone out and made sure Libertarians were on the ballot in the belief that that would harm Republican candidates."

However common the recruiting tactic, and whatever its propriety, the incident has embittered Mr. Han, though it has not driven him out of the race or led him to heed entreaties that he endorse a Democrat.

He has delayed his plans to enter Whittier College in the fall, planning instead to wage a vigorous campaign and clinging to what he admits is probably the quixotic hope that he can parlay the controversy into victory this fall.

Whatever happens, he said he has learned a hard lesson.

"Look, I know politics is very messy," Mr. Han said in an interview today. "But to use people as pawns in this absurd political game, I think it's appalling that that goes on. It's an affront to democracy. It's been an emotional bombshell for me."

Mr. Han favors an instant runoff voting system that would eliminate the sort of anxiety that many supporters of Ralph Nader, the Green presidential candidate last year, felt when they wondered whether their votes could tip the election to George W. Bush. Under that runoff system, used in some European countries, voters select their candidates in order of preference.

But there is at least one thing Mr. Han feels better about: he returned the $250 to Mr. Shore, whose company is based in Olympia, the state capital. Taking the contribution, which amounted to half Mr. Han's total fund-raising, never felt quite right to begin with, he said. He added that he favored public financing of all campaigns.

"I have deep values; I'd never sell out for anything," Mr. Han said. "But still, I didn't feel comfortable taking that much money. I mean, if someone gives you that much and then they call you up, you've got to listen to them. I'm just a human being. Of course you'd have a tendency to want to reciprocate toward them."