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Oakland Tribune


Green candidate plays down strong level of support
By Josh Richman
November 07, 2002

Green gubernatorial candidate Peter Miguel Camejo of Walnut Creek made a historic showing in Tuesday's election, capturing 5.3 percent of the vote. Those 345,777 votes are a milestone -- the 1998 Green gubernatorial candidate, former Democratic Rep. Dan Hamburg, got just 104,117 votes, or 1.3 percent -- but not a guarantee of future success, he acknowledged Wednesday.

"There's no question we have made some important headway here ... but we also had the wind at our back because of the unpopularity of both major-party candidates," Camejo said.

"There were one-time advantages we had this time that won't be there the next time around."

Bob Stern, president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, agreed: "I don't think this means the Green Party will be building on it -- I think they'll be very lucky in four years to do as well.

"This is an amazing showing, but on the other hand, the reason for the showing is people just didn't want to vote for Gray Davis," Stern said. "People (voting for Camejo) felt they weren't wasting their vote because they assumed Davis would win. If people had known there would be only a five-point difference (between Davis and Republican Bill Simon), there would've been fewer votes for the Green Party candidate." Camejo said that's why Greens must strive to implement instant-runoff voting, in which voters rank candidates in order of choice. If nobody wins with a majority of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is dropped and ballots are recounted with the dropped candidate's votes counted for their second choices. This prevents "taking a vote away" from a major party candidate but lets voters choose freely.

Such a system would've vastly increased his support this year, he said: "Probably for every vote we got, there was one person who wanted to vote for us but voted for Davis to stop Simon."

Camejo said he believes progressive Democrats are willing to discuss carrying legislation for this new voting system.

Meanwhile, "the Green Party has to overcome structural difficulties," he said. "We've got to get a statewide office open with full-time staff, and we've got to increase funding. Those are issues I'm going to be working on during the next few years." Camejo's strongest support came from counties of Mendocino, where he earned 16.3 percent of the vote; San Francisco, 16 percent; Sonoma, 13.1 percent; Santa Cruz, 12.3 percent; Marin, 12.1 percent; Humboldt, 11.9 percent, and Alameda, 11.1 percent. He earned 6.3 percent in Contra Costa.


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