In next week’s New York gubernatorial election, it’s the small-party candidates bringing some of the biggest ideas to the table.
Democratic incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo and Republican challenger Marc Molinaro might draw as much as 95 percent of the vote. They represent the established policies and politics of governance in New York. But the other three candidates may represent the policies and politics of tomorrow.
Green Party standard-bearer Howie Hawkins is an outsider whose ideas already have shaped the mainstream politics of the future. Hawkins, 65, of Syracuse, is running his third straight race for this office, but he’s been politically active for 40 years. He’s been preaching a “Green New Deal” that starts by using the transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 as a jobs engine. To start, Hawkins wants universal health care, vastly increased public housing built at mixed-income levels, fully funded college and a “true” $15 minimum wage.
“I’m the last progressive standing in this race,” Hawkins said during a visit to Newsday’s editorial board.
Hawkins and the Greens have fought for the same things for eons, but they sound more mainstream each cycle. In 2010, Hawkins eclipsed the 50,000-vote threshold that gave the Greens an automatic line on state ballots. In 2014, amid fears of global warming, the Greens’ staunch opposition to hydrofracking increased environmental consciousness and helped Hawkins get 184,000 votes.
This year, who knows?
Hawkins’ Green traditionalism stands in contrast to Libertarian Larry Sharpe in some ways. Sharpe, 50, of Astoria, is making his first run for office. While he says he believes in traditional libertarian values like legalization of drugs and gambling and small government, they are not the priorities he wants to talk about.
Sharpe wants to improve health care through free-market methods like requiring complete price transparency, and allowing more providers to enter the marketplace. He wants to give Medicaid recipients their benefits on debit cards they could use to shop for providers. The providers would then be willing to treat such patients and be incentivized to do it well. He doesn’t want to privatize the Metropolitan Transportation Authority today, but he does demand money-raising innovations like selling naming rights for bridges, tunnels and stations, or vastly increasing off-hours freight shipping. Sharpe wants all property tax increases put up for public referendums, and he wants to stop demanding that providers of simple services be licensed.
The Libertarians have never achieved automatic ballot status. Sharpe, who has raised $450,000 for this race, says 50,000 votes is no problem. His stated goal is to come in second.
And then there’s Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, 48, the former chair of the state Democratic Party running on the newest line, Serve America Movement. SAM is a fledgling national attempt by former Democrats and Republicans to seek a moderate and inclusive politics, not revolutionary policies.
Miner, SAM’s first candidate, says her campaign starts with ethics reform. She wants to end a system in which politicians are beholden to huge corporate contributors. She is passionate about shifting economic development money to infrastructure projects championed by the people, and away from big real estate donors. If she parlays her name recognition into 50,000 votes, SAM could be up and running.
There’s not much suspense about which politicians will top the tally on Tuesday. But to find out which ideas will win, we might need to wait a decade or two . . . and pay attention to the smaller parties with the bigger plans.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.