DES MOINES – As the final hours tick away before the nation’s first nominating contest of 2012, another presidential hopeful monitors what’s happening from outside the state.
Jill Stein, a doctor and Highland Park native, is watching the action from her home in Lexington, Mass. Because she’s running as a Green Party candidate, Stein won’t be in contention Tuesday night when Iowans choose from among six GOP candidates or incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.
“I’m running because we desperately need an alternative to the two parties that have failed us and betrayed us,” Stein said in a phone interview Monday.
“It’s horrible to come into this election without giving people a choice between everyday people and people at the top making out like bandits while people struggle with jobs, keeping their home and higher education.”
Richard Winger, founder of the Washington, D.C. based Coalition for Free and Open Elections, thinks Stein would do well if she was allowed to participate and he predicts she’ll be representing the Green Party on the presidential ballot in the November general election.
“It isn’t just about the ballot-access law; it’s about the rules where only the Democrats and Republicans can participate in debates,” Winger said.
Ballot access is one hurdle for Stein’s campaign in many states, including Illinois where she faces the challenge of getting herself on the March 20th ballot.
In 2006, the Green Party candidate running for governor in Illinois did well enough for the party to automatically be on the ballot for four years. But in 2010, the third party didn’t reach the required threshold so now it has to get 25,000 signatures before their candidates can appear on the 2012 ballot.
“There is no Green Party presidential primary this year,” said Phil Huckelberry, chairman of the Illinois Green Party.
It’s a huge disadvantage not being on the March primary ballot, but the bigger disadvantage is not being on the general election ballot in November, Huckelberry said.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to be on the general election ballot in Illinois,” he said.
Two years from now – in 2014 – will be the next chance for the Greens to automatically appear on the Illinois ballot.
Stein decided to run for president after she spoke at a mock election at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., in November. Over 1,000 students participated in the election.
When the vote was tallied, Stein garnered 27 percent, just five points behind Mitt Romney and 12 points behind President Barack Obama. A third-party candidate had never done so well.
Stein won’t have to fight to get on the ballot in Iowa for the fall election because, Winger said, the Hawkeye state has good election laws.
She would like to be in Iowa: “If we had the resources, I would certainly be there because it’s always worth a shot.”
Stein said she feels bad for GOP candidate Newt Gingrich, whose rankings in the polls has fallen because of negative advertising. These kind of ads distort what should be happening in Iowa, she said.
“That is the the beauty of the Iowa caucuses. It is a really grassroots endeavor.”
One challenge for the Greens in Iowa is a rule that allows anyone to show up on caucus night and participate as long as he/she registers as a Republican or Democrat.
“We’ll have people who go to the caucuses, who register and take part in the caucuses, and then register as a Green the next day,” said Holly Hart, secretary for the Iowa Green Party.
Hart said when Green members choose to do this, they’re more likely to attend a Democratic caucus, but some attend Republican ones as well.
The time is right for Americans to begin reclaiming the future they deserve and break away from the system that Stein says dominates their lives in a harmful way.
“We are in a state of emergency in a state of emergency and there are so many people out there who believe,” she said.
“The occupy movement gave us a taste of the public anguish.”