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Summit Greens run a low-key campaign

by JULIE SUTOR
Summit Daily/Reid WilliamsTom Castrigno, Green Party, candidate for District 2 County Commissioner
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SUMMIT COUNTY – Those weary of campaign season for its cacophony of attack ads, spin and soundbites can thank the local Green Party for not adding to the noise.The Summit Greens have been extremely low-key compared with local Republicans and Democrats. On an organizational level, the group has not registered citizens to vote, canvassed neighborhoods, recruited volunteers, distributed campaign literature or engaged in any other grassroots organizing activities leading up to the 2004 elections.The group used to meet monthly, but now shares information primarily via e-mail.”It’s a really hard thing, because right now, the national issues have sort of eclipsed Green Party politics,” said Tom Castrigno, the Green candidate for Summit Board of County Commissioners, District 2. “Based on what happened four years ago, we lost a little momentum in terms of growing the party and bringing people on board locally and nationally.”Castrigno, who is running against Democratic incumbent Bill Wallace, has raised $230 in campaign contributions compared to Wallace’s $7,660 as of mid-October.

According to Summit Greens chair Doug Malkan, Castrigno’s campaign is the sole form of Green Party election-related outreach and political power-building in the county now.”The best way to raise awareness (about the party) is to have a candidate running for office, and Tom is doing that,” Malkan said. “Different people will do the heavy lifting at different times, and Tom is doing it now, bless his heart.”Most of Castrigno’s campaigning has taken place through participation in public debates, forums and events.”This is a grassroots campaign happening by word-of-mouth, happening online. Voters will not be bombarded with advertisements and telephone calls. I’m hoping that folks will be somewhat thankful about the absence of media,” Castrigno said.”That doesn’t make the intent to win and the intent to provide leadership for Summit County any less serious,” Castrigno added.Castrigno feels he has a good shot at winning the District 2 seat, but even if he doesn’t prevail, he said the campaign will have been a valuable vehicle for airing Green Party issues and values like strong environmental protection, nonviolence, social justice and respect for diversity.

Malkan said that the lack of election activity by the Summit Greens organization doesn’t mean that people write the group off as politically insignificant. “I would characterize us as still in the starting-out phase. We’re a young political party, but we are looking to make dramatic changes to the system. When we started in 1999, we had 10 registered Greens. Now, we have 150,” Malkan said.Breckenridge Town Councilmember Jeffery Bergeron is the only Green elected official in Summit County. But his personal campaign contributions this election season have ended up in the hands of Democrats, for the most part.”I don’t have anything against the Democrats at all, especially at the national or regional level,” Bergeron said. “The reason I like the Greens is that they’re more liberal than the Democrats, and they pay the price for that. The Democrats can only go so far and still be feasible candidates.”I’m putting much of my money and my effort toward getting Kerry elected. Every time I get angry, I go onto the DNC Web site and give $50,” Bergeron added.

Fellow Breckenridge Councilmember Jim Lamb used to be a registered Green, but switched his affiliation to Democrat this year.”I wanted to throw my support behind the Democratic Party,” Lamb said. “I think there’s a viable chance of winning back the White House. Ralph Nader is a brilliant guy, and he’s gotten a lot of great things done, but he’s not electable in this country.”Malkan balks at statements like that.”Personally, I think that was a bad political decision for (Lamb to change parties). A vote for a local Green is not a vote for Bush. We’re starting from the local grassroots and working up,” Malkan said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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