By Patrick Lovett
Boston University Statehouse Program
This article was originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Three Pioneer Valley residents are running for statewide office as candidates of the Green-Rainbow Party, advocates for the state’s underrepresented who say they are underrepresented themselves.
The Green-Rainbow Party is a grassroots organization committed to environmentalism, social justice, and anti-violence. It’s considered a third-party alternative to voting Republican or Democrat, and the movement has taken root in western Massachusetts.
Juan Sanchez, candidate for Secretary of the Commonwealth, is a lifelong Holyoke resident while Jamie Guerin, who is running for state Treasurer, and Edward ‘Jed’ Stamas, a candidate for state Auditor, live in Northampton.
“The area has always been a little more progressive than others in Massachusetts,” said Gretchen Clarke, party director of communications. “It’s not surprising, because there are some serious challenges having to do with inequality and a diverse population.”
The Green-Rainbow Party is the state’s affiliate of the national Green Party. It gained its current name in 2003 after the Massachusetts Rainbow Coalition merged with the Greens. Today, it is technically a political designation — a non-major party voting base — since the party’s 2016 presidential candidate Jill Stein failed to gain at least 3 percent of the vote in Massachusetts.
Several Rainbow-Coalition candidates ran for state office in the past — most notably, Stein ran for Massachusetts governor in 2010, as did Grace Ross in 2006. Both collected less than 2 percent of the vote. Heading into the Nov. 6 election, it’s hard to measure the popularity of the party since voter registration statistics only measure major parties.
“We’re getting a lot more publicity than we used to,” Stamas said. “Before, we mostly just got local attention, but now more people are taking notice.”
Stamas started getting involved with the party in the early 1990s and he has watched it develop ever since. This is the first time he has run for elected office, challenging Democrat Suzanne Bump, Republican Helen Brady, and Libertarian Dan Fishman.
“We have a presence all over the state,” Stamas said. “Voters should be aware of all their choices …We’re the next generation of activists, and a little younger than candidates in the party usually are.”
Despite more publicity, Green-Rainbow candidates say they are not given the same opportunities and platforms as major party candidates, especially in debates. In the race for Treasurer, Green-Rainbow candidate Guerin said she was excluded from a WGBH debate between Democrat Deb Goldberg and Republican state Rep. Keiko Orrall.
“They said they did it because we didn’t have enough funding or campaign infrastructure,” Clarke said.
“It’s just a really big injustice to the voters and you go to vote and there is a name there they don’t recognize,” Guerin added. “They should know who they are and what they stand for.”
Guerin’s platform primarily centers on creating a state bank and reinvesting in Massachusetts communities.
Sanchez said he had a similar experience in his race for Secretary of the Commonwealth when he was excluded from a debate in October between Democratic incumbent William Galvin and Republican Anthony Amore.
“I didn’t even know there was a debate until the morning of,” Sanchez said. “They said they didn’t inform me because their internal poll showed that we had less than 5 percent of the vote and we hadn’t raised enough funds.”
Sanchez has gained some recognition as the first Puerto Rican candidate on the ballot. He said he is running a campaign largely focused on voter education, hoping to institute bilingual instruction and making it easier to register.
“How can you gain more votes and money if you aren’t included in the debates?” he asked.
Guerin said this kind of treatment aligns with the party’s mission, and where many of the candidates are from.
“A lot of what we stand for is representing people and groups that are underrepresented,” she said. “There is life outside of Boston and we are trying to make an effort to make connections.”
Sanchez said he expects that one of the party candidates will gain over 3 percent of the vote this election, officially making Green-Rainbow a major party.
“It would be an important message,” Sanchez said. “It would show we are growing and that we should be taken seriously.”