Western Massachusetts has been a relative stronghold for the Green-Rainbow Party -- the state affiliate of the national Green Party.
Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire counties had the highest proportion of its voters in the state cast ballots for Jill Stein in the 2016 presidential election. Hampden County wasn’t far behind.
And this year, all three Greens running for statewide office are from western Massachusetts.
Jamie Guerin remembers the moment she decided to throw her hat in the ring as the Green-Rainbow Party’s candidate for Massachusetts treasurer.
“I was cooking dinner for my children, and Jill Stein called me, and said, ‘We have to stand up, you know, as scary as it seems, we just have to stand up,’” Guerin said. “And at that moment, I said, ‘Yeah, I have to.’”
Guerin is a single mom from Northampton. She said the Green-Rainbow Party’s core value of putting people’s interests above corporate interests encourages ordinary citizens like her to run for office.
“We’re a people-powered party, decentralized and local, from the bottom up,” she said. “We’re the only major party in Massachusetts right now who refuses corporate donations, donations from corporate lobbyists and Super PACS.”
Getting corporate interests out of government is also behind Guerin’s main goal if elected as treasurer: establishing a state bank like North Dakota has.
“Right now, we’re paying millions of dollars to Wall Street banks when we borrow for infrastructure projects,” she said. “We can eliminate all of that, and build a state public bank with the intention of not profiting for private interest, but to invest in the common good, and invest in our communities as its goal.”
Northampton is also home to another Green-Rainbow candidate.
Edward Stamas is running for state auditor. He’s a former public school teacher and longtime Green Party activist, but like Guerin, it’s his first time running for elected office.
Stamas believes there is a strong appetite for a third-party candidate to serve as auditor.
“It doesn’t really make sense to have someone from one of the major parties in an oversight position,” he said.
Stamas said that’s because they are likely to use their position to play political games when deciding how and which state agencies to audit.
“I would look at each of the state systems -- for example, housing, health care, education, transportation as a whole, and ask, is each of those systems meeting the needs of the people of Massachusetts?” he said.
Juan Sanchez of Holyoke is the party’s candidate for secretary of state. He identifies as Puerto Rican, gay and from a low-income background, and said he’s an advocate for underserved communities.
“There are communities that aren’t being heard, that aren’t being advocated for,” he said.
Sanchez believes the Green-Rainbow party’s emphasis on racial and economic justice resonates with diverse populations.
“Once we start talking more about our social justice platform of our key values, you start seeing those people who feel like they have been disenfranchised or left out, such as the Puerto Rican community or other low-income communities or minorities, also want to get involved in the Green-Rainbow Party,” he said.
Sanchez works for a local nonprofit and ran unsuccessfully as a Green-Rainbow candidate for Holyoke City Council last year. The secretary of state is the chief elections officer in Massachusetts and if elected, Sanchez said his main priority is to run a statewide multilingual voter education campaign.
“Nobody’s made that effort to teach our community how these electoral systems work,” he said.
With the election just around the corner, Guerin, Stamas and Sanchez have had to be strategic about how to spend their time, and limited funds, campaigning.
“It’s very hard because we’re excluded from debates, we don’t have millions of dollars in our campaign accounts to put up huge billboard ads. It’s basically getting out there on the street and talking to people,” Guerin said.
And Stamas acknowledges that running a statewide campaign from Western Massachusetts is an added challenge.
“Eighty percent of the population of Massachusetts is in the greater Boston area, so obviously as a statewide candidate, I want to connect with those voters. And I live out here, so that has been one difficulty,” he said.
Guerin, Stamas and Sanchez are realistic about their slim chances of winning. They say a victory would be getting at least three percent of the state’s vote. That would give the Green-Rainbows status as a major party in Massachusetts, and make it easier for them to run candidates in future elections, including the presidential.
But Sanchez said they have a larger goal in running.
“It’s important to let people know that they do have other options,” he said. “There are other parties who are fighting for your needs who may even be going a lot farther than the two major parties are.”
Take a look at the NEPR Massachusetts General Election Voter Guide 2018.