While the Republicans and Democrats have been off attending conventions, members of Maryland’s Green Party have been back home collecting signatures to put one of their own on a congressional ballot.
Their work may have paid off.
David M. Gross, an Anne Arundel County advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities, submitted more than 4,200 signatures to the Maryland State Board of Elections last week in a bid to get his name on the ballot for Maryland’s 1st District congressional election.
If the signatures are certified — 3,411 valid signatures are needed to get his name on the ballot — Green would face state Delegate Bennett Bozman, D- Worcester, and incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, in the Nov. 7 general election.
“Having three choices in this campaign will be good,” Gross said.
While some Democrats fear that Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader may take votes from their candidate in the fall, Bozman sees the opposite in a race against Gross.
“I don’t see (Gross) as a threat,” said Bozman. He said Gross may even end up hurting Gilchrest, a Republican with a relatively strong record on the environment, because the environmentalists who have been supporting Gilchrest might vote Green.
Gilchrest is in Alaska and could not be reached for comment. His campaign manager could not be reached for comment.
Gross said that while the Green Party is known for being the party that defends the environment it “does more than teach on environmental issues.” He said he would address the issues of agribusiness, suburban sprawl and the plight of family-owned and small farms.
“I will just do my best [and] hope people will hear about the Green Party candidate. I think that people will vote their conscience,” Gross said.
But Ann Beegle, the deputy director of the Maryland Democratic Party, thinks that the people will hesitate before voting for a Green Party candidate, thinking, “Wait a minute. I’m throwing a vote away and I need to reconsider that.”
Bozman feels the same way. “Whoever votes for (Gross) is wasting his vote,” he said.
But Isaac Opalinski, the campaign field manager for Nader in Maryland and the party’s petition drive coordinator, said the Green Party voter is a “thoughtful voter … who takes politics very seriously and recognizes the importance of the presidency. He can’t be subjected to fear tactics” that a vote for Nader is a wasted vote or a vote for Republican nominee George W. Bush.
Opalinski said that in the 1st district race “we’re going to have to draw away a lot of votes from Gilchrest if we’re going to win this election.”
“Gilchrest is stronger [than Bozman] on environmental isssues and small business,” he said. “But not as strong as we would like to. … That’s why we’re running.”
Gross said he is not targeting Democratic or Republican voters in the 1st District, which includes the entire Eastern Shore, Annapolis and surrounding parts of Anne Arundel County.
“I think that there are a lot of people so disgruntled with the political system that [they] will now vote for a Green Party candidate,” Gross said.
Both men acknowledge they have their work cut out for them. Gross is not even on the ballot yet — Opalinski said 20 percent of petition signatures are usually invalidated by the elections board. That could put Gross below the 3,411 signatures he needs.
“The ballot access situation is extremely difficult,” said Gross, who has worked for months to help his party collect the 10,000 signatures it needs to be recognized as an official party in the state.
But for Opalinski Gross’s campaign will help put the Green Party on Maryland’s political map.
“We’ll do everything possible to win this election,” he said. “[But] it will be difficult because the Democratic party is so entrenched in this state.”