CARBONDALE — Attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney was elected Illinois Green Party chairman Saturday at a statewide meeting for the party.
With about eight officeholders across the state from the party – primarily non-partisan local boards – Whitney of Carbondale is optimistic about the party’s future in Illinois and the nation, he said.
“There are always concerns, but some things are going very well. We just in the last election cycle despite very difficult challenges with ballot access as we always have, we still managed to get two congressional candidates who got (more than) 5 percent of the vote,” he said.
One of those candidates was Carbondale emergency room nurse Paula Bradshaw who went up against Republican Jason Plummer and Democrat William Enyart in the last election for the Illinois 12th Congressional District, a race Enyart won.
Bradshaw, whose candidacy was delayed by a challenge to her nomination that was eventually withdrawn, captured 6 percent of more than 298,000 votes cast. The Shawnee Green Party candidate needed 6,000 signatures just to secure a place on the ballot.
“Some things are going well, but you can’t be satisfied with where we are. There is so much we have to do because what we are trying to do is extraordinary,” Whitney said.
“Breaking up the two-party stranglehold on our political system, where’s the formula for it? It hasn’t been done since the Repub-lican Party before the Civil War,” he added.
Though some local offices – libraries, schools and cities, for instance – are not always partisan races, the experience from the campaign grind or an actual but rare win only helps to develop the party further, said Jessica Bradshaw, who is running for Carbon-dale City Council for a second time.
Jessica Bradshaw, who is Whitney’s and Paula Bradshaw’s daughter, maintains being endorsed by the party in a non-partisan race will also bring more attention to it.
The learning experience from her previous run for council in 2011 also has given her campaign greater insight into developing new strategies, she said.
“Last time I tried to knock on every door,” she said, adding this run will be more focused on identifying registered voters.
Voters are also becoming disenfranchised by the traditional parties, whether because of gridlock, the influence of money on elections or party principles no longer aligned with constituent values, said LeAlan Jones.
A federal court recently ruled in Jones’ favor to reduce the number of required signatures needed to allow him on the April 9 special election ballot to fill Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former House seat. He believes the traditional parties are becoming more and more vulnerable, the Green Party candidate said. His previous run for U.S. Senate has also helped advance knowledge about the party.
“The only thing a lot of people ask now is, ‘How can they help?’ It’s not a question of what is the Green Party. The question is what do you plan to do?” he said.
About 25 members attended the state party meeting, scheduled in part to establish new bylaws and elect officers. Whitney said it is not unusual for turnout to be low for such meetings and that greater interest comes when candidate slates are being set.