Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein stopped in Austin Monday night to ask a crowd of about 400 to eschew the two-party system and introduce voters to down-ticket Texas Greens who she said would transform local politics if elected.
“It’s time to stop supporting the lesser evil of Democrat or Republican,” said Stein to a cheering crowd who stood for much of her address, “and start fighting for the greater good like our lives depend on it, because they do.”
Jill Stein, a physician who first topped the Green Party ticket in 2012, has been running an environmentally focused campaign, the cornerstone of which she calls a “Green New Deal.” She said her proposal would create 20 million jobs in clean energy and sustainable agriculture and simultaneously address climate change and unemployment.
Stein also called for reparations for Indigenous and Black Americans, abolition of student debt, a universal Medicare system, and a new Middle East foreign policy she referred to as a “peace offensive.”
Currently polling nationally at 2 to 3 percent, Stein urged supporters to “invest” their vote in her campaign despite low support. If 5 percent of voters go Green nationally, the party would receive federal funding in 2020, greatly increasing its ability to build campaign infrastructure.
On Monday, Stein acknowledged that her critics consider her campaign and her environmental goals unrealistic, but she rebuffed them by citing the work of climate scientist James Hansen, who has argued for full “decarbonization” within 14 years to avoid climate catastrophe.
“I’m the only candidate promising to zero out fossil fuels by 2030,” Stein told the crowd. “Some question whether it’s a realistic goal, but, look, what other option do we have?”
After Ralph Nader’s run for president in 2000, the Green Party has been accused of playing the role of spoiler by taking votes from Democrats and handing elections to Republicans. Stein told the crowd on Monday that she rejects such logic, arguing that Clinton and Trump are both disastrous outcomes — whether through climate change or nuclear war.
When asked whether Stein supporters could hand the state to Trump, Texas Green Party Secretary Katija Gruene told the Observer, “that’s not how voting works; a vote for Stein is not a vote for Trump.”
Gruene also argued that voters should “invest” in other Green Party candidates, emphasizing that at least one statewide candidate must win 5 percent of the vote in Texas for the party to gain automatic ballot access in the next general election.
The party is running dozens of candidates in Texas, but only a handful are competing in statewide races. If it doesn’t meet that 5 percent threshold, the party will need to spend up to $300,000 to get on the ballot again, Gruene said.
On Monday, Green Party candidates for a handful of different Travis County and state and federal offices joined Stein in addressing the audience about their campaigns.
Ashely “Flashe” Gordon, who’s running for Travis County Commissioner, told the Observer she’s running because most candidates aren’t “of the community” and don’t understand what it’s like to depend on county services. Gordon also said one of the biggest obstacles to Green Party success is a “media blackout” that keeps voters ignorant.
“I go door to door and people say, ‘Oh, are you running? Ok, I’m voting for you,’” Gordon told the Observer. “If my opponent wins, it’ll be because people didn’t know that I exist.”
The event concluded Stein’s Texas tour as she turns her attention to Wednesday’s presidential debate. Stein will livestream her responses on her Facebook page.