A spokesman for the Illinois Green Party says an idea being floated by some top state Republicans to vote for its presidential nominee Jill Stein as a way of helping re-elect Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018 is an “insult.”
Then again, they’d welcome the votes.
The theory holds that if Stein can get 5 percent of the Illinois vote in the presidential contest on Nov. 8, the Green Party will qualify as an established political party under state election law, making it easier to put a candidate for governor on the 2018 ballot.
Republicans think a Green Party candidate for governor would mostly draw votes away from whoever is the Democratic nominee, buoying Rauner’s re-election prospects.
There’s a lot of moving parts there, and some assumptions that may or may not hold true, but it’s plausible enough to be taken semi-seriously.
The suggestion to cast a strategic vote for Stein was first floated publicly two weeks ago in a Chicago Tribune op-ed by Philip O’Connor, a former top adviser to two former Republican governors. Then former state GOP chairman Pat Brady told Sun-Times’ columnist Laura Washington he plans to do the same.
The premise is that this is a defensible tactic for voters who can’t stomach voting for either Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, but want to make their vote count for something.
Despite being the beneficiary of the strategy, Illinois Green Party volunteer coordinator Geoffrey Cubbage said the party does not wish to encourage it.
“That sort of thing is an affront to democracy,” Cubbage said, as well as “insult to the voters and an insult to us.”
Cubbage’s own advice to those voters would be “not to play those games.”
“Don’t listen to these groups. Don’t vote for the Green Party out of fear,” Cubbage said.
Still, if they must, “We’d be thrilled to have the votes and the voters,” Cubbage said.
Being legally recognized as an established party would free the Green Party from the onerous process of gathering enough signatures from registered voters to place its candidates on the ballot.
The petition passing process is both time-consuming and expensive, more so for alternative party candidates who face a higher signature requirement and then must fend off legal challenges from the major political parties.
Cubbage said the Green Party is completely capable of convincing voters to support its candidate if given a fair opportunity.
Stein has only been polling in the 2 percent to 3 percent range in Illinois, which would require her to cover considerable ground to reach that 5 percent threshold.
But O’Connor said he thinks it’s a possibility, noting she could get more support as voters conclude: “How can you bring yourself to vote for either one of these two?” Meaning Trump and Clinton.
O’Connor said he knows of no organized Republican effort on behalf of Stein. He didn’t even know about Brady until it appeared in the papers. But he said he has heard from many Republicans, including elected officials, who plan to take his suggestion.
O’Connor was political director of Gov. Jim Thompson’s 1982 campaign and chairman of Gov. Jim Edgar’s 1994 campaign and is generally regarded as one of the wise men of Illinois Republican politics.
O’Connor helped recruit members of Rauner’s cabinet and said he wants the governor re-elected to maintain “some balance in Springfield.”
Although O’Connor is a former member of the State Board of Elections, Cubbage does not share his confidence the board would interpret state law to put the Green Party on the 2018 ballot, even if Stein gets 5 percent. Cubbage is completely sure, as am I, that Democrats would mount a legal challenge.
But if Stein gets the votes, Cubbage said the party will probably go ahead and file for legal recognition.
As you might guess, re-electing Rauner is not high on my agenda, nor is voting for third-party candidates. But it’s your vote.