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Green Party of Texas hopes to create viable alternative to red, blue politics

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Jill Stein, a Green Party candidate for president, at the Green Party of Texas' convention in the Hill Country this weekend.

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David Collins walked to the front of the Hill Country cabin with a green toga draped over shirt, tie and slacks, a throwback, he said, to mankind's first republic: the Roman Senate. "The toga has great symbolic significance for me," he said, "and I've felt myself to be politically and spiritually green for a long time." Staring down at the getup, Collins laughed. "I would run for office naked if I thought the Green Party would benefit from it."

Collins, a Houston-based longshot candidate for Texas' open U.S. Senate seat, was among a smattering of candidates and activists working to dismantle the country's two-party dominated political system meeting at a small Hill Country retreat in Grey Forest Saturday and Sunday for the Green Party of Texas' convention. Far outside the clubby, insidery scenes of political officialdom on display in Houston and Fort Worth at the weekend's state Democratic and Republican conventions, Texas Greens held a quiet, low-key gathering on the outskirts of San Antonio to tap nominees and chat philosophy, politics, and revolution.

The Greens, like their Libertarian counterparts who convened this weekend in a Dallas-area hotel, have never scored statewide office and face a steep hill in virtually every race come November. For statewide races, victory at the ballot box is farfetched for Greens across Texas, which hasn't elected even a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.

But Green Party members and candidates insist heightened public outcry manifest in the Occupy movement proves there's an appetite out there for something beyond the red or blue. By fielding candidates for every race they can, particularly in local and down-ballot races, Greens say they're driving the conversation while boosting the prospects of a viable third party down the road.

Bexar County holds the distinction of having the only Green Party officeholder in the state: Enrique Valdivia, a board member with the Edwards Aquifer Authority. Hydrologist George Rice, a former EAA board member, was also a Green Party member. In 2010, local organizer and at-large member of the party's state executive committee Kat Swift pulled a full 20 percent of the vote running for the Bexar County Commissioner seat Paul Elizondo has held for decades.

"The two-party system has failed us," said Don Cook, a candidate for the Houston-area congressional district encompassing turf once controlled by Tom DeLay, the now-convicted poster-child of corporate cash-driven politics. "We'll continue to shout that as long as we need to."

Though in a constant fight for legitimacy, the Greens have also left their doors open to more frayed elements of the fringe. The weekend's convention played host to some of South Texas' more eccentric perennial candidates seeking the Green Party nod for president, like Rhett Smith, a newcomer to the Green Party who over the past decade has launched long-shot campaigns for governor, mayor, congressman, and U.S. Senator. Smith eagerly provided the Current a six-page screed/position paper railing against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which Smith calls a "de facto agent of a foreign government" with a "stranglehold on the U.S. Congress."

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