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Laura Wells, Green Party cheerful despite electoral defeat

on November 2, 2010

The buzz surrounding the race for the office of California this year focused almost entirely on Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, the front-runners throughout. As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, Brown, the career politician, was leading billionaire candidate Meg Whitman by a 4 percent margin with 21.8 percent of precincts reporting.

But the Green Party’s Laura Wells was one of four other candidates who took a stab at the seat. Wells is a longtime Oakland resident, with a background in both citizen activism and business. On election night, she gathered with other local Greens to close out the election season at La Estrellita Café and Bar in East Oakland.

A Detroit native who moved to California 30 years ago, Wells ran with a heavy focus on education, energy and health care. She also is a dedicated opponent of Proposition 13, which was passed in 1978 and put heavy limitations on property tax in California. Wells stands with the Green Party on all major issues, including support for gay rights, same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, and changes in immigration policy.

On Election Day, Wells thought she might miss her final opportunity to campaign. Wells was arrested on October 12 at a gubernatorial debate at Dominican University, and her arraignment was scheduled on the spot for November 2. The debate was solely between front-runners Whitman and Brown, as the only candidates polling above 10 percent, but Wells showed up outside to protest her exclusion. After she was given a non-transferable ticket she tried to use, confusion ensued and Wells was arrested (read the full story here).

Last night though, Wells got news that Marin County has decided not to proceed with the charges for now. This was the first time she had heard from the county, she said, since the day she was arrested. Inflamed by the incident, Wells is now considering bringing her own suit against the county, a move that illustrates the Greens growing frustration with being marginalized by the Democratic and Republican Parties.

“The big issue here is the narrowing down that’s happening everywhere,” said Wells, sitting at a table in La Estrellita wearing a green sweater festooned with a leaf-shaped (not cannabis) brooch. She went on to talk about the isolation of being a third-party candidate, and the difficulty Greens face garnering media attention. “The biggest thing this experience has made me realize is that if someone said, ‘Laura, would you rather have the $150 million Meg Whitman spent on this campaign, or the free press that she’s gotten,’ I’d take the free press,” said Wells. “I’d take the free press just so people could learn more about what the Green Party is.” (The actual reported total that Whitman spent was $160 million—$140 million of which was reported to be her own personal funds).

Fellow party members and candidates Peter Allen and Don Macleay, who both attended the festivities at La Estrellita, echoed this sentiment. Allen, a veteran attorney who ran under the Green banner for California Attorney General (at 11 p.m., Republican Steve Cooley was leading Democrat Kamala Harris by 7 percent with 21.8 percent of precincts reporting), expressed similar frustrations. “As a third party candidate, it’s hard to get any exposure,” he said. “Once people finally meet me and hear my positions, they like me, but they also wish they’d known about me earlier.”

“My biggest complaint is the news services,” said Macleay, who ran for mayor of Oakland.  This election is still undecided, with Don Perata leading, but Macleay acknowledged that he doesn’t have much of a chance. “The press is the real thing that dictates these outcomes,” he said.  “They starve us for light and water and then they say, ‘these are the front-runners.’”

Still, the atmosphere at La Estrellita was a festive one, with Greens applauding the potential failure of Proposition 23, sipping beers and making hopeful plans for the future. Orlando Johnson, Don Macleay’s campaign manager, was enthusiastic about the experience he and Macleay had breaking racial boundaries in Oakland throughout their campaign. “I think it was a great experience,” said Johnson. “I learned that we can help end racism, and all without taking corporate money. Don and I will definitely be working together in the future.”

Wells also said she intends to keep the momentum from this campaign. “I’m not a short term kind of person,” she said. “I like to fix something so it doesn’t happen again. Having this end and letting it wither and die doesn’t sit well with me.” But before she goes back to work for the Greens, Wells has more pressing plans: a cruise to Mexico with her fiancé on Saturday. “I’m going to eat,” she said. “Eat and dance.”

Image: Green Party gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells attends post-election festivities with other Greens at La Estrellita Cafe and Bar in East Oakland. 

Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.

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  1. bob on November 3, 2010 at 12:49 am

    I mean, honestly, this is news? You have an enterprising young journalist who thinks this is worth her time? What happened to shoe leather, ink stains, and aggressive questioning of *the powerful.* This is a fluff piece for the terminally marginalized.

  2. […] the rest of Karmah Elmusa’s story at Oakland North.Get the latest on Oakland election coverage, including profiles of mayoral […]

  3. RFM on November 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve supported Peace and Freedom/Green Party candidates ever since I was first eligible to vote back in ’88 (the year P&F Party endorsed New Alliance candidate Lenora B. Fulani). I’ve worked on two Nader/Laduke campaigns and countless underpaid and underfunded social/political causes. I sat on the floor of Pete Wilson’s office to protest military aid to El Salvador until U.S. Marshalls dragged me out.

    This election year I stayed home, just like I did 2 years ago. Why? Because I saw the writing on the wall, as Obama pandered to the DotCom babies. It was the end of good, old-fashioned public dissent. Instead of filling the streets to demand justice, we filled stadiums to cheer the status quo. Instead of shutting down the Bay Bridge (like we did in 1991) to protest TWO wars based on greed, lies and naked, imperialist aggresion, we blog and tweet about Hope and Change to all of our (invisible) Facebook friends.

    So, now we’ve reached the point where arresting third party candidates is no big deal. The only comment I see regarding this article is from someone who apparently thinks that we, the “terminally marginalized” are so pathetic, that losing our most basic human rights is well deserved and not even worth mentioning. He is not alone.

    As I write, millions of outraged Europeans are protesting over banks stealing their pensions, destroying their economies and forcing them from their homes. In France, the entire goddamn country has erupted because the government wanted to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. Thousands have been arrested and many have endured tear gas, billy clubs, rubber bullets and all for what? Solidarity? Justice? Pathetic indeed.

    As for me, I can’t afford to live in Europe. And since all the anarchists have gone to Burning Man (or maybe they’re just biding their time in the woods somewhere?), I’ll be heading back to Latin America. At least people down south know they’re living in a police state.

    So are you ready? Wait for it… just another 24 months… 4 MORE YEARS! 4 MORE YEARS!

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