Somewhere in an office in Albany, a small bead of sweat rolled down the furrowed brow of Andrew Cuomo. He probably just brushed it aside, chalking it up to inefficient air conditioning. Howie Hawkins knows better. That small bit of perspiration was secreted just as a volunteer on the Hawkins for Governor Campaign collected the 15,000th signature to put Howie’s name on the ballot this fall. And, if Hawkins has anything to say about it, that single bead will turn into a downpour as his campaign puts the squeeze on Cuomo at the polls.
For the last three weeks, a motley crew of volunteers and campaign workers have spread out across New York State, petitions in hand, intent on placing the name Howie Hawkins — Green Party — on the ballot. Restrictive ballot access laws make this a challenge. Not only does the campaign need 15,000 signatures, 25,000 to be safe, from registered voters, these have to come from one-half of the congressional districts in the state. No easy task for an underdog third party.
But the campaign has met the mark. Every Tuesday night, the Peace Pentagon in the East Village becomes the drop off point for petitioners from throughout New York City. Veteran activists, socialists, and greens make their way up the creaky stairs, petitions in hand, ready to make their contribution.
Informal lessons on New York State geography break out as the petitioners attempt to track down the home cities of their petition signers. What county is Newburgh in? Is Bergen a village or a town? Debates ensue. Tips about good locations to collect signatures are offered. One person went to the Daily Show line. Another appears every morning at the Shakespeare in the Park line. Another prefers the compost pile in Union Square.
Why do the volunteers come? Certainly not for the ambiance of the compost pile. Most mention the economic crisis or their disillusionment with the Democratic Party. Cuomo, they say, is the candidate of Wall Street. Bought and sold, prepared to implement the severe budget cuts that have, thus far, been limited by the chaotic ending of the David Paterson regime.
The Hawkins campaign, they say, offers an alternative. Where Cuomo discusses how the cuts will be implemented – usually with a “we all have to pitch in” motto – Hawkins discusses the creation of a State Bank. Such a bank, he has stated emphatically, would help to break the stranglehold of Wall Street and lay the foundation for programs such as worker’s cooperatives and environmental cleanups.
And Hawkins has also discovered a little secret the Democrats have been sitting on for years. The stock transfer tax. It seems that New York State has been collecting a fee for every stock traded on Wall Street. But, after collecting it, they rebate it back to Wall Street! Hawkins announced that the number amounts to $16 billion, larger than the state’s budget deficit and large enough to fund all of the public projects mentioned by petitioners at the weekly meetings. Howie wants this money back.
These ideas motivate the petitioners. They turn a regular small party campaign into something else – a movement to reclaim New York State for the people. As the Hawkins campaign heads toward the fall elections, 15,000 signatures in hand, Andrew Cuomo would do well to invest in some handkerchiefs. If the spirit of the petitioners translates into the campaign, Howie will have a platform to speak from. And this will put the heat on yet another Wall Street Democrat.