History of the Green Party of Arkansas
The Green Party of Arkansas (GPA) began in 1996 when a group of Arkansans gathered for the purpose of adding Ralph Nader’s name to the ballot in Arkansas as the Green Party candidate for president. That goal was accomplished, and the group continued to have meetings and to expand its membership in various counties. By 2000, the Green Party had grown to have members in several counties, including Scott, Washington, Carroll, Pulaski, Boone, and Van Buren.
The platform of the GPA was adopted from the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) and is quite lengthy. The platform embraces what are generally considered “progressive” values, including non-violence, social and economic justice, feminism, and respect for and care of the environment.
In 2000, Ralph Nader was again the choice of the national Green Party. The members of the GPA collected the necessary signatures to have Nader’s name added to the ballot. After the election in 2000, the GPA continued to grow, and members began to participate in state politics as well as national elections. An opportunity arose in 2001 when a vacancy occurred in the position of the congressional representative for the Third District, thus requiring a special election.
The special election law in Arkansas at that time absolutely prevented any new political party from participating in any special election. The GPA was advised by Richard Winger of Ballot Access News that such a law was unconstitutional and that the party could sue the state. The GPA decided to follow this advice. In September 2001, the GPA won its lawsuit in federal court and was allowed to place its candidate, Sarah Marsh, on the ballot for the special election. Marsh received two percent of the vote in that election.
A member of the GPA, Silvia Bailey, an Arkansan nuclear physicist, bequeathed a generous sum of money, about $70,000, to the GPA upon her death, and this money allowed the GPA to take a larger role in the GPUS. Delegates of the GPA attended and participated in the national convention of the GPUS in June 2004 when David Cobb was nominated to be the presidential candidate in that year’s election. GPA members again gathered the necessary signatures, and Cobb was placed on the ballot in Arkansas.
In May 2006, the GPA turned in 18,000 signatures to the secretary of state in a bid to obtain ballot access for the 2006 midterm elections. Once again, the GPA was required to sue the state over unconstitutional requirements, and once again, the GPA won its case in federal court, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This time, the GPA nominated six candidates in its first statewide election featuring local candidates. The candidates were Jim Lendall for governor, Rebekah Kennedy for attorney general, Marty Scully for secretary of state, Brock Carpenter for treasurer, R. David Lewis for commissioner of state lands, and Michael Bolzenius for state auditor. In spite of not having much time or money to campaign due to the expense of the court case, the GPA did very well in the election of 2006, especially for a new party fielding candidates for state office for the first time. Jim Lendall received two percent of the vote, Rebekah Kennedy received five percent, Marty Scully received three percent, Brock Carpenter received three percent, R. David Lewis received eighteen percent, and Michael Bolzenius received fifteen percent.
In 2008, Rebekah Kennedy received twenty percent of the vote against U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, and other Green Party candidates performed similarly well in races for U.S. representative across Arkansas. That same election saw the first Green Party candidate elected to the state House of Representatives, Richard Carroll of North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Carroll later joined the Democratic Party and was defeated for reelection in the 2010 Democratic primary. In the November 2010 election, Green Party candidates polled between one quarter and one third of the vote in races for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Auditor–positions for which the Republican Party had nominated no candidates. In other contests in the state, the GPA averaged about two percent of the vote. In 2012, Green Party candidate Fred Smith, previously a Democrat, was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives. The GPA continues to grow and expects to be a permanent political party in Arkansas dedicated to liberty, peace, social justice, and protecting the environment.