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Independent Election Guide 

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Green over Gray

click to enlarge election5-9821.jpg

Vote for Hamburg in the governor's race

THIS WEEK, Californians are able to do something that is ordinarily irresponsible in statewide and national elections--vote our consciences. New polls show Gray Davis, the only viable Democratic candidate, way ahead. He doesn't need our vote. And there's probably little any of us can do at this point to stop Dan Lungren. So we're free to vote for the guy we like.

We like Dan Hamburg.

In the past, the Green Party has offered voters at best symbolic candidates, and at worst opportunities to throw away their votes. In 1996, for instance, the party backed Ralph Nader for president even though he didn't want to run. A vote for Nader was a vote for Dole. Dan Hamburg is really applying for the job. The Green's most substantial member, he is the only party member to ever have served in the U.S. Congress--the former Mendocino County supervisor represented the North Coast from 1992 to 1994, losing to conservative Republican Frank Riggs. While there, Hamburg authored the Headwaters Forest Act--which offered protection to one of the last virgin redwood forests in the world--and built an excellent voting record. A vote for Hamburg is indeed a protest vote, but it isn't a wasted vote.

If there was a chance that anyone other than Gray Davis was set to win next Tuesday, we would be giving him our less-than-enthusiastic endorsement. He is a smart and capable politician with a solid, middle-of-the-road record. He knows the ropes in Sacramento and so he'll be able to get things done. And he possesses the most important quality a Democrat can have this year--the platform and the team to beat Republican Dan Lungren.

If it wasn't clear that Davis is going to win in a walk, he'd be our guy.

Al Checchi talks a good game--in fact, on several issues, his position is preferable to Davis'. But it is unlikely that he'd be able to actually do anything in the statehouse. After all, he can't just fire the Legislature if the members don't see things his way. His rich-man's arrogant naiveté is illustrated by the fact that he doesn't even bother to vote.

Jane Harman is simply unprepared to be governor. As a conservative Democratic congresswoman from the Southland, she's fine, and some of the ideas she's professed in her campaign are commendable. But she has not given nearly enough thought to building a distinguishing platform on state issues.

Dan Hamburg has an excellent record and position on the environment--that's to be expected from a Green. But the Stanford grad also puts forward great ideas about other issues. His platform calls for workers to be paid a "living wage"--an idea that makes a lot of sense, especially in boom-time California, but is too radical for any other Democrat this year. His proposals for funding education, transportation, and social services outmuscle the other candidates'. And they make plain economic sense.

This was, once, the realm of the Democratic Party. Those of us who still believe it's possible for the fruits of a better world to be shared can tell that to the Democrats this year by voting for Hamburg.

As a bonus, we get quotes like this: "The elites still own the corporations, the media, and, through a rigged and tawdry electoral and campaign finance system, the government. Our task is to articulate and manifest our vision of a better-functioning society where we can all live and raise our families in peace and security."

Simple truths, left unsaid by the other candidates. Come Tuesday, we can let the world know that hope lives on.

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From the May 28-June 3, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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