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NC Green Party claims vindication after US judge orders state to make room for party on ballot

Matthew Hoh - Green Party rally and news conference 080822.jpg
Rusty Jacobs
U.S. Senate candidate Matthew Hoh addresses reporters at a news conference in Raleigh on Monday, August 8, 2022. A federal judge's order instructing the North Carolina State Board of Elections to add the Greens to the 2022 ballot means Hoh will join Democrat Cheri Beasley, Republican Ted Budd and Libertarian Shannon Bray in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

"Vindication!" was the chant at a Monday news conference and rally in front of the Terry Sanford Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Raleigh.

Members of the North Carolina Green Party had gathered to hail last week's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Dever III that orders the North Carolina State Board of Elections to make room on this year's midterm ballots for the Greens.

"This was a win for democracy and this was a win for North Carolina voters because now North Carolina voters can vote for someone who is in favor of universal health care, affordable housing, jobs, an end to the war on drugs, et cetera," said Matthew Hoh.

Hoh is a Marine Corps veteran and U.S. Senate candidate, poised to join Democrat Cheri Beasley, Republican Ted Budd and Libertarian Shannon Bray in the race to succeed North Carolina's retiring U.S. Senator, Richard Burr.

The Greens' months-long battle for the ballot

Until last week, it looked like Hoh and the Greens would be shut out. To get on the ballot they had to submit petitions with more than 13,000 signatures from registered North Carolina voters, which then had to be validated by elections boards at the county and state levels.

Initially, the Green Party submitted upwards of 22,000 signatures but they faced allegations of fraud. In a 3-2 vote, the state elections board's Democratic majority initially denied the Greens certification and investigated the fraud allegations.

According to board staff, an investigation turned up several hundred signatures from voters, some of who claimed they did not sign the petitions or who swear they were misled about what they were signing. And the fraudulent signatures seem to be tied to outside contractors hired by the Green Party to help with the petition process.

But board staff ultimately determined the Green Party exceeded its target number of valid signatures by more than 1,600. And last week, the elections board voted unanimously to certify the Green Party. However, the Greens needed a federal judge to intervene because the July 1 deadline for submitting new party candidates had already passed.

And the ultra-progressive party—described as "anti-capitalist, ecologically socialist" by a North Carolina Green Party official — faced scrutiny from the Democratic Party establishment in its effort to get on the ballot.

The Elias Law Group, a Washington-based, powerful Democrat-aligned firm closely tracked the Green Party petition process, and the state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in North Carolina court last week aimed at keeping the Greens off the ballot pending completion of the state elections board's investigation.

Democratic Party officials say their lawsuit was a matter of protecting election integrity; Green Party officials claim it was an established mainstream, corporate-backed organization unjustly interfering with the Green Party's access to the North Carolina ballot. The federal judge's order has now rendered the Democratic Party's suit moot.

Gayle Gorlewski - Green Party Rally 080822.jpg
Rusty Jacobs
Gayle Gorlewski, right, serves as deputy campaign manager for Matthew Hoh, the Green Party candidate who will join North Carolina's U.S. Senate race. She and Joshua Bradley, left, a candidate for Raleigh City Council, were in Raleigh on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, to celebrate a federal judge's ruling that ordered the state board of elections to add Green Party candidates to the 2022 ballot in North Carolina.

Redefining a political win

The Green Party's addition to the ballot may mean an expanded, richer conversation about health care, climate change policy and wages, but it hardly means its candidates will actually contend in any races. Instead, they must face the political realities of candidates from a third party vying for office in a two-party system.

"So what does winning look like? Winning for me does not mean necessarily winning an election," said Michael Trudeau, secretary of the North Carolina Green Party and now a candidate for state Senate District 16. "Winning means building a radical, left-wing people's party that can fight the system not just speak from a soapbox."

For Gayle Gorlewski who serves as deputy campaign manager for Matthew Hoh, getting onto the ballot is much more than about winning a political contest. Gorlewski, 60, is a Haywood County resident, in far western North Carolina, and a former member of the Democratic Party. Her party loyalty began to wane decades ago.

"I started losing faith in the Democrats way back in 1990 because it just seemed like we'd switch presidents — they'd go Republican, Democrat, Republican, Democrat but nothing changed," she said.

Gorlewski herself called the Green Party "dinky," but she said by belonging to a small group with other people determined to make a difference, she was actually getting something done.

"It lets us talk about ending wars, seriously doing something real about climate change," she insisted. "I'd rather tell the truth and talk about real things and lose the stupid election than decide between the lesser evil and vote for people who are funded by the same corporation."

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC.