Our series profiling independent and alt-party candidates for seats in the November election who have endorsed the New Progressive Alliance’s Unified Platform continues. An introductory piece is here.
by Andy McCoy
New York Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins and the man running to be his lieutenant, Brian Jones, are offering a Progressive lifeboat to voters adrift in the conservative maelstrom now buffeting workers in a state that once led the labor movement.
“The 1 percent has two parties. Working people need one of their own,” says Hawkins, who has run for office in nearly every election since 1993.
“We have been building the Green Party in New York State to enable working people to meet, decide, speak, and act for themselves, and elect working people to public office.”
Jones, Hawkins’ running mate, is a first-time general election candidate who advocated for Progressive principles while running for Secretary of the United Federation of Teachers. Despite differing backgrounds, the two candidates share a common vocation: Both are workers.
Hawkins, an active Teamster, unloads trucks at UPS in Syracuse. Jones spent nine years teaching in the public schools before moving on to a Ph.D. program. Both believe they are well-suited to represent average New Yorkers because they spend their days with average New Yorkers. They are running on two agendas: A Green New Deal and a program to desegregate the Empire State.
“The Democrats want to repeal the New Deal,” Hawkins has said, “And the Republicans seem to want to repeal the Enlightenment.”
The team’s Green New Deal for New York outlines seven basic rights which, Hawkins says, “belong to each New York resident”:
- The right to a job, through public sector jobs for the unemployed.
- The right to an adequate income, built into the progressive tax structure.
- The right to healthcare through a single public insurer.
- The right to affordable housing through investing mixed-income, mixed-race, scattered-site public housing.
- The right to a good education, including full and equitable funding, rejection of high-stakes testing linked to Common Core, and desegregation.
- The right to affordable mobility through improving and expanding mass transit, including intra-city light rail, inter-urban rail, and long distance high-speed rail.
- The right to a sustainable environment, starting with building out a 100% clean energy system by 2030.
The campaign’s desegregation program targets everything from education (“New York schools are the most segregated in the nation,” according to the campaign) and housing (“NYC and Syracuse are the most segregated” large- and medium-sized U.S. cities respectively), to criminal justice, health care, food, and financial services.
Hawkins faces incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, Republican Rob Astorino and Libertarian Michael McDermott. Cuomo leads in the polls, though continuing controversy could damage his campaign. He has faced significant criticism for beating up on public employee unions, supporting the Independent Democratic Conference (which caucused with Republicans and turned a Democratic electoral victory into a Republican governing majority), pursuing conservative tax policies, and backing ultra-conservative Republicans over Democrats in the current election cycle.
Beyond these controversies, Cuomo fought against a minimum wage increase (despite a campaign promise to raise the minimum wage across the state) and sought to increase public resources for charter schools while weakening public schools. The embattled Governor is currently dealing with the fallout from a corruption investigation.
Astorino is running on a pledge to cut government spending and taxes in order grow the economy, a.k.a., trickle-down theory – which has been so roundly disproved by economists of every political stripe that it scarcely qualifies as even a “theory” these days. He also supports the repeal of government regulations in order to make the state more “business friendly.” And just in case that doesn’t make Astorino enough of a throwback to capture the 25 percent of voters now polling as his supporters, he has come out strongly in favor of fracking in western New York, the source of New York City’s water supply.
For his part, Hawkins notes significant differences between himself and his competitors. Both Cuomo and Astorino favor private and charter schools over public schools. Hawkins also rejects an “all-of-the-above” energy policy and unapologetically opposes fracking, instead focusing on investment in renewable sources.
But the issue perhaps most resonant with New York workers is Hawkins’ drive for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, a movement that took root last year in Seattle and has now spread to Los Angeles and many other locales.
The Hawkins-Jones team further distinguishes itself from their opponents with language born in NYC – specifically, Zuccotti Park: “They are funded by and represent the 1 percent,” says Hawkins. “We are funded by and are organizing a party of, by, and for working people.”
Recent polling indicates Hawkins is right. His projected 9 percent of the vote could help him exceed the vote count Astorino wins for the state’s Conservative Party (Astorino cross-filed, Republican and Conservative). Should that happen, the New York Green Party will swipe from the Conservatives “Row C” ballot status as the state’s third-largest party in the next election.