AUGUSTA – In each of the last two gubernatorial elections, the Green Independent Party was lucky to scare up one candidate. But this year, the party commonly known as “the Greens” is poised for its first contested gubernatorial primary.
Jonathan Carter of New Portland, the party’s 1994 candidate for governor and a champion of failed referendums to change the harvesting practices of paper companies, was expected to make another run for the Blaine House.
The surprise candidate is Steven Farsaci of Farmington, a Baptist minister and a Green, who has left the pulpit to devote all of his time to the governor’s race.
Although Farsaci is an announced candidate and Carter has all but announced, neither is guaranteed a spot on the ballot. State law requires each to collect the signatures of at least 2,000 Green voters – almost a quarter of the party’s Maine membership – to win a slot.
As of November, the Greens had 8,743 registered voters, representing less than 1 percent of the Maine electorate. But the party has made an impact in gubernatorial races, receiving more than 6 percent of the vote in 1994 and close to 7 percent in 1998.
Both Carter and Farsaci plan to rely on public financing. That means each must collect 2,500 contributions of $5 from registered voters.
John Rensenbrink, founder of the Maine Green Independent Party, is pleased at the thought of a contested primary, viewing it as a sign that the state’s legally recognized third party has matured enough to encourage diversity and give party members a choice.
“I think it’s very healthy,” Rensenbrink said. With public funding for a contested primary, “the media, the pundits and therefore the people will take us seriously early,” he predicted. “Come September,” he said, “we’re going to have substantial recognition.”
Others disagree. Sandy Maisel, a political scientist at Colby College, says it is “somewhat destructive for the party that they can’t come together behind one candidate,” because the party is so small.
“It’s very difficult for people who run against each other all the way till June to come together” after the primary, Maisel said. “I’m not sure a party that small wants diversity.”
Talk of a Green primary could be premature because some insiders question whether two Green candidates can each collect the required 2,000 signatures from fellow party members who also are registered voters.
“I think the chance of their getting enough signatures to [both] get on the primary ballot is pretty slender,” said William Coogan, a political scientist at the University of Southern Maine.