Anna Trevorrow Interview

Green Party Chair Anna Trevorrow on clean elections, tax reform, and the Maine Green’s future

Let’s start off with a little background information. Could you give us a some history of your association with the Maine Green Independent Party?

I have been registered as a Green Independent for as long as I have been eligible to vote. However, it has only been within the last three years that I became active in party leadership and infrastructure. The party’s ten key values are what drew me into the party originally. I am the kind of person that views just about everything as political. At the same time, in our time and place – with heightening environmental concerns, tyrannical practices of war and occupation, poor economic practices, the unsustainable nature of capitalism – I felt a need to do something to become part of the solution to these problems. The Green Party was the movement that I latched onto to fulfill that need.

One thing about the Green Party: once you show some commitment and willingness to work, it is not long before you find yourself running for office or serving in a decision-making capacity. It is a hands-on approach to learning politics. So in the three short years that I’ve been involved, I have run for School Committee in Portland unsuccessfully (2008), run successfully for Portland Charter Commission (now serving, 2009), served as a state party Steering Committee member, and currently serve as Chair of the state Steering Committee.

Recently the Maine Green Independent Party came out in opposition to House Speaker Hannah Pingree’s bill that would add new requirements to receive Clean Election Fund money. Proponents of the bill have said it keeps the system from becoming a “system of losers” and that a candidate is not viable if they “can’t raise $40,000”. Statements from Lynne Williams and yourself have categorized the bill as unfair and paradoxical. Could you please address some of the comments made by the bill’s supporters and those of the Green Party?

The argument that clean election funds should be reserved for “viable” candidates only, suggests that “viability” is determined by the ability to raise large sums of money. The concept behind clean elections funding has always been that candidates ought to compete based on their policy ideas and the values they represent. The new changes undermine that fundamental concept by mandating a monetary threshold for competitors. The arguments in favor of the new changes make no apologies for the fact that clean election funds are now reserved for an elite group. It is not just a hurtle for Green Party candidates, but for any candidate who is not the most institutionalized.

This week the Green Party join with Maine’s GOP in opposing the current tax reform plan, LD 1495. The MGIP has labeled the bill less progressive and likened it to a flat tax, launching a “No Flat Tax for ME” campaign. Maine Democrats responded to the Green Party’s move by saying, “Beginning in 2006 when John Eder’s reelection campaign accepted the help of Republican leader Josh Tardy, the Greens in Portland have moved closer to the Republican Party.” In the Portland Press Herald, House Majority Leader John Potti was quoted as saying, “The fact that we’re getting hit on both the right and the left confirms it’s good middle-of-the-road policy.” What is your opinion of the current tax reform plan? What do you make of the Democrats anger at the Green Party’s opposition? Is the Green Party cozying up the Maine GOP, moving further left, or do the Dems just not have the Green Party pegged?

The Dems had to dig deep to find this skewed accusation, and even at that, came up false. Eder never “accepted” Republican help. In 2006 a PAC headed by Josh Tardy made independent expenditures that went to a mailing promoting John Eder’s reelection because they saw his as a swing-vote seat and would rather it go to a Green Independent than have to face a Democratic majority in the House. The PAC crafted the mailer by itself, without Eder’s knowledge.

I think the Dems do not have the Green Party pegged. We happen to be on the same side of this issue as the Republicans but for entirely different reasons. Understanding that it takes a long time for tax reform to pass, we believe that instituting a flat tax on income would be a dangerous move for Maine at this time. Flat taxes are by nature inequitable, and the Green Party believes that those most capable of paying back into the system ought to compensate to some degree for those less able. I think the Dems would likely agree with us that this bill is not perfect, but they would side with argument of implementing it now and fixing it later, while Greens would be hesitant to implement it not knowing when and in what ways it would be changed later.

Coinciding with the Green Party’s statement on tax reform, former gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche published an editorial in the Bangor Daily News asking people to reconsider voting Green. All of these recent maneuvers seem to be part of a concerted effort to bring the Green Party to the forefront of state politics. Third parties in general have struggled to provide a viable alternative and combat the “spoiler effect” many voters feel third parties create. Is the Maine Green Party a viable alternative to Maine’s Democratic candidates? Can we say that the Green Party is trying to out-progressive the progressives?

The stronghold of the Democratic Party in the state of Maine allows the Dems to safely move to the center when it comes to policy implementation. They are shrouded in the rhetoric of “progressive,” but the Green Party challenges them to walk the walk, so to speak. In the meantime, in the 25 years that the Green Party in Maine has operated as a political movement, despite many challenges, we have only grown in number. Our growing membership (now up to approx. 32,000) indicates that every year more and more voters become dissatisfied with the status quo, and become empowered to support the truly progressive Green candidates.

Anna Trevorrow is the chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party and member of Portland Charter Commission.

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