Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein spoke to about a dozen people–and a couple dozen empty chairs. She had gone to the capital, in advance of the Green Party convention in Baltimore, to announce her running mate: Cheri Honkala. So who is Honkala? And for that matter, who is Stein? Here’s the first thing they’ll tell you: They’re candidates not named Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
Born in the 1980s, the Green Party’s national profile peaked in 2000, when Ralph Nader took 2.7% of the popular vote in the chaotic presidential election that put George W. Bush in office. (One imagines Al Gore still wakes in the night cursing Nader’s name.) Not long after, in 2002, the Green Party recruited a physician and health advocate named Jill Stein to run for governor in Massachusetts. She lost that race and three more in the state over the next decade, while making two successful bids for Lexington Town Meeting representative. Meanwhile, the Green Party candidates in 2004 and 2008 failed to get more than 150,000 votes.
The election fight between Obama and Romney will be close, and a third-party candidate who mounts a significant campaign might be cause for concern as November nears–whether that’s libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Stein. For now, Stein says she’s still introducing herself to the American people, trying to generate interest in the party that’s deflated over the past decade.