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La Liga de Las Americas

Green Party candidates, including a Latina, vie for key offices

By Fletcher Word
La Prensa Staff Reporter

Bob Fitrakis, Columbus, Ohio attorney, author, and radio host, announced his candidacy to be the next governor of Ohio last November. Along the way, Fitrakis was endorsed by the Green Party and picked up a running mate, Toledoan Anita Rios.

Rios has been a member of the Ohio Green Party since 2000. The daughter of migrant farmworkers, Rios, a Waite High School dropout, returned to school and eventually earned her college degree from The University of Toledo before becoming a social worker. She was, as was Fitrakis, a Democrat until 2000.

Anita Rios

“The great moral issues of the day aren’t being dealt with by the two major parties,” said Fitrakis recently during a visit with Rios to the La Prensa office in downtown Toledo. “Great issues such as war, torture, surveillance, aren’t being addressed on a national level.”

Both candidates expressed disdain for the trends that they say are becoming part of the U.S.-American culture as a result of recent political events. “This is a new era in a lot of ways,” said Fitrakis. “Our leaders are saying ‘we’re spying on you to protect you.’”

“Reagan made us comfortable with our hatred of others,” interjected Rios.

Both candidates explained that the 1980s and early 1990s under Ronald Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, brought into the open a tendency by the government to manage affairs in a way that “used to be done covertly,” said Fitrakis.

While both candidates are relative newcomers to elective politics, Fitrakis did make an unsuccessful run for U.S. Congress in 1992 as a Democrat and Rios has managed a campaign for a Green Party candidate within the last several years. Both had abandoned the traditional parties by 2000.

Do they have any regrets about the consequences of the Green Party/Ralph Nader actions of 2000 that may have cost Al Gore, the more liberal candidate, the election?

“No regrets,” said Fitrakis, who pointed out that Gore made his own bed by losing his home state and by trying to distance himself from Bill Clinton.

“Democrat or Republican, things don’t change,” said Rios also scoffing at the suggestion that she may yet be playing the role of spoiler. “For me, the decision to join the Green Party was inspired by the Langston Hughes poem that says ‘let America be America.’”

According to Rios, the Green Party slate for the statewide positions – Tim Kettler is on the ballot for Secretary of State – was completed in record time. “This particular campaign has been done faster and easier than before,” she said. “We have connected with so many people.”

“In Ohio in 2004, the system broke down due to illegal shenanigans,” said Fitrakis.

So what are the key local issues that the candidates are addressing? First, they make it clear that national issues affect every locality. They especially point to the fact the War in Iraq drains substantial money away from domestic programs.

Issue number one for the candidates is a universal health care plan. Number two is a living wage. “Not just a minimum wage but a living wage,” said Fitrakis.

As the conversation turned to education, Rios said that college should be free to those who cannot otherwise afford to attend. They suggest building the network of community colleges in order to make that a reality.

Bob Fitrakis

As for secondary and primary education, “The Supreme Court [of Ohio] has said that the system for funding by property taxes” is unconstitutional, said Fitrakis. Nothing, he noted, has yet been done about that ruling.

And since they are Green Party candidates, the development of alternative forms of energy is high on the list of concerns. Rios pointed to the efforts of local colleges – Bowling Green State University’s work with windmills and UT’s with solar cell energy – as research that needs to be encouraged by the state.

“Medicalize drug addiction” said Fitrakis is response to a question about their stance on the burgeoning prison population in Ohio. He also recommends weeding out of the prison population non-violent offenders.

The candidates for governor and vice-governor are operating their campaign on a shoestring, about $7,000 worth of shoestrings in fact. That’s the total of their campaign war chest. But their optimism springs from their connection, said Rios, to real people.

They continue their regular day time activities and campaign during weekends and evenings.

“We are real people making time in our real lives to do this,” said Rios. “Throughout this campaign we will remain ordinary citizens.”





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