Charlie Pillsbury said he had hoped a younger Green Party member would emerge to try to unseat U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro this November. No such luck. So he’s dusting off his 2002 campaign signs, calling for a 70 percent military budget cut, and throwing his hat—gently—into the ring.
Pillsbury (at left in top photo), a longtime community mediator and the prototype for pal Garry Trudeau’s eponymous “Doonesbury” strip hero, made that announcement on Monday night as a united New Haven Green Party convention nominated him to be the party’s candidate in the race to represent Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District. That seat is now held by 20-year Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. DeLauro.
This year’s will be Pillsbury’s second challenge against DeLauro. In 2002, he mounted a spirited campaign that included biking to all 25 municipalities in the district, squaring off in a televised debate with DeLauro, raising over $100,000, and eventually capturing 5 percent of the vote.
Eight years later, as a self-described “older and wiser” candidate, Pillsbury said he won’t be trying quite as hard. It’s just not worth it to pour Green Party effort into an un-winnable race. His role, as he said he sees it, is to capture the 1 percent of the vote necessary to keep the Green Party line on the ballot. That will continue to raise the profile of the party, so that it can win smaller, local races, Pillsbury said.
Pillsbury, who’s 62, ran the not-for-profit Community Mediation, Inc for 20 years, before stepping down last year. He now works part-time for the international Mediators Without Borders. He’s been a perennial Green Party candidate for office, running for the Board of Aldermen in 2003 and 2005, for registrar of voters in 2008, and against U.S. Rep. DeLauro in 2002.
In the back room of a wood-paneled college bar in Westville, Pillsbury made it clear to the gathered Greens that 2010 is not 2002.
Three middle-aged women and six grey-haired men—half of them bearded, including Pillsbury—caucused in the Westside Bar and Grill on Whalley Avenue. All but two are registered Green in New Haven, making a total of eight voting partisans, including Pillsbury. Tattooed youngsters drank beer to pop music in another part of the bar.
After putting in orders with the waiter—four bowls of gazpacho, ice tea, a glass of red wine, a glass of white, a beer—the Greens settled into business. Party co-chair Jerry Martin read the rules of the nominating convention and opened the floor for nominations, though the choice of Pillsbury was a foregone conclusion.
Allan Brison, former Green Ward 10 alderman, made the official motion. “I’ll nominate Charlie Pillsbury for that office.”
Pillsbury ran as an anti-war candidate in 2002, at the time of the resolution to invade Iraq. As such, he managed to push DeLauro to take a stand against the war, Brison said.
DeLauro announced that she would vote against the Iraq war resolution during her one televised debate with him, Pillsbury said. “That wouldn’t have happened without a real anti-war candidate in the race.”
This year, the Green Party message is still anti-war. Cutting military spending by 70 percent is number one on the “Green New Deal.” That’s the 10-point policy platform that Greens are adopting nationwide. Such deep military spending cuts would save $500 billion, Pillsbury said.
“You could buy a bank with that,” quipped Hamden Green Jeffry Larson.
Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan should cease completely, Pillsbury said. They simply aren’t working, he said. Al Qaeda is active in 50 different countries. “Are we going to invade all 50?”
Only Greens raise the possibility of complete military withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan, Pillsbury said. And only Greens talk seriously of a single-payer health care system, ending the war on drugs, and amending the Constitution to state explicitly that corporations are not people and should therefore not be protected by the First Amendment.
Pillsbury said it will take about 20 years to pass such an amendment, but it will only happen with Greens pushing candidates from the left.
Pillsbury told his fellow Greens he is ready: “I’m prepared to accept the nomination.”
Larson asked a question: You weren’t willing to commit to the race earlier this year at the state Green Party convention. Why?
“There’s always this dream that a young Green will step up,” Pillsbury replied. “Look around the table. We’re the present of the Green Party but we’re not the future.”
“The best way to advertise the party is to be on the ballot,” Pillsbury said.
“How will you get into the debates?” asked New Haven Green Patricia Kane. She warned that the major parties would try to “freeze you out.”
Pillsbury said he debated DeLauro last time but he had to “raise a ton of money” and open a campaign office to do so. “I’m not willing to do it again,” he said. All Greens need is 1 percent to stay on the ballot, he said.
As the conversation drifted into discussion of billionaires backing the Tea Party, the gazpacho arrived. Co-chair Martin moved to wrap things up by calling for a vote. It was unanimous.
“Thank you for your confidence,” Pillsbury said, as the soup-slurping began.
Larson, who was without gazpacho, asked Pillsbury to say more about his strategy this year, versus 2002.
It’s more of a “stealth campaign,” Pillsbury said. “I’m not going to raise much money.”
The party didn’t even put out a proper press release about the nominating convention, he noted.
Later, as the convention broke up, Pillsbury spoke more about why this year is different. In 2002, he spent six months raising over $100,000. He had a campaign manager and 20 high school interns. He spent five days biking through all 25 towns in the district. “We did a lot of work,” he said. “After all that, we walked away with 5 percent of the vote.”
Now, “older and wiser,” Pillsbury said he sees his task not as winning a bigger percentage, but as simply earning the 1 percent necessary to keep the Green line on the ballot. “It’s like holding your shelf space in the supermarket,” he said.
But don’t you want people to buy the product at some point?
That’s going to happen in smaller races, like Brison’s aldermanic race, Pillsbury said. “Races where you can win.” He said Greens have their eye on the New Haven Registrar of Voters office, a position he ran for in 2008.
“Mine’s a symbolic race,” he said.
He has no plans for fundraising. Nor will he be fighting to gain entry to any debates. He has no campaign events scheduled beyond an upcoming three-district rally in Hartford, Pillsbury said. There he’ll be supporting the two other Connecticut Greens running for U.S. House of Representatives.
Pillsbury ended the evening by donning an eight-year-old “Pillsbury For Congress” ball cap and T-shirt that he produced from a bag. He stood next to a 2002 campaign sign propped in the window of the bar.
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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 31, 2010 11:24am
I don’t know Charlie.You come after Rosa DeLauro and you should,But How come you did’t go after king John,In fact I remember you was one of his supporters in his reelection.
posted by: Townie on August 31, 2010 11:46am
It seems the Green Party is aging and is in need of some young blood. It would be nice if they could get their act together and promote issues that have relevance. The war issue is actually a good start, but they should also be addressing the death of domestic industry, immigration (legal and illegal), crime, health care, etc. Why be on the ballot at all if you’re not going to do anyting? At the very least, activity from a third party could cause the two major parties to actually define their differences, thus giving voters more information with which to make their decision. Personally I would love to see DeLauro ousted, too bad no one has the heart or stomach for the campaign.
Great article Tom, and well written. Thanks for getting the word out. The Green Party needs more media exposure. Their common sense platform most likely would appeal to many voters.
posted by: The Count on August 31, 2010 1:04pm
Maybe he can campaign on that great “agreement” between New Haven and East Haven over Tweed Airport
posted by: ignoranceisbliss on August 31, 2010 1:57pm
C’mon after the nomination they must have put on the Jefferson Airplane and toked up - just for old time’s sake. Nothing like the 60’s to get an aging Green Party’s heart racing! When the truth is found….
posted by: Anderson Scooper on August 31, 2010 2:25pm
What a waste! All those hours and good intentions, to what end?
Too bad the Green Party didn’t have the sense to re-join the Democratic Party and try to change it from within. (a “Green Dem” caucus could have been a force here, statewide, and nationally. Imagine Susie Voigt’s consternation if the crowd pictured above started showing up to her Democratic Town Committee meetings!)
Instead it’s reduced to sound and fury, and too many burned bridges.
At one time Nader might have been right. But his humongous ego was very, very, wrong.
I am a registered Green. I have been a registered Republican and a Registered Democrat. I applaud the Green Party’s independence from the two major parties. Parties to which I no longer see any differences. They have morphed into one.
posted by: Townie on August 31, 2010 3:32pm
It amazes me that those who are disillusioned with the two major parties think that forming a third, fourth, etc., party is the answer. Perhaps political parties are the problem? As John Adams noted, and other founders, political parties are contra-democratic and ultimately cause corruption. I think the Greens should try to loose the “party” from their name and just become a coalition of independent progressives.
posted by: Allan Brison on August 31, 2010 3:38pm
Charlie actually articulated a 10-point program for the Green New Deal last night. Here are the points:
1) Cut military spending at least 70%; 2) Create millions of green union jobs through massive public investment in renewable energy, mass transit, and conservation; 3) Set ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and enact a revenue-neutral carbon tax to meet them; 4) Establish single-payer “Medicare for all” health care; 5) Institute tuition-free public higher education; 6) Change trade agreements to improve labor, environmental, consumer, health and safety standards; 7) End counterproductive prohibition policies and legalize marijuana; 8) Enact tough limits on credit card interest and lending rates, progressive tax reform and strict financial regulation; 9) Amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish corporate personhood; and 10) Pass sweeping electoral, campaign finance and anti-corruption reforms.
Most of these are issues that neither major party will address. I think that it is great to have Charlie in there to articulate what the others will not.
posted by: Brum on August 31, 2010 4:56pm
I was excited to hear someone going against DeLauro. I was ready to back the Greens with some of my green. Until I read the line about single payer health care. WE WANT LESS GOVERNMENT, NOT MORE! there are better ways to handle things with out giving away more of our liberties. So until we get a candidate that will really be for the people I will keep looking. We need to send a message that enough is enough.
posted by: cedarhillresident on August 31, 2010 5:25pm
First Charlie has done alot more then many to make this city a better place and I take my hat off to him for doing this to keep the party on the ticket. It is an option. I think many of us love Rosa and will stand with her and it sounds as if Charlie is aware that Rosa will go when Rosa is done with what she needs to get done.
Good for you charlie.
I am with the above poster on the whole supporting johnny thing…. that caught me with my jaw down when he announced that.
posted by: Dominik on August 31, 2010 5:44pm
You can’t fix something that is rotten to the core. America needs a third party. It worked in the UK and Canada with FPTP.
And as for Nader, Nader did more than Obama ever did for average American. It was not Nader’s fault that gore ran a poor campaign in 2000 Gore being the alpha male, Hah! People saw right though it.
posted by: Thomas on August 31, 2010 6:34pm
The last person who ran on a “Peace Dividend” was Joe Liberman when he unseated Lowell Wieker. In Connecticut we love building military toys we just don’t want to go out and play with them. As for “Green Union Jobs” you must be kidding, 100 workers to watch each windmill rotate? Fully staffed landscapers to cut the grass around such windmills? The Green Party has some ideas on finance reform but free higher education is ridiculous, Unless of course you end the current salary structures at Colleges and University’s. People are trying to reduce governments not add to the bloated budgets.
posted by: WHY??? on August 31, 2010 7:40pm
Isn’t this sort of embarrassing more than anything? Any decent protest vote gets 10%. Charlie got 5%. Now he’s aiming for 1%. Can there be a better advertisement for the ineffectiveness of the Greens? Then, when they actually elect someone, Allan Brison produces exactly zero legislation, distinguishing himself only by fighting for more shrubs on Everitt Street so he and his neighbors will not have to look at the Hooker School kids. Give me a break. This makes the dems and reps look good in comparison, and that’s almost impossible.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on September 1, 2010 12:03am
Rosa Delauro isn’t “rotten to the core”. Nor is John Larson, Joe Courtney, Jim Himes, Chris Murphy, Chris Dodd, Dick Blumenthal, Dan Malloy, etc.
There is a huge question of who our politicians on the Left are answerable to. But when you join the GOP in working to defeat Democrats this fall, you aren’t helping the cause.
And yes, i’d like to see organized and active Lefties pushing Dems to be good Dems. But the Green Quixote party, acting as potential spoilers only? Give us a break!
posted by: springbe on September 1, 2010 2:53am
Those who claim they want smaller government ought to rejoice at the proposal to reduce the military budget by 70%. Over a trillion dollars a year is wasted on armaments and big profits. By cutting all that spending you could reduce the size of government, drop the debt and provide essential services in health, education, create high tech, high paying jobs developing sustainable products.
Rosa voted against throwing more money into a failing war on Afghanistan. The voters need to speak loudly: stop funding the war machine - convert it now into sustainable solar, wind turbines, high speed trains, repairing the crumbling bridges, dams and roads, rehabbing older buildings, educating for a sustainable future.
If you want less government then please voluntarily give up your government funded Medicare. Personally I would rather have single payer health care for all, government administered, and pay less money for the military. That results in government working for us, and less American taxes spent in other countries to support the military bases. Only when profits are removed from health care, will it become affordable to all of us.
posted by: Townie on September 1, 2010 7:51am
It seems the Greens want to make the US into a bigger welfare state than it already is. Such an idea is not progressive nor is it liberal, it is authoritarian and coercive, and doomed to failure. Small government should be the goal, a vast reduction of the Federal system and a greater sovereignty given to the states. A promotion of cooperative labor and an emphasis on local industry and trade. As well as a vast reduction, if not cessation, of immigration. We need to take care of the citizens that are already here before we welcome new ones.
posted by: Bob Solomon on September 1, 2010 8:52am
Saying you want smaller (or larger) government is a little simplistic. The problem with government is not its size as much as the misallocation of funds. If you do not want to support welfare, don’t drink the water in Los Angeles, don’t buy any corn products, don’t claim the mortgage deduction of your tax return, and on and on. These are all activities that are subsidized in amounts that dwarf thing like subsidized housing. Are bailouts good or bad policy? I believe that some are good and some are bad. Should we put more money in schools? It depends what the money is for. this is all made much more complicated when you look at rosa’s record and approach each vote in a vacuum. to Rosa’s credit, she is trying to help govern in an unmanageable system. the Congressional Republicans want nothing more that to bring down the administration. Mitch McConnell admits that he does not want the Senate to pass legislation, so he is doing everything in his power to prevent it. so, people who want to pass legislation accept compromises that they do not like, but accept in the current climate. If you do not like those compromises, you can conclude that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, but that argument flies in the face of the health care and financial institutions bills, not to mention Supreme court appointments.
posted by: Rrralph on September 1, 2010 4:33pm
..And add one cheesy union to the dip
posted by: JAK on September 1, 2010 7:35pm
Allan Brison, based on THAT platform, why don’t you just call it the Red Party?
posted by: Zalman Alpert on September 2, 2010 9:16am
“You could buy a bank with that money”. Great. You could buy a bank with the amount of money our cities , states and federal government spend on welfare grants and other entitlement programs and I am not speaking about SS and various other health insurance programs. I bet you could buy a bank with just the amount of money the city of NH spends annually on welfare programs . certainly a small bank ? okay lets do away with military spending and lets welcome Islamic fundamentalism to the US then all the men at meetings will have beards and the women ... what women ?
If entitlement programs for citizens are socialism and wasted tax dollars, then what are government subsidies for major corporations? I think the phrase has been coined: “Corporate Welfare”. Stop the tax payer subsidies to ConAgra just so they can sell corn flour in Mexico for less than it can be produced there by Mexican Farmers.
posted by: springbe on September 2, 2010 5:45pm
A trillion dollars a year spent on stealth bombers that have no enemy, nuclear submarines that have no enemy, invading armies and mercenaries that are creating enemies each time they slaughter a family (yeah, imagine what you would do if it were your family) - is money that isn’t spent rebuilding our cities, our education system, our dams, our bridges.
Anyone who wants to get rid of government ought to start cutting the biggest pig in the government.
Of course those who attack government entirely and taxes ought to approve of dropping the requirement for drivers licenses, firing fire and police, letting people pay for building and maintaining their own roads, educating their own kids, cleaning their own water, celebrating the unregulated food industry, unregulated pharmaceutical industry, among other things that we are forced to pay for with our taxes.
We have two good examples of countries that have limited and ineffective government - Haiti and Pakistan. Those who follow the Reaganite slogan that “government is the problem” want the U.S. to look like Haiti. And should approve of the financial meltdown that Reaganite policies (followed by Bush I and II and Clinton) catalyzed.
Religious fundamentalism - Jewish, Christian, Islamic - generates hate and murders people. I haven’t noticed that the extremists in any of these three major religions have a monopoly on violence and terror.
posted by: Zalman Alpert on September 2, 2010 8:34pm
Springbe. As far as I know only Islamic fundamentalists have declared War on the US and actually took action on their declaration. Some type of religious fundamentalists currently murder people and are eager for more mass slaughters. As far as families being killed my family was totaly destroyed by the Nazis in the Holocaust and believe me it brings home the importance of having a strong US armed forces to defend against maniacs like these of all forms and types. Or perhaps we should surrender ?
posted by: springbe on September 3, 2010 4:59pm
I too lost family to the Christian NAZIS’ death camps. The Vietnamese lost millions and the Iraqis lost millions first to a blockade then another illegal war, both coming from a nation led by Christians and Jews. Christian and Islamic Palestinians have been slaughtered by a Jewish nation.
Oh yes there is a handful of fanatics who have declared war on the U.S. but they are small potatoes compared to the Christian Germans and the Buddhist/Taoist, etc., Japanese of WWII. Look into their propaganda and find their reasons for attacking the U.S. I suspect most of my fellow countrymen, U.S. citizens, would rage against U.S. imperialism if they lived in - let’s see how many countries has our military invaded or our CIA overthrown or assassinated their democratically elected leaders? I can name a list that goes up one arm and down the other.
Yet a trillion dollar military with all its hardware, mercenaries, intelligence gathering aimed at U.S. citizens, most of whom are not Islamic, does little against small terrorist cells. In fact the most likely result of slaughtering families in Iraq and Afghanistan is to create more hatred and more anti-U.S. actions. Well I suppose that that keeps the Military Industrial Complex in business.
Want terrorists? Check out the British view of the American revolutionaries, the IRA, or the Irgun in Palestine.
Surrender? We have already surrendered to the Military Industrial Complex. It has no interest in our welfare, only its profits and careers. Read Marine General Smedley Butler. Over 70 years ago he nailed the purpose for most of what our military does.