While the Democrats and Republicans battle to grab seats in the national elections, David Schwartzman is trying to get his Green Party on the political map.
Schwartzman is a Howard University professor by day and a political hopeful by night. He is running for a D.C. Council At-Large seat as a member of the D.C. Statehood Green Party.
“Most of the people who talked to me said they’ll vote for me,” he said.
He started out Election Day in Ward 4 at precinct 63. After talking to voters at Takoma Elementary School, he headed to Howard to teach his class in the biology department. Schwartzman has been a professor there since 1973.
After class, he spent some time at precinct 53 at Brightwood Elementary School and precinct 40 in Ward 1. By 5 p.m., he was standing outside Brightwood Elementary on Nicholson Street Northwest, talking to voters as they walked by.
Schwartzman realizes that his party is a minority in D.C. politics but says Green Party candidates have to get out there.
“You gotta get experience,” he said. “You gotta be able to learn how to communicate your message and get known, and so people start to trust you.”
The council member at-large hopeful referred to his fellow Green Party candidates Nancy Shia running for Ward 1 council member, Joyce Robinson-Paul for U.S. Representative and Rick Tingling-Clemmons for Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Shia, current ANC Commissioner for 1A06, is challenging incumbent Jim Graham (D) and Marc Morgan (R) for the seat.
“Nancy is running a good fight, she’s raising important issues,” Schwartzman said. “It’s very unlikely she’ll beat Jim Graham this time but it’s important that people go out and file and become candidates and get their name out there.”
Schwartzman said the same of Tingling-Clemmons, a Green Party candidate running against Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has held the post since 1991. Schwartzman said Tingling-Clemmons probably won’t beat Norton, but he is bringing to the light the issue of D.C. statehood. Right now, he says, this issue hasn’t been put on the forefront and it needs to be. According to Schwartzman, it seems like the focus is on voting rights, but “we need our full rights,” he said.
As for delegate to the House hopeful Robinson-Paul, Schwartzman said, “She’s very well known now and she’ll get a lot of votes I’m sure and may even get elected, I’m hoping.”
“It is a barrier of course, but in five years, we will be a majority party.”
For these candidates and Schwartzman as members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party, the most pressing issue is one of everyday standards of living. Schwartzman calls it “the crisis of everyday living.” He said a majority of D.C. residents struggle to pay their bills and avoid homelessness.
These issues are especially prevalent east of the river in Southeast. There are pockets of poverty all over the city, he said, calling this a “violation of human rights.”
As a possible solution to this issue, Schwartzman proposes changing the current tax structure. He says that millionaires spent 6 percent on taxes, while the working and middle classes pay 9 percent-10 percent
Another issue Schwartzman and his Green Party focus on is big corporations operating in the city. He says the city should not be giving business to corporations that don’t deliver community benefits or hire district workers.
David Catania (I) is Schwartzman’s main opponent in the race, whom he called “a Republican posing as an Independent.” Schwartzman says he wants to change D.C. politics by reducing budget cuts that take away from affordable housing and childcare services year after year.
A little past midnight on Wednesday morning, the D.C. Board of Ethics and Elections Web site showed that Phil Mendelson, Schwartzman’s democratic opponent, was leading the race. With 124 of 143 precincts counted, Mendelson had 56.39 percent of the votes, David Catania 30.75 percent, and Schwartzman 6.92 percent.
Mendelson acknowledged the importance of primary elections in D.C.
“I’m honored that the voters have chosen me again, said Mendelson. “But I can’t say that it was a surprise.”
As a Democrat, Mendelson said public safety is one of the top issues he advocates for.
“I think that education reform is a clear winner in this year’s election,” he said. All of the candidates acknowledged the importance of this topic and nobody walked away from it, he said.
“The other issue is city’s fiscal situation, very concerning to me,” added Mendelson.
As for his success in the polls, he said that there was no other challenger who showed enough promise to satisfy voters and their needs. “I don’t think it was more complicated than that.”
Even if his party doesn’t win seats this election year, members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party must be visible, he reiterated. And they can still get elected, Schwartzman said, because some Democrats, Independents, and progressive Republicans do support the party.
“We can overcome it by making sure we are the fighters for people’s interests and we are involved in all these struggles and we will get more membership.”