Nader Picks Matt Gonzalez for VP, Former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President

Today, Ralph Nader chose Matt Gonzalez as his running mate. Gonzales is the former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was one of the highest-level Green Party elected official. Gonzalez ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of San Francisco in 2003. He did not run for reelection and left the board in 2005. His supervisor seat was taken over by another Green Party member, Ross Mirkarimi.


Nader Picks Matt Gonzalez for VP, Former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President — No Comments

  1. A nice choice, and probably the wisest that Ralph could have made. One thing the Democrats and various wiseguys reacting to this by (strangely) dissing Matt Gonzalez don’t seem to understand is that here is a 3rd party choice for VP who has actually been elected to something. Not only that, he came within 6% of being elected mayor of one of the country’s largest cities as a 3rd party candidate.

    I’m still wondering how and if this will affect the Nader campaign’s relationship with the Green Party in any way. I’m going to the Nader/Gonzalez speech/Q-&-A at GWU tonight. Hopefully they’ll address that directly.

  2. Richard,

    What is your assessment of the Green Party nomination and ballot access campaign in light of the Matt Gonzalez news? Does the choice of a noted Green mean that Nader is seeking the Green Party nomination, along with its ballot access?

  3. Should Nader choose to run for the Green Party nomination–Greens will have a tough choice. Vote for their favorite old man (Nader) and favorite elected guy (Gonzales)? Or Vote for the fresh-new face who has shown a willingness to work for the party (McKinney).

  4. Wow !

    Totally Surprising and Totally Excellent.

    I couldn’t think of a better choice as an heir apparent than Matt. Matt is young and has a well developed sense of politics. His only liability, if you can call it that, is in form. He presents himself as a soft spoken cerebral thinking type that is prone to hold his punches. From what I’ve seen of Nader he probably views this as an asset. Nader has always chosen Vice Presidential Runningmates that he can trust and will stick to the script. And Matt fills the bill.

    Bern, regarding the ramification of the decision within the Green Party there are a number of different possibilities. The critical need for Nader is to get on the ballot in California. The number of petition signatures is staggering so without a Party Ballot line the possibilities are remote. Nader ran in both the Peace and Freedom and Green Party Primaries and won both handily. With the Green Party losing registrants and P&F on life support both need to field the strongest ticket they can in order to survive. Gloria LaRiva won’t cut it anymore for P&F. Cynthia McKinney finished a distant second to Ralph Nader in the Green Primary. 60% to 20% If P&F were to run Nader and the Greens run McKinney the Greens would be massacred at polls. This would result in the Greens losing their ballot status in California after this year and possibly forever. Why is this so important ? Because approximately half of the registered Greens in the US reside in California. The Greens had been growing steadily in the 14 years prior to 2004. The debacle at the convention with the loss of ballot status in a number of states sapped the life out of the Greens. They desparately need to reestablish that momentum quickly if they are to be considered as a viable alternative national party. It’s been 20 years since Jim Sykes Lt Govenor’s Candidacy successfully established the Alaskan Green Party as the first in the nation. Time is clearly running out for the Greens.

  5. The post should also point out that the 2003 mayoral election was a close one. Matt defineatly had and still has alot of support in the city. It’s a shame he resigned from the SF Board, he could have kept momentum into last year’s SF mayoral election and it would’ve been very competitive as opposed to the snore-fest it was. Seems like a great choice.

  6. Out here in California I do not see the Green Party
    at risk at loosing their ballot status anytime soon.
    With 128,000+ members they are comfortably above the
    minimum needed to stay on the ballot in California.
    Their stronghold is the San Francisco Bay area and
    they continue to get people elected there. Their main
    problem nationally seems to be an inability to keep
    on the ballots in other states. A situation that they
    share with the Libertarian & Constitution Party. None
    of these 3 parties have yet been able to establish
    even a small group of Nationally recognzied names that
    can be relied on to counter actions of the 2 Major
    parties on talk radio or cable news. That is where
    Nader”s campaign might be of best help to all of these
    parties in 2008.

  7. Note that in San Francisco, McKinney got more votes in the Green Presidential Primary than Nader. San Francisco was the only county in the state she won.

  8. If it’s true that Nader is going the Independent route, then this could set the Green Party back years by splitting the membership. I never believed that Nader hurt the Democratic Party by making Gore lose, but he sure does seem to be trying his darndest to hurt the Green Party now. This amazes me that he treats the Green Party so badly even though they have bent over backwards for him. And yet, no matter how bad he treats them, a good percentage of Greens still seem to flock to him. Two thoughts come to mind on this.
    1) The first is that Nader seems to be the type of person that doesn’t want to win, but rather has an alterior motive for running. If he goes the Independent route, he’s never going to get on more than half the ballots in the country, and I think that’s just what he wants. I think Nader would rather not make the ballot because he has more fun suing organizations for trying to keep him off of it. He knows he can’t win the election, so he choses to make his statement another way, by suing.
    2) The second thought is that I can’t believe how many Greens support his constant snubbing of the Green Party. Especially people like Howie Hawkins. I live in the Syracuse area and so I’ve followed Hawkins career and his time spent in building up the Green Party. This could split the party in two whose rift could take over a decade to mend. If it even survives that rift. Do you Greens think that you would be welcome back into the fold after supporting a candidate that took a large chunk of its membership away? A candidate that only used the party and then tossed it away when he didn’t need it anymore? Further, Nader is what, 72 years of age? His political career is close to being done. If this rift destroys the Green Party, where do you go in 4 or 5 years after his career is over with? You would have to virtually start over and in twenty years, you might be where you are now. How could people like Hawkins support a candidate that is on the verge of destroying everything they’ve worked for?
    Man, I’m glad I’m a Libertarian. At least our megalomaniacs try to work within the party!

  9. Nader running as an independent doesn’t have to tear the Green Party apart. The party just has to be mature enough to handle the situation. The Nader folks shouldn’t try to hijack individual state Green Party ballot lines like they did in Utah and Vermont in 2004, and the Green leadership shouldn’t try to restrict or silence its members, candidates, and party functionaries who want to support Nader’s independent bid.

  10. To clarify: I don’t recall the exact details of what went on in Utah and Vermont in 2004, but the end result was that neither Cobb nor Nader appeared on those Green lines.

  11. I agree that if Ralph Nader does not seek the GP nomination then he will not be on the ballot in many states this year.

  12. I do not agree with Ralph’s reasoning about there being room for lots of progressive candidates, and I’m not happy that he’s out on his own again, but having said all of that, I went and saw him and Matt Gonzalez speak tonight in D.C. and I was quite surprised (yes, I actually base my opinions about candidates after I go and listen to them, read what they’ve written, and digested their arguments). I was surprised at the reception he got from the audience, which was virtually all George Washington University students (plus a sprinkling of oldtimers like me), most of whom clearly had little knowledge of Nader in general and his presidential campaigns in particular. They were attentive, they were openminded, and they were obviously moved at several points by what the man had to say. His criticisms of the current political system, and of numerous injustices of all kinds which the Democratic Party never discusses, are quite persuasive.

    Both he and Matt Gonzalez made it clear that they are very raring to go, they came out swinging, they obviously organized their campaign themes & structure very well, they know what they want to emphasize and they did so in impressive detail. Aparently they’re also exceeding their fundraising expectations. The sense I got overall is that this campaign is already way beyond the 2004 Nader campaign. The vibe in the room was very reminiscent of 2000 and I was not expecting that. Basically it confirmed what I’ve been sensing in the media, from the surprisingly large number of pro-Nader blog entries around the web to supportive comments from the likes of Michael Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times. None of this was present four years ago.

    Also, and most interestingly from the perspective of people who read TPW, Ralph said at one point “we’re thinking of forming a new party.” Hmmmm. My guess is that he and his crew are seeking to replace the Green Party altogether.

    In any event, even given all of the above, I don’t see this ticket getting 5% of the vote, which means Cynthia McKinney will be lucky indeed to get over 1% of the vote. I’m not sure what will be left of the Green Party at the national level after this campaign. I agree with those who feel that, by this time, the GP should have attracted at least one other leader in the Nader mold. As I’ve written before, I very much like the direction Cynthia McKinney is going in and the people she’s bringing into the fold who otherwise wouldn’t give the GP the time of day, but I’m not convinced yet that her campaign is the vehicle to really grow the party up and beyond the Nader era. We’ll see. I was really stunned by the Nader/Gonzalez event tonight and that has changed my thinking quite a bit.

  13. Phil – Why? Don’t the Greens already represent a solid alternative to the Democratic left? What purpose will be served by splitting that vote even further? Is Nader just upset that the Greens on the national level haven’t given him control of the Party and so he intends to break them out of spite? What other motive could he have for forming another party where he just happens to be the head of it? I think this independent run, both here and in 2004, have given people a lot of food for thought into the character of the man.

  14. Steve Z: I felt the way you do until I went and heard him speak in person last night. I was really surprised. Then I had what I felt confirmed this morning when Ralph was on C-SPAN Radio. He was very charitable to the Green Party and, in fact, flat-out said that Cynthia McKinney is a fine candidate and the Greens SHOULD nominate an African-American woman. I believe he really feels that it’s time to wish them well and leave them to grow on their own.

    He also said “the Greens have their way of doing things and we have our way,” but he didn’t say it in a mean or spiteful way. I think this is simply the final outcome of the split that occurred in 2004 between people like David Cobb and Pat LaMarche and people like Peter Camejo and Matt Gonzalez.

    And it was ever thus. As Richard Winger can confirm, the far left 3rd parties have split up and fractured consistently going back to the 19th century. Even the far right….we have both an American Independent Party AND an Independent American Party! Not to mention an American Party, a Constitution Party, etc. etc. I’m not saying it’s a great idea but it does seem to be human nature.

  15. I doubt Nader is seeking to replace the Green Party. Nader has made it clear that he sees parties as serving a very narrow, instrumental function determined by election law.

    If he runs as an independent, forming a new party makes sense, as it gets him access to the federal matching funds program and automatic or easier ballot access in certain states (most notably Florida). That doesn’t mean he’s planning to do any serious party building.

    In 2004, Nader’s campaign formed the Populist Party in Maryland. It didn’t run any candidates other than Nader. Two years later, it ran only one candidate and endorsed one other. Now it’s gone. I think we’ll see more of the same in a greater number of states in 2008.

  16. His party may well end up replacing the Green Party, even unintentionally. That’s the nature of American political parties. It’s up to the electorate, isn’t it?

    My impression is that the Nader campaign would be forming a party at the national level and not state-by-state placeholders to get around nasty laws, as the Populist Party was. We’ll see.

  17. Thanks for the multiple reports David G.

    I agree with your sentiments re: Nader running separate from but not necessarily opposed to the Green Party. I don’t think he is anti-Green in any way, but rather is doing his own thing and wants to avoid the divisiveness that would be inherent in an intraparty challenge to different Green factions (i.e. Cobb-istas, McKinney-ites, etc.)

    It is also good to hear that there is energy and activity going on in the Nader/Gonzalez campaign. I would like to hear what they have to say about why they are running and what they hope to accomplish, but have no time for them if they are not planning to take this campaign seriously. There’s a reason why Ralph lost ~90% of his share of the vote between 2000 and 2004. I have a lot of respect for Matt Gonzalez, so maybe this time will be different.

    As far as the national prospects for the Green Party, I have to say I am a bit disappointed that the growth at the local level over the last few election cycles seems to be limited to the SF Bay Area and a few smaller jurisdictions in places like Portland, Maine. There’s only so much that you can accomplish as a third party by running for unwinnable offices at the state and federal level. Without growth on the local level it quickly becomes a case of “been there, done that.”

  18. Nader has to create a “national” party this year, and it has to act to some extent like a “real” party, so that he can get matching funds.

    But in the majority of states, where independent ballot access is easier than party ballot access, I’m pretty confident Nader will run as an independent. And I don’t imagine his party will nominate very many candidates for other offices.

    If building a new party was a goal rather than just an instrument, he would have started before late February.

  19. It may be that there was some debate about whether or not to form a party within the Nader team, and they only resolved it last week. Or it may be that he has had that strategy for some time and only publically announced it last night. Who knows? If I hadn’t been there in person I wouldn’t even know about it myself, and to my knowledge it’s not on his website yet and hasn’t been reported anywhere.

    The one report I saw on last night’s event, from the GWU student paper, made it seem as if the person who wrote it wasn’t even in the same room as I was. Her analysis, such as it was, was that (don’t laugh) there was none of the enthusiasm that you see at Clinton or Obama rallies. Now there’s a person with a deep and broad knowledge of 3rd party presidential campaigns. She failed to point out the loud cheering and applauding that kept interrupting Nader while he was speaking. She also failed to notice that his 2000 campaign started almost as quietly (when he ended up the campaign speaking at rallies where 15,000 people would pay to get in and then go bonkers once they got there).

    Matt Spencer: You had to be at the event to feel the seriousness. These guys are serious as a heart attack. It was quite overwhelming. You could tell that the audience could sense that. It’s a shame there were only a few hundred people there.

    As far as the Green Party and local elections goes, they are VERY active at the local level across the country and have built up some very successful local chapters in very unexpected places by doing so. Check out the campaign database at Even here in Virginia, the GP elected three people to local offices last fall and our candidate for Arlington County Board of Supervisors got a vote from 10% of the people who showed up (you can cast two votes for BOS in Arlington, which is one of the most heavily populated counties in the state), not to mention an endorsement from one of the local papers. But you’ll never hear about that kind of stuff in the national media, or even most local media.

  20. Steve Z wrote:

    Steve Z Says:
    February 29th, 2008 at 3:45 am
    Phil – Why? Don’t the Greens already represent a solid alternative to the Democratic left? … [snip] …

    Phil Sawyer answers:

    As others have pointed out, it is difficult to know what Ralph Nader and his close advisers are planning at the present time. However, if I were in his shoes, I might be tempted to go my own way too. The situation is this: Mr. Nader does not have to give in to the Green Party (and the Peace and Freedom Party) on everything and those parties do not have to give in to him on everything. There is no problem with people “doing their own thing.”

    As an activist in the Peace and Freedom Pary, I have been hoping that Ralph could be my Party’s nominee for president. However, I know how hard it is to convince the Old Gaurd in that Party to be flexible about some things. I have been struggling with them for a long time now.

    There is one thing that Ralph Nader should not do and that is to run as an independent candidate (with the exception of in the states where that is the only practical way to get on the ballot). He simply does not have a sufficient base of support in the country to make that a viable option. On the other hand, though, if Ralph and Matt desire to create a new Party that would have a chance to continue for a long time “into the future,” that would be something that could inspire thousands, perhaps millions, of people to get involved with.

    The conditions for a Revolution have been in existence for almost the full length of the Bush-Cheney Administration (as I have been writing about for approximately the same length of time). The Revolution has not happened because there has been no mass party of the people to organize the energy and resources available to bring it into reality. So we are left with increasing episodes of madness and mass violence (which is fodder for the bourgeois establishment news media, of course). Therefore things seem to be static (in the progressive change sense). However, things do not remain static and all of the quantitative changes will eventually lead to a major qualitative change: most likely the Republican Party dying on the vine and the people taking control of the country.

  21. None of California’s ballot-qualified parties are in danger of going off the ballot after the November 2008 election. The vote test only applies in mid-term years.

  22. Matt is an excellent choice. I am so pleased I will have a ticket for which I truly want to vote. Nader has misgivings about the Green Party – any party for that matter – for his own good reasons.

    As I understand it, McKinney and Nader did try to have some sort of conversation about a joint ticket, but that fell flat.

    Wildly, perhaps Nader is simply being respectful of the party organizers demand for a party member to be their leader and for that leading ticket to represent a woman. Nader hasn’t sought a gender or race identity solution for his running mate. In Matt, Nader has found someone who can carry on his platform of ideas in a manner that resonates with him. Cut them all some slack. Let them campaign and campaign hard.

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  24. Thank you ralph. Thinks to people like
    you I still have hope in our politic

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