Questions Posed to the South Carolina Green Party about Its use of Fusion in Electoral Campaigns

by Jim Brash, North Star Editorial Board Member on May 11, 2016


[ The responses below were provided by Sue Edward, co-chair of the South Carolina Green Party , during a late night Q & A.]

TNS: On May 2, Arik Bjorn for Congress, posted on his Facebook page, that he had been endorsed by the South Carolina Green Party. Did he correctly state what actually happened?

Arik was nominated to be the Green Party candidate for South Carolina CD-2. He wanted to do an announcement and asked if it was ok to use the term “endorsed”, until after the Dem primary on June 6. South Carolina has a sore loser law – if he loses that primary he would not be allowed on the ballot in November for any party. He was just being cautious over the term “candidate”. I saw no harm in using “endorsed” until after June 6. He was nominated at our state party convention. Under SC law, only D and R have primaries. All other parties have conventions.

TNS: Okay. Is Arik a member of the SCGP, or a person that has worked with the SCGP in the past?

I believe he joined at the convention but would need to verify with our treasurer. He has worked with one of our Steering Committee members before and was enthusiastically endorsed by that Steering Committee member.

TNS: Ok. Is he expected to win the June primary?

I think he will – his opponent is pretty much a Tea Party person running as a D.

Has the SCGP endorsed, supported, or allowed their ballot line to be used by a Dem, or even anther third party candidate previously?

We have run fusion candidates in the past. We have 3 fusion candidates this year. Not all have been fusion Dem – for example, a few years ago we ran a fusion candidate who also ran as the United Citizens Party candidate. And our ballot line is not “used” by anyone. They have to be elected by the delegates at our convention in order to get our nomination.

TNS: Understood. What is the benefit to the SCGP in running fusion candidates? What is the voting process for these type of candidates at the state party convention? Is there any opposition of merit to this from within the SCGP, to these fusion candidates?

Some of the benefits: we have candidates on the ballot in precincts where we might not otherwise have any candidates – this shows voters that we exist. To a lesser extent (probably more important for some of the smaller third parties), State law requires that parties run a candidate for some partisan office at least once every 4 years, in order to be recognized as a party and keep our ballot status. But most importantly we can try to get someone into office that supports the 10 key values and will work to help the people they represent.

The process at the convention is that candidates are given time to address the delegates and members (this year the POTUS candidates had 20 minutes and other candidates 10 minutes). Then delegates vote by paper ballot and have an option of Yes, No, and abstain. If there are more Nos than Yeses, the candidate does not get our nomination. If we have more than one candidate for an office, then it’s ranked choice including a No choice. All candidates who are running fusion are clearly noted as such so there is no confusion among delegates.

We have discussed the merits and drawbacks of fusion within the Steering Committee and among the members. At this point in time, we do allow fusion candidates to seek our nomination.

TNS: Are there any expectations, demands, or requirements that the fusion candidate must meet or maintain between the convention and the November elections?

Not formally. They are free to use our logo and say they the are Green Party candidate. We list them as our candidate on our website, etc.

TNS: Do they have to incorporate the SCGP platform into what they’re standing for or have positions that are in line with the 4 pillars or 10 key values?

Yes – if they didn’t, they would never have been nominated in the first place. We nominate people who already share our values – we don’t ask/force them to adopt our values. As to the previous question, to be fair we don’t have different requirements for fusion candidates than for non-fusion. And “to be fair” is a figure of speech, not a formal statement concerning fairness.

TNS: Understood. Do you fundraise for fusion candidates in the same ways you fundraise for all other candidates?

We are a tiny party. The candidates fundraise for themselves. We might be able to offer a small (very small) amount of money for their campaign but again we dont change the requirements based on whether they are fusion or not.

TNS: What could the GPUS do to help the SCGP grow and become more relevant in SC?

There seems to be a confusion over what fusion really is. It means that a candidate appears on more than one party’s ballot line. It does not mean we are supporting the D party or that we have lost our autonomy. We will be trading our member list with the GPUS member/donor list and that will help. We have seen growth recently from Bernie supporters who realize that the DNC is going to screw Bernie over and also from former occupiers who are starting to realize that the only way to change anything is to get involved. If anything, GPUS and other Greens need to welcome them and not villianize them for supporting Bernie.

TNS: Understood, but I believe the confusion comes from the fact that many greens around the country see the Dems as anathema to what the GP is about, and attempting to accomplish, & that supprot for one of “their” candidates is counterproductive to green party goals. How does your state party respond to that? And as far as Bernies’ supporters are concerned, how do you educate them about green politics or the green party, without talking at them or running the off?

I agree that the D party is anathema to what we believe in. A fusion candidate is someone running on more than one party’s ballot line – it doesn’t mean they are owned by the D party. In fact, candidates who have drunk the D Kool Aid don’t seek fusion. Candidates who care about their constituents and really want to help, run fusion as a way to better their chances of winning. Bernie supporters are seeking us out. We don’t talk at them, they come to us asking to be let in.

TNS: Was there any discussion at the convention to endorse Bernie Sanders in the June primary?

The POTUS primary here was in January. Bernie lost big time.

TNS: Thanx for the clarification. Why multiple primaries? Does this effectively keep independents and third parties at bay?

No, the R POTUS primary is mid January and the D POTUS primary is a week later (first in the south). The primary for other offices is in June. It just is. By state law only D and R have primaries. All other parties (there are 9 ballot qualified parties) have conventions. D and R candidates pay a filing fee to help pay the cost of running primaries, other party candidates do not pay a filing fee. The filing fee can be steep, so that is one advantage we have.

TNS: I have only a few more questions… If any of the fusion candidates get elected, what would it mean to the SCGP? What would it mean to the GPUS, in your opinion?

If they get elected we get bragging rights that we have an elected Green in office. But more importantly it mean we have someone who actually cares about our values and about the people they were elected to represent. That really is more important than what letter is next to their name.

TNS: What would you like to say to greens that don’t support the idea of fusion tickets when that fusion includes someone that is also running as a Dem? Also, what would you you like to say to greens that believe this type of fusion will lead to co-option by the Democratic Party of a given state?

In South Carolina, fusion is a strategy to get your name out there as much as possible. Candidates who seek fusion are not Dem insiders – in fact, the D party tends to shun candidates who run fusion and withdraw their support from them. And our nomination process actually protects us from being taken over. By law, anyone who files a D or R and is the only candidate who files is automatically their nominee. If there is more than one, then whoever wins the primary is their nominee. Republicans frequently file as Dems and the Dem party can’t do anything about it. Remember Alvin Greene??? We have the option to vote No during our convention – filing Green does not guarantee our nomination – they have to earn our nomination. (BTW – in the Alvin Greene year, several of the Dem county parties endorsed the Green candidate for US Senate).

TNS: My final question is, where do you see the SCGP heading over the next 3-5 years as a political party in South Carolina?

If we can keep the momentum that we are seeing now, we will gain members. I think we can have a few elected officials at the local level, whether non-partisan or partisan. At a more local level, we want to be seen as the group who can get things done – we already have new members of the Charleston County Green Party who are enthusiastically working on local issues and looking into developing local co-ops. We don’t need to be seen as merely a political party to help the people of our communities, but if they trust us to help them then they will vote for us. Walk the walk, not just lip service.

One more thing – the Dem party doesn’t need to take over the SCGP to get another ballot line, they already have the Working Families Party for that.

TNS: Thank you for your time and good luck with the various campaigns and other activism. Take care.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

smith May 11, 2016 at 4:22 am

this all seems a bit shakeyi with a potential for all kinds of chaos and possible infiltration i.e. he joined at the convention and was endorsed by 1 (??!!??) person he had worked with. ???? I would say at the least this person should be closely monitored and watched.


Jimmy Brash May 11, 2016 at 9:27 am

I’ve visited the candidate’s page prior to doing this interview. I only saw him mention the Green Party once, that was when he thanked for and acknowledged the “endorsement” , since them it’s vote blue repeatedly. I don’t know if it’s just part of his strategy to not mention his green party affiliation, or if it’s inconsequential to his campaign pre-primary. I’m hoping after the primary to see him mention the SCGP more. I support state and local parties being able to do what it or they think is best for their situation, but still it doesn’t seem it would take much for this to become a slippery slope. One caveat is that they’ve done this before and have made gains from it.


Jimmy Brash May 11, 2016 at 9:30 am

I’d also add that I believe that the internal democracy of the SCGP is strong enough to combat any external difficulties that might arise from supporting these type of tickets. Ill keep watching how this unfolds for them and will interview them again after the November elections. Between now and then I will attempt to interview one of these fusion candidates….liked to know what they really think about the green party and independent political action.


Sue Edward May 11, 2016 at 10:31 am

BTW – the other 2016 fusion candidates are Dimitri Cherny for CD-1 and Thomas Dixon for US Senate.


circe801 October 27, 2016 at 7:33 am

I will be voting for Thomas Dixon. Unfortunately, I am in CD5 and n order to attempt to remove Mick “co nothing” Mulvaney, Fran Person is the only choice. He is a Dem, but, hey, ANYONE is better than Mulvaney–who, incidentally, was the first Rethug to win the seat in over 20 years… Unfortunately, we have GOP incumbents the State House and Senate running unopposed. No one else could obtain enough signatures to run–and this must not happen again…


David Gillespie May 11, 2016 at 3:43 pm

I am a member of the Steering Committee of the SC Green Party and also a member of the Charleston Green Party. I completely agree with what our state Co-Chair, Sue Edward, said in this interview, and I commend her for it.

South Carolina is one of some eight states which allow ballot-level fusion. Fusion does bear some hazards (mainly of cooptation) for third parties; but New York, another fusion state, carries a long history of fusion benefits for many third parties. In fact, it may be the New York example that has motivated the duopoly in some 42 states to guard its protected status by disallowing fusion.

Fusion has been less frequently used in South Carolina than in New York; but I can tell you that when South Carolina candidates seek the nominations of both the Democratic and Green parties they are definitely setting themselves to the progressive left of the run of the mill candidates of either major party in this state. “Going Green” makes a real statement here, and it is a statement the SC Green Party should encourage IF the candidate shares the values and policy goals of our party and is of a character to represent this party well.

BTW, I am a political scientist, now retired from teaching, and have written two books on third parties, both published by the University of South Carolina Press. The more recent is titled Challengers to Duopoly: Why Third Parties Matter. Fusion is one of the topics on which I have spent a lot of time.


Jay May 11, 2016 at 6:57 pm

I found it odd that Arik Bjorn showed up at the GREEN CONVENTION, introduce himself as a Dem. say a few short words then leave to go to the Dem. convention or SO HE SAID!
I would not vote for Arik Bjorn or any of his supporters..


Mark Lause June 9, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Does nobody really understand history? Fusion has absolutely no benefits over the long run.

It is a 140 year old Democratic Party practice for demolishing third party movements. This is exactly how the Democrats killed the Greenbackers, the Populists, and others.

When something looks too good to be true, it is.


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