SILVER SPRING — Montgomery County voters will have another option to choose from when they cast their votes in the gubernatorial election in November.
“This is a very important election for us Greens … because it keeps us on the ballot,” said Green Party gubernatorial candidate Ian Schlakman to a small crowd of voters at Kaldi’s Coffee Bar during a meet-and-greet in downtown Silver Spring. “We have to get one percent this election or else we risk losing ballot access.”
“When I’m asked why I’m running … I’m running because we have to make a change in this state, in this country, in this system,” added Schlakman’s running mate, Rev. Annie Chambers. “We live in the second richest state in this country, yet we have people freezing to death in the street, we have children freezing to death in the school system … we have people being kicked out of the hospital because they can’t pay their bills.”
The two Baltimore-based candidates, who will face current incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Libertarian Shawn Quinn, and the winner of the June 26 Democratic Primary election in November’s general election, emphasized their progressive platform on issues including campaign finance reform, public housing, and tuition-free college education.
Schlakman, 33, a self-described socialist who works as a cybersecurity entrepreneur, said the Greens’ campaign and platform differed from those of the two major parties.
“I think you should look at the kind of campaign we’re running … some of the progressive candidates running for governor have a track record of being millionaires, venture capitalists … if we’re not taking on the Democratic establishment, and we’re not talking about them as a problem institution, then we’re not getting to the heart of the matter,” he added.
Voters in attendance also mentioned the PRIME Act, a series of financial incentives to attract Amazon to the state, which Schlakman said he would work to overturn if elected.
“As someone who has to compete against large multinational corporations, I find it widely offensive the way both parties will run after large corporations, offering them tax breaks, money, and land,” he said. “They would never offer those same kinds of incentives to small businesses.”
The Greens’ platform also includes establishing a state-level public bank, taxing millionaires, legalizing marijuana, enhancing gun control, and allowing voluntary euthanasia.
Schlakman explained, that while his campaign has yet to publish detailed policy positions on environmental issues, as governor he would end the transportation of liquefied natural gas within the state, close incinerators, expand wind and solar energy, and implement a 100-percent renewable energy portfolio.
Chambers, 76, enters the race after nearly four decades of activism with the late Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., membership in the Black Panther Party, and election to Baltimore’s Resident Advisory Board.
After attending the 2016 Democratic Convention as a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chambers explained she was disheartened by his endorsement of eventual nominee Hillary Clinton and began to search for another candidate to support.
“Poor people remember welfare reform, we remember the cuts in the budgets ... we were not going to support Hillary Clinton,” she said.
Chambers eventually supported Jill Stein when the Green Party presidential nominee toured some of Baltimore’s public housing complexes.
“I see myself being in a party that we can be a part of … that working class people could be more involved in,” she added.
The Montgomery County Chapter of the Green Party organized the meet-and-greet, which numerous down-ballot candidates attended, including Maryland’s 6th Congressional candidate George Gluck; County Council At-Large candidate Tim Willard, District 19 State Senate candidate David Jeang, and District 18 House of Delegates candidate Jon Cook.
Approximately 10 voters attended the event.
Jon Forman, 44, a registered Democrat from Kensington, explained that he is considering voting for Green candidates.
“I believe we have a two-party duopoly, and people by habit are thought to think of themselves in one of the two parties … and in Montgomery County, we have one party … but it’s good to have diversity of opinion,” he said.
“We do have a climate emergency, the planet is dying, and the Green Party is taking the strongest stance to aggressively ensure that our kids, our grandchildren, have a place to live,” he added.
Ken Roseman, 66, a Silver Spring resident and also a registered Democrat, attended as a supporter of left-wing political issues.
“There are a number of candidates running in the Democratic primaries locally that are good, but I’m still sympathetic to the Green Party,” he said. “I’ve been to meetings with liberal Democrats, I felt myself much freer to express myself here.”