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Ohio Green Party candidate barred from debates, continues aggressive campaign for Governor

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MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you with us.

The race for governor of Ohio is making headlines across the country. Some see it as a test between Mike DeWine, who represents the Trump Republicans, and Richard Cordray, who represents the centrist Obama Democrats. They faced each other before when DeWine defeated Cordray for attorney general, and Cordray then went off to work for the Obama administration. But as usual, the media has ignored the other parts of the campaign. They focus on the major parties, and do not significantly look at the Green Party. Their party candidate is Constance Gabell-Newton, who’s running for governor. She was denied the right to be part of the debate they held the other night, and will probably not be part of the subsequent debates taking place. But where does she stand on the issues? Why is she running? And where would she take Ohio? What place do or can third parties play in our political landscape, and in Ohio specifically, for this conversation? We’re about to talk to Constance Gadell-Newton, the Green Party candidate for governor of Ohio. And Constance, welcome, good to have you with us.

Thank you. So let’s talk about this race and the other night there was this debate that took place between the Democrat and the Republican running for governor of Ohio. You were frozen the other debate just just tell us a bit about what led up to that and what you did to try to get into debate and what the consequences were.

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Thank you. Yes, we’ve been we’ve been very proactive with how we’ve been dealing with the media. So I have taken a lot of opportunities to interview and to go to candidates forums. And traditionally, minor parties and candidates are left out of the debate. So it wasn’t a big surprise when we found out about the debate schedule that did not include myself, and also the Libertarian candidate, in Ohio.

So we contacted the organization, the Ohio Debate Commission. I had people contacting the League of Women Voters, who is one of the cosponsors. And basically, when I heard that the Ohio Debate Commission was forming to have more fair debates and a better debate process, I was happy to hear about that. And I really hoped that they would include me. So you can imagine I was very disappointed when I found out that we wouldn’t be included, despite the fact that this newly formed Debate Commission had come together with a bunch of organizations saying that they wanted to promote a democratic process. So we did contact them. We’ve been in touch with them. They declined to allow me to debate with Cordray and DeWine for- basically there are three debates in Ohio that have been scheduled. We were at the University of Dayton debate yesterday. There will be one in Marietta and one in Cleveland. So the Ohio Debate Commission says that they are only really in charge of one of those debates. So we did contact the University of Dayton as well, and asked to be included. So they’ve all declined, unfortunately.

MARC STEINER: Why did they decline? I mean, what’s the- are they giving you a threshold because the polls are saying- what excuse are they using to not allow you to be in the debates?

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Right, what excuse this year. It seems like it’s always kind of a moving target. So this year they have set the threshold at 10 percent in the polls. Most polls don’t even include a Green Party candidate. So it’s very difficult to get an accurate poll. I don’t believe that the polls are very reliable.

So they set it at 10 percent. The debate commission also put on their webite that it was based on the likelihood of winning. But as most people would understand, that really biases the viewers and the voters. It’s really an unfair criterion, especially if they’re posting it on there publicly that we’re not likely to win. So I believe that based on the issues that we could win if we got enough publicity and were allowed in the debates.


Let’s get to the heart of some of the matters that you would have talked about last night, and are talking about in your campaign. The debate, from what I saw, focused on things like the opioid issue, which is emotionally grabbing- for good reason- people in Ohio. There’s a lot of sniping back and forth, the two men kind of personally attacking one another. So I’m curious you think was left out. What do you see that are the key issues that are not being discussed, or that you would have discussed differently than they?

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Well, I- one thing that I notice is that they talked about Medicaid expansion. And that really seemed to be the focus of their discussion on healthcare. Green Party candidates and a lot of activists around the state have been promoting universal healthcare, single-payer healthcare. There’s also a bill pending for Medicare for all, which is different than the Medicaid expansion. We really believe that healthcare is a human right, and that no matter what’s going on nationally with healthcare, we have the ability to provide health care in Ohio for Ohioans at the state level.

MARC STEINER: How could that happen? Talk a bit about how you think that could happen.

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: So there is a bill pending right now in the state House. It’s Medicare for All. And we also follow the SPAN model, the Single-Payer Action Network. So basically, it does provide a single-payer system so that health expenses are basically covered. It doesn’t matter what your income level is. It’s really for everybody. It would cut out a lot of the administrative costs. It would cut out the middleman. And it would save Ohioans a lot of money.

MARC STEINER: As I said earlier, they talked a lot about the opioid crisis. I’m curious what you think is being left out of this debate. What are you- what do you and the Green Party bring to this that’s different than Cordray’s Democrats or DeWine’s Republicans? Go ahead, I’m sorry.

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Yeah. So right now in Ohio, there’s Issue One. And Issue 1 brings down a lot of the drug offenses to a misdemeanor. So you know, DeWine is coming from the tough on crime perspective, and I think really put out a lot of misinformation about Issue 1. I do support Issue 1, as Cordray has also said that he does as well. But basically, I view the opiate crisis as a healthcare issue, not a criminal issue. And so we would address this by promoting expansive mental health and addiction services through a universal healthcare system, and treating addiction as a healthcare issue, not a criminal issue. So that’s something that I don’t feel was really adequately addressed by either of the other two candidates.

MARC STEINER: So in these races is, I think there’s a question that looms here in a lot of people’s minds, because this is kind of a very strange and different era, with Trump sitting in the White House. And you’re seeing a lot of people who one might think would be a Green or Independent candidate running inside the Democratic Party, and many of them running openly as socialist or democratic socialists in the Democratic Party. Not that Cordray’s doing that. Cordray is clear about who he is as a centrist Democrat. But many Democrats, many people are running inside the Democratic Party right now. So I mean, when people say, so why- respond to that, and where you see this going, especially in Ohio, and …

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: It sounds like maybe you’re asking the question why run as a Green instead of a Democrat.

MARC STEINER: Well, that, and- yes, that, and just the- some people are saying the dynamic, the political dynamic is shifting, where people on the progressives and people on the left and people who would be Greens are now running inside the Democratic Party to shift the party, and almost take it over or split it. You know what I’m saying? So there’s a, there’s something almost that people are trying to find that’s happening at the moment, politically. How do you think you and the Greens fit into that?

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Well, as a Green I feel like I have additional freedom to stick by our principles and our integrity. We don’t accept corporate donations, so that’s one of the biggest differences between Greens and Democrats. You know that Greens are not going to be taking corporate donations. I know there may be some Democrats who also choose not to do that. But by and large I know that both of my opponents in this race do take money from the oil and gas industry and corporations.

I would just say that we are really trying to build a new party that actually represents the people, and that’s not compromised by corporate interests and the corporate donations. So I think that it’s great that leftists and socialists are running, and I would absolutely invite them to run as Greens. We’re working on a lot of coalition building right now. So I would just encourage them, you know, as you see the Democrats going further and further to the middle, and being centrist, and trying to go after those kind of centrist votes, we are trying to build a party on the left that will actually represent the people and stand up for our progressive values.

MARC STEINER: So again, just in keeping with that last question, before we hear another piece about your specific platforms, some people might say, look, you have DeWine running. And he is the- Trump likes him, he likes Trump. Trump, you know, is part of that vast network of right-wing Republicans. And if you, as you’re polling, two or three percent at the moment- it could be more, the polls are never always right. But this is a tight race. If you are that margin that put DeWine in and kept Cordray out, how do you respond to people when they say that as a critique?

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: A couple of things. First of all, there’s also a libertarian who is in the race. And traditionally they cater more to people on the right. But aside from that, only about 30 to 40 percent of people actually vote who are eligible to vote. So we’re really going after the unaffiliated voters, the first-time voters. And what we’ve seen in the Green Party is that we’re getting people coming from the left and the right and unaffiliated voters all across the spectrum who are interested in what the Green Party has to offer. People are really, I think, pretty fed up with the political system and how polarized it is now. And we’re trying to be a party for the people that responds to everyday people’s interests, and that really represents the people. And we’re trying to represent all Ohioans. I know that there is a lot of political polarization, but we’re trying to find that common ground so that we can move forward in cooperation and find consensus on certain issues.

MARC STEINER: So if you were to, being asked the question in a debate, a larger format, to close out and tell the voters what exactly it is that the Greens are standing for and what you’re standing for as gubernatorial candidate that’s different than the other two, beyond what we’ve already talked about, what would it be? I mean, what- how would you describe how you, what your platform is saying to the people of Ohio about where you would take Ohio and why it’s important for the Greens to win?

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Well, just in a nutshell, we are the only party and I’m the only candidate who is advocating for an immediate moratorium and ban on fracking and injection wells in Ohio. We want to make sure that Ohioans have clean water and a clean, safe environment. And we also support the movement for community rights so that communities can protect their local area from out-of-state polluters.

But we’re not just a one-issue party. We also stand for social justice and non-violence, and we are standing for universal healthcare, which is something that the other two parties are not calling for; decriminalization and legalization of recreational marijuana, medical cannabis, and industrial hemp; and we also want a rapid transition to green energy in Ohio. We really want to see a rise in green businesses, green manufacturing, and worker-owned manufacturing in Ohio. We’d like to transition quickly to clean energy sources, and provide a Superfund for workers who are coming out of dirty energy industries.

One thing that I often need to address is what seems like a conflict between environmental interests and workers. What I would say is that the Green Party stands strong with workers. We want to support workers. And the seeming conflict between workers and the environment I think is a false conflict. We can support both through a program of green jobs, union jobs, that will help protect our environment. There’s so much more.

MARC STEINER: That was great. I think what you’ve just done is kind of give your closing statement you would have given last night, had you had a chance to be in the debate the other night. So it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. We look forward to following this campaign. Constance Gadell-Newton is the Green Party candidate for governor of Ohio. Thanks so much for joining us here on The Real News. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.

CONSTANCE GADELL-NEWTON: Thank you very much.

MARC STEINER: Take care. And I’m Marc Steiner, here for The Real News Network. Take care. We’ll be talking together soon.

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Host, The Marc Steiner Show
Marc Steiner is the host of "The Marc Steiner Show" on TRNN. He is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on social justice issues. He walked his first picket line at age 13, and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested at a civil rights protest during the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught theater for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993-2018 Marc's signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR—which Marc co-founded—and Morgan State University’s WEAA.