The race for New York’s 24th Congressional district is heating up between the two major party candidates. One Green Party candidate could heavily impact the decision between a blue district and a red one.
After redistricting across the country, Oswego County has been included in the same congressional district as Syracuse, the new 24th District. Last election, Oswego County was included in the 23rd Congressional District and not in the same district as Onondaga County. Ann Marie Buerkle, the Republican candidate, would have been the incumbent in the 25th District; however, after the new redistricting she has become the incumbent of the 24th District. Her opponent is Democrat Dan Maffei.
The Green Party has put forward a candidate in this close race as well: Ursula Rozum, a 28-year-old Syracuse native. According to her campaign’s Facebook page, Rozum is the daughter of Polish immigrants and attended Bishop Ludden High School. She has also worked with the Syracuse Peace Council since 2008. Rozum is the only third party candidate in this race.
Buerkle and Maffei are both supported by the more common third parties in New York state. Buerkle has garnered the support of the Conservative Party and the Independence Party, while Maffei has the support of the Working Families Party.
This support has lead to a 43 percent tie between the two, according to a recent Siena College poll. Rozum had 7 percent of the vote with another 6 percent undecided; the final 1 percent said they would not be voting. The margin of error for the poll is 3.9 percent.
According to a report done by the New York State Board of Elections, Rozum is representing a party that has only 122 registered voters in Oswego County, of which as of April only 89 are active. The congressional district on the other hand has 960 active Green Party voters. Of active voters in the district, 95,783 are not registered to any party at all.
“Part of my campaign has been connecting with Greens and finding new supporters,” Rozum said. “We’ve been going through friends, and friends of friends to get the word out.”
Rozum said she is not relying on votes from the Green Party, but the votes of disgruntled voters from the two major parties. She hopes to “inspire new Green voters.”
Maureen Curtin, an associate professor of English at Oswego State, said she is not surprised by the lack of Green Party enrollment. Curtin has been heavily involved with Rozum’s campaign.
“I was always a Democrat until I watched the economic collapse,” Curtin said.
She believes that Rozum is the representative who will call attention to matters that “are not being addressed by the major parties.”
“I’ve been involved in anti-drone protests, occupy protests and solidarity movements,” Curtin said.
Along with Curtin, Howie Hawkins, the co-chair for the Green Party of New York, has been heavily involved with Rozum’s campaign.
“Howie is the face of the Green Party in New York State,” Curtin said. “He’s a blue-collar, well-educated guy.” Hawkins ran in the 2010 gubernatorial election as well as in the 2008 election for the 25th District, which saw Maffei take the position.
Still, some voters believe that Rozum is stealing votes from Maffei’s campaign, something that is not new to American politics. Ralph Nader is known as a third-party candidate who ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000. Nader recorded 527,000 votes in 1996 and more than 2.5 million votes in 2000. He ran as an independent in 2004 and 2008.
“People complaining about me running should not be frustrated with me; they should be frustrated with who they support for supporting a voting system that doesn’t have more representatives in an election,” Rozum said.
“Saying that Rozum is taking the votes away from Maffei is a scapegoat, just like when Ralph Nader was blamed for stealing votes from Al Gore,” said Curtin, who believes that Maffei’s campaign just wants to cover up its own weaknesses by blaming Rozum for such a close race.
“Maffei doesn’t appeal to progressives,” Curtin said.
Appealing to progressive voters is something that Rozum’s campaign believes they do. Rozum calls for a “Green New Deal,” focusing on six major points. According to her campaign website, the six points of interest include:
- Bringing troops home along with a 50 percent cut in military spending to put toward public works programs and also legalizing marijuana while treating drug use as a social and health issue.
- Ending indefinite detention and executions without due process and habeas corpus, as well as restoring constitutional rights and civil liberties.
- Full employment with the government as the employer of last resort.
- The right to sustainable environment and a stable climate; net-zero carbon emissions by 2025 achieved through increasing renewable energy jobs.
- The right to education; tuition-free, quality public education from pre-K through grad school.
- The right to health care; improved and expanded Medicare for all and mproving on Obamacare.
“It’s mainly based on FDR’s [Franklin D. Roosevelt] New Deal, focusing on public works programs and putting the unemployed to work,” Rozum said.
Along with this, Rozum calls for electoral reform saying the current system is “easy to control” and “it gets people to vote for something they normally wouldn’t.”