Anna Trevorrow, At-large Portland Charter Commissioner

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Portland Daily Sun interviews Anna

Voice: The politics of growing greens
Anna Trevorrow, Maine Green Party Chair

Maine's Green Party ranks have grown in recent years to more than 31,000, yet in the 2008 Presidential Elections, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney received just 2,800 of those votes. Independent Ralph Nader, the Green party's former standard bearer in 2000, received about 10,000 votes.

For Anna Trevorrow, a Portland resident chosen earlier this year to lead the state's Greens, these figures illustrate both challenge and an opportunity.

In an interview earlier this month, Trevorrow, herself an unsuccessful candidate for school committee this past fall, said she has realistic goals for the party. She said the party must work at the local level to continue drawing new members. During next fall's city elections, she explained, the party is focused not only on defending its existing seats but possibly adding members both locally and in cities and towns across the state.

In the longer term, Trevorrow said she would like to see more party members support their candidates at the state and national levels. To achieve this, she said the party must overcome perceptions that a vote for a Green candidate is a "vote for a Republican."

But in the meantime there are also more urgent concerns for party officials. In order to retain ballot status, Trevorrow said the Green party candidate must receive at least 5 percent in the 2010 gubernatorial race -- something that will test the party's organizational and grassroots efforts over the next 20 months.

Portland Daily Sun: In your opinion how did the party do in the 2008 elections?

Anna Trevorrow: It wasn't very successful. I think we got about 1 percent of the vote statewide.

PDS: What do you think about Greens that defect and vote for a candidate like Barack Obama?

AT: I would like to see people become more excited about our presidential candidates. That is one of the hardest things about the presidential race. People are willing to vote for a Green Party member running in a local race but that's a factor of, 'If I vote for a Green, I'm voting for a Republican.' I feel like that's a false logic but it's a very persuasive thing to our members.

PDS: How do you go about growing the party during a non-election year?

AT: I think it's about reaching out and building local committees. That's something we would really like to focus on going forward, reaching out to areas where we already have a decent membership base and trying to get people excited about forming committees and becoming active in their municipality.

PDS: What is the realistic expectation of a candidate for statewide office?

AT: We definitely have to get 5 percent. That's very basic and I think that's achievable. I think a lot of people question us, saying 'Why are you [running], you are just going to lose anyway?' and I think people accuse us of thinking we are going to everything when that's not realistic. We're not that naive; for us, success is to grow the Green movement.

PDS: What are some of the themes of the Green movement?

AT: Ecological wisdom -- and under that would be sustainability and environmentalism, nonviolence, peace, ending the war, ending all wars, equal rights.

PDS: Those issues seem like they could appeal to a wide percentage of the electorate. What do you find when you meet someone who might be sympathetic to the cause but is reluctant to align with the Green movement?

AT: It depends on the circumstance how willing people are to come around to idea of voting for a Green candidate. There are a lot of things rhetorically that Democrats present ... and those are the arguments people throw at you, so it's just about countering those and making sure you're always speaking what you believe.

PDS: We heard this a lot in 2000 and less since, but do you believe there really is no difference between the two major political parties?

AT: More or less I do. They're both in the pockets of big corporations and corporate power and they are not going to confront the person that's giving them money. There are some marginal differences but they are just not very significant.

PDS: You mentioned that the party is in a rebuilding mode locally and nationally. Is there a high water mark for the party?

AT: Here in Portland in the heyday (of the early 2000s) so to speak, we had four members on the school committee and we had John Eder in the state house and so we had more elected officials in that time. People were more willing to take that risk and I think we have gone through a more reactionary period.

A couple election cycles ago, the Democratic party had signs out saying 'Greens cause chaos' and listed the names of our candidates. Even when I was running this past election cycle, I still had people saying 'Greens cause chaos' so it's very powerful when you get to a point where are starting to affect change and forces-that-be kind of come down and suppress.

PDS: What is the relationship like between Green Party and the Democratic party?

AT: We work together where we need to.

PDS: Is there any tension between Greens and Democrats in the city?

AT: We're less willing to talk negatively about our opponent. We don't hate them.

PDS: How many Green Party members currently sit on city council or the school committee?

AT: We have had some success in Portland. We have [District 2 city councilor], Dave Marshall, [District 1 city councilor] Kevin Donoghue and [At-large city councilor] John Anton. We also have [District 1 school committee member] Rebecca Minnock.

PDS: What was your experience like running for school committee as a Green candidate?

AT: I look back on it fondly. We [all Green candidates] felt like we were really controlling the debate and I think that even when our candidates don't win, we serve that purpose at the very least; we keep the debate to the left.

PDS: How do you feel your message was received during the campaign?

AT: I felt like we had a pretty good reception. A lot of people would come up to me after the debate and say 'I'm really glad you're doing this' and 'If you don't win this time, I hope you run again.' When you hear them say that you know they might not vote for you, but you know they appreciate that you're there and you're doing this and your serving this purpose.

PDS: Is it disheartening to know that your candidates for national and statewide office are at best a long shot?

AT: It's disheartening when don't get as much as much of a percentage as you wanted. But you have to get behind your candidate no matter what, you have to get it into head that you're going to win. That's the only way you can do it.

PDS: How did you get involved in the Green movement?

AT: My parents were both very steadfast Democrats but they were very progressive in their values and their approach to politics and education. I registered as green since, well, since I registered to vote. The Green Party just embraced everything I embraced for values.

("Voice" is the Daily Sun personal interview series. To suggest a subject, email us at

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