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2006-10-31

Green Party Senatorial Candidate in Penn. Defends Receiving GOP Funding in Failed Ballot Drive

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We speak with Green Party senatorial candidate Carl Romanelli about his failed attempt to get his name on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The state’s restrictive ballot access laws required Romanelli to get over 67,000 signatures on his nominating petition compared to just 2,000 for the major party candidates. We also ask about the funding Romanelli received in his ballot drive, which came from an unlikely source–prominent Republicans. [includes rush transcript]

As the battle between Republicans and Democrats for control of Congress dominates the country’s attention, independent and third party candidates are being increasingly marginalized–both in the media and at the polls. Nowhere is this more true than in Pennsylvania. Due to the state’s restrictive ballot access laws, Pennsylvania will be one of only four states having state-wide races without any third party candidates.

The senatorial race pits incumbent Republican Rick Santorum on the ballot against Democrat Bob Casey. It was relatively easy for either major party candidate to get his name on the statewide ballot–they needed just 2,000 signatures each on their nominating petitions. By contrast, any other candidate this year needed over 30 times that much–or about 67,000 signatures.

Carl Romanelli is the Green Party candidate who had hoped to run against Casey and Santorum. His name will not appear on the ballot next week. Romanelli is among the speakers at a forum tonight for state-wide write-in candidates held by the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. Carl Romanelli joins us now from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

  • Carl Romanelli, Green Party Senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Romanelli is the Green Party candidate who had hoped to run against Casey and Santorum. His name will not appear on the ballot next week. Romanelli is among the speakers at a forum tonight for statewide write-in candidates held by the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. Carl Romanelli joins us now from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the meeting is going to take place tonight. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Carl.

CARL ROMANELLI: Thank you for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: How hard is it to get on the ballot?

CARL ROMANELLI: Oh, it’s nearly impossible, and we believed that we met the impossible, filed a signature filing that was not only historic in its volume, but was historic in its integrity and its credibility. And after an arduous eight-and-a-half weeks, the only way I was able to be displaced from the ballot was by having the court case climax in my not being allowed to present my evidence, testimony and defense, because our signatures are fine. They’re perfectly valid. And the discrepancies between what the Casey camp is saying and what we’re saying regarding validity is a problem with the statewide computer system and how information is gotten out of it, not a problem with our filing. So, when you jump through the hoops and you accomplish the impossible and then find yourself displaced anyway, it has chilling implications for democracy, as some of the other information previously mentioned on your show does.

AMY GOODMAN: Who challenged your signatures?

CARL ROMANELLI: It was challenged by the Democratic Party, but it was a clear attempt on the part of Bob Casey to make sure that I went away. The Democrats like to use this line, that I would be a spoiler, but I suspect that deep down it’s because Bob Casey was petrified to debate me. Bob Casey is from my section of the state. We’ve known each other for a while, and he knows that I’m much more well-informed policy-wise, as well as a much more capable debater.

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Romanelli, the funding of your campaign is something I would like to address right now, coming from this unlikely source, prominent Republicans. Last week, we interviewed journalist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, who reported on the issue. Let’s take a listen to what he said.

WILL BUNCH: The Green Party of Pennsylvania obviously doesn’t have $100,000. But, lo and behold, they got $100,000, and the way they did that was through an effort that was totally 100% — not even 99%, but 100% — funded by conservatives and Republicans, most of whom either have a history of directly supporting Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate in the Senate race here in Pennsylvania, or supporting causes that are close to Rick Santorum, either opposing abortion rights or that sort of thing. You know, so we have a situation here where — and as it turned out, even in spite all that and in spite of spending $100,000 on a company with Republican roots that’s very controversial, that helped them to try to get on the ballot, in the end they still didn’t have enough signatures. And in fact, Carl Romanelli, barring a last minute — he may have one more appeal still out there, but I’m 99.9% sure Carl Romanelli will not be on the ballot next month.

But it’s kind of disturbing. I mean, voters want choice here, but, I mean, clearly the entire Green Party candidacy here ended up being a motivator to get liberal voters, — as some of your listeners may know, the Democratic candidate we have here in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, is one of the more conservative Democrats out there. He is anti-abortion. He supports some NRA positions, that sort of thing. And, you know, some progressive voters would want to go for somebody with the Green Party, if there was a legitimate Green Party candidate. This was not a legitimate campaign, by any means. This was an attempt to divert votes from Bob Casey and help one of the most conservative Republicans in the country, Rick Santorum, get re-elected.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News. We don’t have much time, Carl Romanelli, but getting money from Erik Prince, head of Blackwater, and a top aide to Frist and a lobbyist for Halliburton, your explanation?

CARL ROMANELLI: Yes, well, the bottom line is that I needed money. I have been trying to fundraise for the Greens for five years, and Democrats and progressives just aren’t giving us any. It was my intention to elevate the level of discourse on the issues in this senatorial race. And let’s not give Rick Santorum credit. Let’s not blame the Green Party. Carl Romanelli put this operation together, and I had the understanding with a handful of Republican friends of mine who helped me that we were both using each other. I needed money, because I had none, and I was well aware that they thought that my presence would help their candidate. I didn’t ascribe to that point of view, but it was mutual, because for five years the Green Party of Pennsylvania has been lobbying our legislature for more fair ballot access and for campaign reforms. It’s fallen on deaf ears.

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Romanelli, to be clear, the money went to the [Luzerne] County Green Party, which is not a part of the state Green Party?

CARL ROMANELLI: Correct. That was another one of the complications. We needed this enormous amount of signatures, and the Pennsylvania Green Party was not even registered as a federal party PAC. Initially, I was going to try to raise as much money as I could and turn it over to the state party for the ballot access drive. But without having a vessel to take money for federal candidates, I took it upon myself to use our local, which performed the task normally performed by a state party. And also, all of the money that I collected from the Republican donors did go, as you pointed out, to the Luzerne County Green Party. This didn’t go to my campaign. This was solely for ballot access and then later to try to pay for defense of our signatures. And look —

AMY GOODMAN: We only have ten seconds, but would you do it any —

CARL ROMANELLI: —- if taking Republican money is a problem, which I knew there would be controversy once we filed our first financial report, but I also wanted the coverage to be fair. Bob Casey has taken far more Republican money than I have. He’s taken it from Republican PACs, like PNC and Mellon Bank and from Blank Rome LLP -—

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Romanelli, we’re going to have to leave it there, but I thank you very much for joining us. Carl Romanelli, joining us from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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