Local Green Party activists ask: When it is clear to you that the president has moved too far to the right on critical policy concerns, and the local Democratic Party has failed to give you candidates to support, what do you do?
When you feel the two-party system that dominates the American political realm has been thoroughly co-opted by corporate interests, what can you do?
For one thing, says Bob Kinsey, a retired high school history teacher and the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010, you can register Green.
"People need to realize that that's one way to voice their opinion that they don't think the major parties are moving in the right direction," he says, "and that the Green Party has some answers."
This November, voters in El Paso County will have an opportunity to support three Green Party candidates. Karyna Lemus and Brad Harris are running for county commissioner seats, while Misha Luzov is seeking to oust U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.
Each of the Greens is a first-time candidate. At 30, Harris is the oldest of the candidates; Lemus and Luzov are both in their mid-20s.
"I had never imagined running for office," says Lemus, who faces incumbent Commissioner Amy Lathen in District 2. "I thought that we needed to do something locally. I would really like to see our values infused into policies locally."
These values can best be summed up by the Green Party's national platform, which includes support for "participatory democracy," equality regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, and placing restrictions on the power of corporations.
And, of course, environmental concerns are a top priority.
"The climate change issue, in particular, isn't being taken nearly as seriously as the scientific research warrants," says Luzov, who notes Lamborn's deep financial support from companies that profit from weak environmental regulations.
"When you look at the list of his donors, it's pretty much all oil and gas," Luzov says. "He voted against acknowledging the existence of climate change, let alone doing anything about it. He touts his record as someone who is serious about national defense, and yet if you look at a report published by the Department of Defense, they acknowledge the very serious and urgent threat of climate change to our national security."
Luzov worries that the window of opportunity for changing America's energy paradigm is quickly closing.
"A lot of climate scientists say that it is really a matter of two to four years to do something about it," he says. "Our emissions are going through the roof; they are not abating."
Democrats have been little help, having allowed the Clean Water and Clean Air acts to be "eviscerated," says Kinsey. "They don't fight back."
Worse, says Luzov, the Democrats appear to be complicit: "As far as global warming, [President] Obama has been, in the words of climate change deniers, their best friend. His policies have helped them."
Harris, running in District 4 against Republican incumbent Dennis Hisey, would like to see every county building outfitted with solar-power systems.
The local Greens' goal, Lemus adds, is to "institutionalize renewable energy requirements on all new construction." And then there's the potential use of hydraulic fracturing to capture natural gas.
"That's a pretty serious issue in my district," says Lemus. "There is a lot of evidence that hydraulic fracturing has a negative impact on water, air, even seismic activity."
And the promise that "fracking" will offer local job growth, she argues, is a figment of others' imaginations.
They are working with a community group that has crafted a Community Bill of Rights, which they hope to place on the ballot next year. The goal: get fracking banned.
"We need local politicians who are able to confront these realities," says Lemus, "and will craft policies that will move us in a different direction than where we are headed."
More liberal than ...
Local Democrats, says Green activist Jay Taylor, have left few options open.
"How do you engage with the Democrats, when the Democrats have given up?" he asks. "You can't support the Democratic candidate for Congress this year because there's none running. So who do the liberals vote for?"
Nationally, Democrats have moved too far to the right, Taylor says. "Obama supporters have amnesia; they forget that in 2008, he ran hard to the left [of Hillary Clinton]. That's how he got the Democratic nomination."
After the primary, Taylor says, Obama slid back to the center and has operated from there since. Green candidates list areas where Obama has disappointed: foreign policy, extra-judicial killings, drone attacks, environment, cracking down on medical marijuana centers, and civil rights.
"Yet we get the lesser-of-two-evils argument, right?" Kinsey asks. "We've got to break this two-party thing. We've got to break it one way or another."
"Just registering Green is an expression of dissent," Lemus adds.
"That's important," Kinsey agrees. "We need to work on registration."
Currently, there are about 750 registered Green voters in El Paso County, says Kinsey, with as many as 50 people who turn out for events. If you'd like to meet the candidates, they will be hosting a potluck dinner at 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, contact the group at gp-ppr.org.