Let’s put ‘spoiler’ to rest
BY SEAN GLENNON
NORTHAMPTON — Michael Aleo may get his wish — for now. Aleo, the now twice-defeated Green Party candidate for state representative in the First Hampshire District, doesn’t want to hear about Greens as spoilers anymore.
"I had campaign workers yelled at because Jill Stein was in the race [for governor]," Aleo said. "I never want to hear the world spoiler again."
It’s unlikely he’ll hear it anytime soon. Certainly no one can call Stein a spoiler in a race that saw Shannon O’Brien soundly trounced by Mitt Romney. As election night drew to a close, it looked as if Stein had secured the three percent of votes she needed to keep the Greens on the state ballot. (Even if she didn’t, Green candidate for treasurer James O’Keefe got eight percent.) But she’d gotten no more than that. Stein’s supporters couldn’t have helped O’Brien if they’d wanted to.
Aleo wasn’t exactly hoping for a big Romney win, though. Indeed, Aleo is as distressed as anyone about how horrible an election this was for Massachusetts progressives, a day that saw the dismantling of bilingual education win overwhelming support and the state’s Clean Elections Law undermined.
"Except for questions four and five, everything went wrong," Aleo said, referring to nonbinding referendums on retaining Tom Finneran as House Speaker and instant-runoff voting.
Aleo had just given what amounts to a concession speech, though there was no real need for him actually to concede to Democratic incumbent Peter Kocot; he knew he was going to lose long before tonight. He hoped to capture some votes. And he did, drawing about 30 percent in a district centered in Northampton, one of the more staunchly liberal towns in the decidedly liberal upper Pioneer Valley. And just as he hoped to win some measurable portion of the vote, Aleo also wanted to see the passage of ballot questions calling on state reps to vote against Tom Finneran for House Speaker and directing reps in the First and Second Hampshire Districts to work for the adoption of instant-runoff elections.
Instant-runoff elections — in which voters rank candidates based on preference, knowing that if their first choice fails to win a majority, their vote will go to their second choice — is widely viewed as essential to the success of third parties. It would allow those who believe in candidates from outside the major parties to vote their conscience without worrying about wasting a vote on a candidate who can’t win.
Tuesday’s vote won’t make instant-runoff elections happen all by itself, but the fact that voters approved the Green-sponsored measure overwhelmingly (15,322 to 7007) in these Western Mass districts will surely make it a topic of discussion in the Bay State. And for now, that’s enough for Aleo.
"If I ever hear the word spoiler again, it will be because the Democrats in this state refused to support instant-runoff elections," Aleo said.
Issue Date: November 7 - 14, 2002
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