Anita Rios received nearly 100,000 votes as the Green Party candidate for governor this Election Day 2014. This 3.3% of all votes in Ohio needs to be placed in historical context. The Ohio Greens needed 2% of the statewide vote to remain on the ballot for future elections.

In five Ohio counties, the Greens polled more than 4% of the total vote: Athens County at 6.52%, Franklin County at 4.53%, Cuyahoga County at 4.28%, Portage County at 4.4% and Meigs County at 4.3. The only counties showing Rios votes under 2% were Darke, Mercer and Putnam. She received more than 2% in all 85 remaining Ohio counties.

The Green Party, committed to grassroots democracy and reining in unfettered corporate capitalism, reached numbers in Ohio that often reflect a much broader mass progressive movement.

In 1932 for example, Norman Thomas received 2.2% of the vote as the Socialist candidate for President. Scholars speak of the Socialist Party as the last mass movement of the “Old Left.” The high point of the Old Left was Eugene Debs’ 6% of the vote, gained in 1912 at the apex of the progressive era.

In focusing on Ohio, Rios’ election results for governor reflects the highest vote total for a third party in the post-war period. Following World War II and with the sudden onslaught of the Cold War, Ohio saw very few minor parties drawing significant vote totals.

In 1946, Arla Albaugh of the Socialist Labor Party received 11,203 votes out of the more than 2, 344,000 cast for Ohio governor. Two years later there were no minor parties on Ohio’s ballot. Throughout the 1950s, during red-baiting McCarthy years, no minor parties appeared on Ohio’s ballot.

As Ohio moved to electing governors every four years in the 60s, there were still only two major party candidates as the conservative James Rhodes won election in 1962. Rhodes easily won re-election for a second term against a Democratic candidate four years later.

The ferment and activism of the 1960s produced the re-appearance, after 24 years, of two minor parties in Ohio. The far-right American Independence Party, founded by the racist Alabama governor George Wallace, received 61,300 votes (1.3%). The long-dormant Ohio Socialist Labor Party won 14,087 votes (0.44%) as the party of the Left in 1970.

Nancy Brown Lezar ran as an independent in 1974, endorsed by the Socialist Worker’s Party (SWP) and received 95,625 votes (3.03%), a total comparable to Rios’ 2014 vote. Still, the anti-war SWP could not establish permanent ballot status.

In 1978, three independent candidates challenged the major parties  for governor, the highest vote total being 35,165 (1.2%). The Libertarian Party made its debut in Ohio’s governor race in 1982. Garnering 39,114 votes (1.2%). Two other independent candidates ran, the highest receiving only half of one percent of the vote.

In 1986, three write-in candidates challenged the two major parties, but the highest vote total was a mere 803 votes. Similar results happened in 1990, with two independent candidates on the ballot at 82 votes and one at 49 votes.

Billy Inmon, the former director of the Ohio State Fair and political appointee in the Voinovich administration, ran in 1994 as a right-wing, anti-gay social conservative after being fired by Voinovich for banning gay newspapers at the Fair. Inmon ran as an independent and received 108,745 votes (3.2%).

John Mitchell also received more than 100,000 votes as an independent in 1998, 111,468 votes (3.3%). Zanna Feitler, backed by the Natural Law Party, ran as an independent the same year, polling 65,068 votes (1.9%). The Natural Law Party endorsed independent candidate John Eastman in the gubernatorial race where he received 126,686 votes (3.9%) in 2002.

In 2006, this author ran as an independent endorsed by the Ohio Green Party, and received 40,967 votes (1%). That same year, the Libertarian Party collected 71,473 votes for William Peirce (1.85%).

After a Libertarian Party lawsuit, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio’s restrictive minor party ballot access law was unconstitutional. The law required 50,000 signatures for a minor party to gain official ballot status in Ohio. The Green Party sued during the 2008 presidential election and also won ballot status for their partyand the Constitution Party. The Socialist Party also sue and won.

Both the Libertarian Party with Ken Matesz and the Greens with Dennis Spisak, increased their vote totals in 2010. Matesz earned 92,116 votes (2.39%) and Spisak with 58,475 votes (1.52%).

Thus, Rios’ vote total is not only the highest for a progressive left-wing party in the post-war era. It also represents the highest total for any third political party on the ballot in terms of overall votes and percentage. Usually these types of numbers indicate the rise of mass discontent with the status quo. This is a precursor for rapid policy changes. Expect a predictable attempt by a major party, in this case the Democrats, to co-opt the platform of the Green Party and rein it in.

With the Ohio Green Party supporting a $15 minimum wage, anti-fracking activists, siding with the Occupy Movement against the 1%, advocating for legalized gay marriage and recreational marijuana, it would be difficult for the Democrats to move so far away from the comfortable center they have resided in since the Clinton administration.


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Bob Fitrakis ran with Anita Rios as the Green Party Lt. Governor candidate.