The Maryland Green Party hopes to double its number of elected officials in the state by championing a candidate this fall for a seat on Frederick's Board of Aldermen.
But first, the candidate has to get on the ballot.
Despite a July 2003 ruling by the state's high court that eased the way for the Greens and other small political parties to get on election ballots, first-time candidate Joanne Ivancic has had to fight for the chance to run in Frederick because the city's charter requires a candidate to obtain the signatures of 3 percent of active voters -- or about 915 names. The provision also requires that signatories state their intention to vote for the candidate -- an element criticized by Green members as an unlawful infringement on the right to a secret ballot.
Ivancic, 50, a lawyer who works as a mediator, and her fellow party members have pinned their hopes on a proposed charter change the Board of Aldermen will consider Thursday. To be on the safe side, however, Greens have been attending public gatherings, such as the city's weekend music program in Baker Park, to collect the necessary signatures on a petition. Ivancic said they have gathered about 700 of the names needed to earn a slot on the ballot. The deadline for petition candidates is Oct. 3.
"It's not easy," she said. "It has been a complete distraction from other things we'd like to do," such as developing policy.
As of March 5, the Maryland State Board of Elections counted 307 registered Green Party members in Frederick County; there are 103 in the city of Frederick, according to the Frederick County Board of Elections. The party is the largest third party in Maryland, with 11 chapters and 7,523 members as of March, according to the State Board of Elections and a party spokesman. In 2004, the Greens sponsored 15 candidates, including seven for Congress and eight for Baltimore City Council.
The largest number of party members, 1,510, reside in the state's biggest city, Baltimore, followed by 1,352 in Montgomery County. Their platform rests on four planks: grass roots, or decentralized party organization, nonviolence, protecting the environment and social justice.
"I think we'd like to see a Green elected in this state. I think we're really close," Maryland Green Party spokesman Daniel Waldman said. He said the only Green serving in public office so far is Michael Cornell, a member of the River Hill Village Board of Directors in Howard County.
"The Democrats and Republicans have, historically, done everything possible to keep the other parties off the ballot," Waldman said. "In Joanne's case, it's very steep, and possibly illegal or unconstitutional method of keeping her off the ballot."
In Frederick, the Green chapter came back to life after Hood College student Whitney Trettien, 19, organized a meeting March 30 at the C. Burr Artz Public Library downtown. She said she felt that the fast-growing city was ripe for alternatives to the two-party system.
"We've been talking about that for months now. It's a cool little city. It's attracted a lot of young people," she said. About 30 people came to the first meeting. Trettien, who is studying English and philosophy, said she decided she could not run because she will soon head to Thailand for a teaching stint.
If the Greens succeed in putting her on the November ballot, Ivancic will join a crowded election field. With two weeks left before the primary election's Aug. 1 filing deadline, there are five candidates for mayor: two Democrats and three Republicans, including Stanley Charles Mazaleski, 71, who resides in Emmitsburg, 23 miles away. There are 13 candidates for five seats on the Board of Aldermen. Only two incumbents -- Marcia A. Hall and Donna K. Ramsburg, both Democrats -- are seeking another term on the board.
Mazaleski's candidacy was an unexpected consequence of a federal judge's ruling that struck down a three-year residency requirement for mayoral candidates, thereby allowing former mayor Ronald N. Young to challenge incumbent Jennifer P. Dougherty. The city then amended the charter, effective last Wednesday, to a one-year residency requirement for candidates for mayor and alderman. Mazaleski filed after the judge's ruling but before the charter change took effect.
Of the three current Republicans on the board, Joseph W. Baldi has launched a campaign for mayor. Aldermen David G. Lenhart and William G. Hall have announced their intentions not to seek reelection.
Friday's filing by Samie L. Conyers for the Board of Aldermen as a Republican candidate means the city will need a primary election Sept. 13 for both parties. That makes 13 candidates, six Republicans and seven Democrats, for the five seats.
"I certainly think it's been interesting already, and I certainly anticipate it getting more interesting and hot as it gets going," Marcia Hall said. Hall, who voted for Young in past elections, is backing Dougherty now.