Cobb Sets Dual Goal for Greens

On the heels of an exciting win at the much anticipated Green Party presidential nominating convention last weekend, Texas attorney David Cobb (search) said he plans to live up to every expectation party delegates have of him.

For Cobb, that doesn't mean just being a third party alternative to George W. Bush or John Kerry, or serving as a grassroots messenger to American voters. Cobb said he will be the anti-war candidate who represents voters who opposed the invasion of Iraq and support the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"The war is going to be one of the absolutely central issues in this campaign," Cobb told "I am a peace candidate, and we are running unflinchingly on that message."

Greens say that despite Kerry’s blustering on Iraq, the Massachusetts senator still voted to authorize the war and President Bush’s broader War on Terror. Green officials say they want to be the party that represents Americans who are disenchanted with current foreign policy as well as domestic security measures like the USA Patriot Act (search).

"We think that a lot of people are going to hear the Green message because they are disgusted with the Bush administration’s deception, the loss of life," said Scott McLarty (search), national Green Party (search) spokesman.

Already, the Green message has taken hold in some spots. Currently, 205 Greens hold local and state offices and at least that many are running for office this November, said McLarty.

Cobb's win at the Milwaukee Green Party convention on Saturday puts him in a position to appeal to many voters. The Green Party has access to a minimum 22 state ballots.

Cobb won the endorsement of the Greens after a late entreaty by independent candidate Ralph Nader. Nader, who some blame for spoiling Vice President Al Gore's Democratic bid for president when he ran on the Green ticket in 2000, did not seek the banner this year because he reportedly wanted to run under a multi-party coalition of independents.

Nader did tap Green candidate Peter Camejo as his running mate a couple weeks ago, an apparent bid to win over Green Party delegates. The plan put him at odds with Cobb, who helped run Nader's 2000 campaign in Texas, corralling 76,000 signatures to get Nader on the ballot there.

But at the convention last weekend, 408 delegates voted for Cobb, giving him more than the 385 necessary to win. Nader's spokesman acknowledged after the loss that the odds were against Nader when he approached the party for the endorsement.

"I think the reason the Green Party went with David Cobb this time was specifically because David’s focusing on the party itself is something we need right now," said delegate John Atkeison, who is also running for city council on the Green Party ticket in Wilmington, Del.

"I think [Cobb] is the very best nominee for the Green Party," Atkeison added. "He is articulate, enthusiastic and he believes very, very deeply in the Green Party as something that is essential to America's future, and he works very hard to build concrete grassroots organizations rather than focusing exclusively on the polls."

Atkeison said the party has opted to run a grassroots ticket that will work to inspire change at the local and state level.

"We don’t believe in the horse race right now," he said. "It's not about personal resentment against Nader or Peter Camejo."

Dorothy Schieber, a Green Party candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th District, said she believed both Nader and Cobb are effective agents for the Green Party message, but Cobb is a party builder, and someone who has been laying the groundwork, making countless appearances at party conventions and caucuses.

"I think what we are looking at as Greens is to build the party up from the local level," she said, "and then get to the point where we could really push the Democrats and Republicans, even the other third parties. We have long-term goals."

That thinking caused something of a stir during the convention. Cobb's opponents expressed concerns that while the construction worker-turned-attorney said his primary goal is to spread the Green word, he also has a parallel mission to get Bush "out of the White House" even if that means de-emphasizing his more aggressive critiques against Kerry. Opponents said they were concerned that Cobb would sacrifice the party to get Kerry elected, a position Cobb did not outright reject.

"In battleground states, I will outline my criticism of Kerry as a corporatist and militarist ... and I am going to acknowledge that as bad as John Kerry is, George W. Bush is much, much worse," Cobb said.

Cobb did say that he will emphasize the role the Green Party can have as an alternative to the major parties.

"It’s not just building the party, it’s building the party and an organization and institution that will continue to represent the progressive agenda," he said.

While on the trail, Cobb said he will also be touting his working class roots and grassroots activism, underscoring his message that "ordinary people are doing extraordinary things," and that the Green Party is not the party of the left, "but the party of the left-out."

"I am certainly striving to reach out to ordinary citizens and convince them to come and participate in the electoral process with confidence, convincing them there is someone who they can vote for and a party they can vote for," said Cobb, who grew up in a small shrimping village in San Leon, Texas.

Other issues on the platform include promoting universal healthcare and a "living wage," and strengthening environmental regulations the Greens say have been rolled back during the last four years of the Bush administration.