SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – There are people who spend their lives either on the campaign trail or in office. They’re career politicians. Howie Hawkins has spent decades of his life running for office without ever winning an election. And now, Hawkins has decided to aim for the White House.
“I’ve been on the road pretty much constantly for six months,” Hawkins said.
One of those campaign stops brought him to Plattsburgh last month, where he took part in a live talk show about climate change hosted by SUNY Plattsburgh students.
Hawkins is in his 60s. He’s got a white beard and wire rim glasses. He just retired as a teamster. He spent the last 17 years unloading postal trucks in Syracuse, where he’s from. But he also spent a lot of those years running for office.
“I’ve run for governor three times,” Hawkins said. “I ran for U.S. Senate four years before that for the first time. I’ve run four statewide campaigns in New York.”
He’s also run city campaigns in Syracuse, campaigning in more than 20 races. Hawkins told the New York Times in 2018 that losing every race he’s run hasn’t deterred him.
“When you’re out there talking to people, you’re persuading, you’re getting positive response from a lot of people,” Hawkins told The Times. “So, I don’t get discouraged.”
Clearly, Hawkins has a passion for politics. He’s one of the founders of the national Green Party and was the first candidate to campaign for the Green New Deal in 2010. That was during one of his bids for governor.
Now the Green New Deal is a major talking point among Democrats. Hawkins said the trillions of dollars needed to transform the U.S. economy into a green economy is worth the investment.
“It’s going to be more expensive basically to have extinction, mass extinction, collapse of the ecosystem, collapse of agriculture, collapse of civilization,” Hawkins said. “That’s what the climate emergency is threatening.”
Hawkins is also campaigning for “Medicare for All,” free college tuition and a massive jobs program.
His party, the Green Party, has gotten a bad rap when it comes to presidential elections. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George W. Bush by less than 600 ballots cast in Florida. A lot of Democrats blame Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who won nearly 100,000 votes in Florida.
But Hawkins said it’s wrong to blame third party candidates, like Nader in 2000 or Jill Stein in the 2016 presidential election.
“You can’t take for granted that Green votes would go to the Democrat,” Hawkins said. “We might stay home. When it’s a choice between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, I would have stayed home.”
In the 21st House district, the Green Party ran a candidate in last year’s election, winning more than 3,000 votes. Right now it’s a two-party race, between Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik and her Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb.
Hawkins said he’s hopeful his party will enter the race again in 2020.
“I’ve heard both candidates, the Democrat and Republican, and as far as the issues I’m talking about, ‘Medicare for All,’ a Green New Deal, I’m not hearing that from Stefanik or Cobb,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins is among a handful of candidates vying for the Green Party’s presidential nomination. The party’s convention is set for July 2020.