In 2006, the Green Party’s candidate for governor, Rich Whitney, took 10 percent of the vote, winning the Greens an automatic spot on the ballot this year. But this time, Whitney only got 3 percent. The threshold for an established party is 5 percent, so the Greens are off the ballot, unless they can collect 25,000 signatures.
In Whitney’s first campaign, he collected almost all of the protest vote against Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka. There were plenty of protest votes against Pat Quinn and Bill Brady, but this time, more than half went to Cohen, who finished with 4 percent. Had Cohen not been in the race, many of those votes would have gone to Whitney.
In a post-election message on the Green Party’s website, Whitney acknowledged the results were “disappointing,” but did not directly address the party’s loss of ballot status:
Yesterday, we met with a setback but there are still grounds for encouragement. Despite my own loss, some of our other Green Party candidates did remarkably well, beginning with State Representative Jeremy Karpen, winning 35 percent of the vote against a much-better funded Machine Democrat candidate in the 39th District.
The Greens ran LeAlan Jones for Senate in an effort to raise the party’s profile in urban, minority communities, but they failed in that goal, too. Once again, the Greens made their best showing in Southern Illinois, Whitney’s home turf, winning 9 percent of the vote in Jackson County. In Chicago, Jones got 3 percent of the vote. Like Whitney, he also did better in rural Illinois. According to exit polls, Jones took only 1 percent of the vote in the African-American community, which overwhelmingly responded to President Obama’s appeal to support Alexi Giannoulias.
In his effort to get revenge on the Democrats, Cohen ended up doing the party a favor, by removing a potential competitor from future ballots. According to exit polls, many Whitney voters described themselves as Democrats or liberals, but none described themselves as Republicans or conservatives.
At least Cohen beat someone.