The Pennsylvania Green Party/GOP nexus

Republicans fund a Green Party candidate's effort to get on the ballot.

Published August 1, 2006 6:10PM (EDT)

Carl Romanelli is a Green Party candidate running for the Senate in Pennsylvania. As for all third-party office seekers, Romanelli's first challenge was to try get his name on the ballot. But for Romanelli, the task turned out to be pretty easy. Last June, his campaign received $66,000 from 20 wealthy contributors in the state. Romanelli used the money to hire a signature-gathering firm, allowing him to easily meet today's deadline to collect 67,000 signatures. He is now expected to be listed alongside Republicans and Democrats on the Nov. 7 ballot.

This sounds like a nice story about how a third-party politician mounted a clever campaign to get around barriers to his run. But actually, it's not. That's because the 20 generous supporters who funded Romanelli's signature-gathering effort weren't part of the Green Party. Instead, they were Republicans. According to the Associated Press, nearly all of them have a record of donating to Republican candidates, and many of them have already given to Rick Santorum, the incumbent GOP senator (whose last name can also mean something else entirely).

State treasurer Bob Casey, the Democratic challenger in the race, says the Republican donations to the Greens show that the GOP is "trying to steal the election." He's got a point -- the Green presence on the ballot will surely siphon some votes away from Casey, who holds a lead in polls against Santorum. Both Casey and Santorum oppose abortion rights, while Romanelli supports them; liberals who are uncomfortable with Casey's stance now have an alternative.

The key question, though, is how many voters the Greens will pull over. It couldn't be too many. For one thing, news of their Republican money isn't going to help the Greens' cause. Moreover, Democrats in Pennsylvania, like Democrats across the nation, understand that this is a pivotal time for the party. It's not a moment to experiment with third-party candidates, even ones with whom you may agree.

Carl Romanelli may support abortion rights, but he's not going to win the Pennsylvania Senate seat. It's going to go either to Bob Casey or, again, to Rick Santorum. That's the choice liberals in the state have to make -- and considering that Santorum once suggested that expanding gay rights might lead to the legalization of "man on dog" sex, the choice for liberals would seem a pretty easy one.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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