Howie Hawkins, Syracuse resident, launches third Green Party run for NY governor
Howie Hawkins is back.
The Syracuse resident who recently retired from his job at UPS announced Thursday that he is running for governor. He will seek the Green Party nomination for a third time.
Hawkins, who was the Green Party's candidate for governor in 2010 and 2014, outlined his objectives as he seeks to become New York's top executive. He wants his candidacy to help build the Green Party in New York and ensure the party retains its automatic ballot line.
The Green Party has had an automatic spot on the ballot since Hawkins received 59,906 votes in the 2010 election. For a party to secure automatic ballot access, its gubernatorial nominee must receive at least 50,000 votes.
Hawkins received 184,419 votes in the 2014 race for governor.
Another factor that led to Hawkins' entry in the race is a desire to be the "independent progressive option" in the general election. He believes his positions on issues, including hydraulic fracturing and a $15 minimum wage, put pressure on incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the last gubernatorial campaign.
After the 2014 election, Cuomo announced a ban on hydraulic fracturing in New York. He also pushed for a $15 minimum wage, first for fast-food workers, then for all workers statewide.
Hawkins also mentioned Cuomo's push for tuition-free public colleges — another Green position. Even though it didn't go as far as they would've liked, he said Cuomo "moved that way."
"The more votes we get, the more he's gotta move to compete with those votes," Hawkins said.
Cuomo, who is seeking a third term, is facing a serious primary challenge from the left. Cynthia Nixon, a longtime activist and actress, is vying for the Democratic nomination. She has the support of progressive organizations, including Citizen Action of New York and New York Communities for Change.
Republicans, who believe Cuomo is vulnerable, have three candidates of their own. The front-runner for the nomination is Marc Molinaro, a two-term Dutchess County executive and former state assemblyman. Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco is also in the race.
Hawkins acknowledged Nixon's effort, especially on raising the issue of education inequality in New York. She has highlighted the funding challenges facing many school districts, but Hawkins believes the problems extend beyond state aid. He wants to eliminate high-stakes testing, which he said the state uses to justify closing public schools and shifting to charter schools.
"Those tests are a setup," he said. "The bottom 5 percent of schools are defined as failing. We know that the high poverty schools are going to be in the bottom ... We want to say that every child should have access to a gifted, quality education."
Segregation in schools must be addressed, Hawkins added. A report released by the UCLA Civil Rights Project in 2014 found New York schools are the most segregated in the U.S.
"We know from the experience of desegregation that that is the most powerful way to close the achievement gap and actually improve the education of all students — poor, working class and middle class alike," he said. "The funding is just the beginning."
Beyond education, Hawkins supports single-payer health care. He wants to push hard to have a statewide single-payer health insurance system. He supports legislation in the state Assembly that would require New York to transition to 100 percent clean energy in 15 years.
Hawkins' proposal would be more ambitious than Cuomo's renewable energy plan. The governor wants the state to reach 50 percent clean energy by 2030.
On revenue sharing, Hawkins noted that aid to municipalities has been frozen for 10 years. Local governments have been struggling to fund basic services while remaining under the state-imposed property tax cap.
Hawkins said he would advocate for increasing the revenue sharing with local governments and eliminate the property tax cap. Local governments would then decide how to use the additional funds, whether it's to cut property taxes, fund public schools, or both.
He also wants to shift away from Cuomo's economic development strategies, which he said amounts to trickle-down economics because well-connected campaign contributors get subsidies and tax breaks from the state.
"It goes to the already rich people. It's supposed to trickle down to the rest of us," Hawkins said. "The jobs, the income, it has not. That's been the policy for 40 or 50 years and it just hasn't been working."
He prefers a bottom-up approach and establishing a more progressive income tax structure for businesses and personal filers. He also supports imposing a tax on multi-millionaires and a ending the stock transfer tax rebate.
Ethics reform is on his agenda, too. He supports campaign finance reform, including ending the LLC loophole which allows wealthy individuals to create multiple entities to circumvent contribution limits. He also wants a public option for campaign financing.
"It should provide a full grant so that candidates can run on clean money, not special interest money," he said.
Ethics oversight should be independent of the state Legislature, he continued. And he supports having full-time state legislators with limits on outside income.
Hawkins, a co-founder of the Green Party, has campaigned for federal, state and local offices. He was the party's gubernatorial nominee in 2010 and 2014 and ran for U.S. Senate in 2006.
In 2008, he received 3 percent of the vote in the Syracuse-area congressional race.
Last year, Hawkins ran for Syracuse mayor. He received 4 percent of the vote.
With Hawkins in the race, there will be at least four candidates on the gubernatorial ballot this year. In addition to the Democratic and Republican nominees, Larry Sharpe is the Libertarian candidate for governor.