History of the Wisconsin Green Party
The Wisconsin Green Party (WIGP) grew out of many grassroots struggles, such as the opposition to sulfide mining as well as defending the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. One important figure in the party's founding was Walt Bresette, of the Red Cliff Chippewa reservation, who passed away in 1999. Its founding convention occurred at St. Croix Falls in 1988 and soon sprouted several local affiliates - the Milwaukee Area Greens, Lake Superior Greens, St. Croix Valley Greens, Green Bay Greens, Four Lakes Greens (Madison/Dane County), etc. Several position papers were written and a draft WIGP platform completed in fall 1993. The newspaper of the Upper Great Lakes Green Network, Green Net, boasted 300+ subscribers and many local groups sustained their own newsletters. While Green Net did not last, the WIGP continues to publish Green Wisconsin on a quarterly basis.
Since its founding, the WIGP has built its popular appeal around both electoral politics and issue campaigns. In 1986, the Lake Superior Green Party successfully ran Frank Koehn of Herbster for the Bayfield County Board of Supervisors, who is generally credited as the first Green officeholder in the United States. By 1994, Greens had been elected in local races from La Crosse City Council to Cumberland School Board.
With the 1996 presidential campaign of Ralph Nader and running mate Winona LaDuke, the Wisconsin Greens achieved ballot status. The Nader/LaDuke ticket received 28,723 votes statewide – over the 1% criterion used to determine recognition by the State Elections Board.
Two years later, Green activist Jeff Peterson received 31,452 votes in his bid for state treasurer, protecting the Green Party's ballot status and gaining more votes than any other third party candidate on the ballot.
In the 2000 elections, Wisconsin Greens were again proud to endorse the Nader/LaDuke team. Our well-organized statewide campaign spawned many new local groups who helped turn out 93,553 Green voters on Election Day.
Eight candidates ran for partisan office as Greens in 2002. Jim Young broke new ground in his run for governor, gaining visibility for the party by campaigning throughout the state and appearing in numerous debates with other major party candidates. In our best showing to date, our candidate for state treasurer, Paul Aschenbrenner, finished the election with over 115,000 votes, for 7% of the total.
In 2003, Greens picked up their first seat on the Racine city council, with the election of Pete Karas. Our candidates also did well in two special election races for state office: Jim Carpenter received 29% in his bid for State Senate, District 7 (Milwaukee area), while Amy Heart received 16.5% in her race for State Representative in District 71 (Portage County).
WIGP continued to grow during the 2004 election cycle. Milwaukee hosted the Green Party of the United States' Presidential Nominating Convention June 24-27 at a major downtown hotel. We ran two candidates for U.S. Congress. Across the state, Greens also ran for seats in the state legislature and for county offices. All of these candidates appeared on the party's ballotline with Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates David Cobb and Pat LaMarche.
In 2006 we ran our first candidate for US Senate, Rae Vogeler, against pro-war Democrat Herb Kohl. We also ran candidates for Governor, Lt. Gov, State Treasurer, and Sec. of State, along with two candidates for US House and three candidates for the State Legislature. We also ran 17 candidates for local offices in 2006, and 16 candidates for local office in spring 2007.
We believe it is imperative that Greens be involved in all levels of political activity. We encourage our members to run for local as well as statewide office. Greens are being elected to school boards, city councils and county boards in increasing numbers. As of April 2007 there are 23 individuals holding elected office as Greens in Wisconsin. With your help, we will elect our first Green to state office in the near future!
The WI Green Party remains a critical voice in grassroots struggles against sulfide mining, defending indigenous sovereignty, supporting family farms and sustainable agriculture, ensuring fair accessible housing, challenging "workfare" and welfare cutbacks, among other issues. The WIGP remains the only political party on record opposing both the proposed Duluth-Wausau high voltage powerline and Nestlé/Perrier's schemes to privatize the state's public waters. The WIGP is also an important partner in statewide and national coalitions like the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice (WNPJ) and United for Peace and Justice.