Carl Lundgren was just beginning to enjoy the view on the Hutchinson River when his canoe suddenly capsized, leaving him immersed in the murky brown water.
Despite his initial embarrassment, Lundgren returned to shore to the sound of clapping, where a group of Green Party river restoration volunteers smiled and patted him on the back.
“I tell people now that I’m not afraid to get down and dirty for the party,” he said.
Lundgren, who is head of the Bronx County Green Party, is running for state senator in the 34th District. He and other party candidates say they’ve been let down by the Democrats and Republicans in the region, where a litany of environmental and social issues have been left unaddressed.
In a borough that traditionally votes Democrat, it’s unlikely that the Green Party will win many spots in the 2012 election. But Green Party voters and candidates say they’ll continue to support the Greens because, unlike mainstream competitors, the party listens to them.
Registered Green Party voters say they’ve seen their voices put into action in the form of environmental clean-up efforts like the Hutchinson River Restoration Project in Pelham Bay or legislative reform like the approval of civil unions for same-sex couples in Putnam County. However, Green candidates say they want voters to know that this year’s election isn’t simply a matter of choosing between the lesser of two evils.
“We want people to know that they have options,” said Jeff Green, a Green Party candidate running for election in the 40th Senate District.
As Election Day approaches, Green Party candidates have become increasingly active in their communities. In September, Lundgren and fellow Green Party candidate Anthony Gronowicz, who is running for Congress in the Bronx’s 14th District, took part in an annual cleanup day at the Hutchinson River in Pelham Bay Park, where he helped clear debris from the polluted waterway.
After spending the day hauling tires and other heavy objects out of the river, Lundgren said he felt Green Party candidates did more than simply talk about issues. “It’s important for us to put words into action,” Lundgren said.
Other volunteers who attended the event said they felt the Greens’ presence, too. “We really appreciated having them there,” said Hutchinson River Restoration Project founder Eleanor Rae.
Lundgren said preparations for the election have also been affected by the recent redistricting process, which reduced the number of state districts from 29 to 27 and transferred Congressional seats to faster-growing parts of the country. He said that his district, which formerly included economically and racially diverse Co-op City, is now composed mainly of white and affluent people.
“We’re very disappointed with what they did with our district,” Lundgren said. “It was clearly realigned to include all the white areas and exclude all the areas where people of color live.”
Lundgren said community interests are often ignored in the redistricting process, despite the city’s publicized attempts to gather residents’ input online and through public meetings. “We didn’t move,” said Lundgren, “They just moved the line across the street.”
With a limited budget and very few resources, the Green Party is doing what it can to get out the vote before the big day. On Oct. 29, the group was to appear on BronxTalk, a public talk show that features local political debates.
Lundgren said the appearance is critical for the financially strapped Green Party, which receives no corporate contributions. “We’re poor, but we’re honest,” said Lundgren.