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Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins visits Rochester

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins visits Rochester

Howie Hawkins at Rochester press conference on Thursday, Sept. 20.
Howie Hawkins at Rochester press conference on Thursday, Sept. 20.

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins has billed himself as Plan B for progressives, following the defeat of Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon in the New York State Democratic Primaries.

Hawkins is a retired teamster from Syracuse running on a platform of housing and education reform, legalization of recreational cannabis, a concentrated effort to move New York to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and criminal justice reform. On Thursday, Sept. 20, Hawkins visited Rochester, hosting a press conference in front of 447 Thurston Street, an apartment complex which he cited as the ideal poster child for housing reform.

“I’m here to say for those who voted for the progressive Democrats challenging the machine, those who voted for Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams and Zephyr Teachout, that I’m there Plan B,” Hawkins said. “They still have progressive option on the ballot in the fall, and also to those who voted for Cuomo who think he’s a progressive, a lot of public opinion polls say that a lot of liberals are voting for Cuomo. I think they need to take a look at what we’re talking about.”

The Green Party nominated Hawkins for the governorship in 2014, with Brian Jones as his lieutenant-governor candidate. Hawkins received about 4.7 percent of the vote, compared to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 52.7 percent. This year, New York City special education teacher Jia Lee is Hawkins’ running mate.

As a Green Party candidate, a large focus of Hawkins’ campaign is environmental protection and clean energy.

“We have lead contamination. Rochester is not as bad as my city, or Buffalo, where I just came from,” Hawkins said. “Where 40 percent of the children get neurological damage from elevated blood levels that affects the development of their motor skills, cognitive capacities and their emotions. These are lifelong things.”

Hawkins also criticized Cuomo’s New York State Energy Plan, which places a goal of 50 percent renewable energy in New York. Hawkins says that plan does not go far enough.

“Nixon was sort of badgering Cuomo to get behind the Climate and Community Protection Act, which is a bill that has passed the Assembly three times,” Hawkins said. “The irony of her saying that is that it actually codifies Cuomo’s energy policy, which gets us to zero carbon emissions by 2050, about 20 years too late. We’re going for zero carbon emissions by 2030.”

The Climate and Community Protection Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Engelbright, D-Setauket, is a proposal which will, among other things, create a New York State Climate Action Council, require reporting of green house gas emissions and place renewable energy goals of 40 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.

Recreational marijuana, among the most talked about issues of the campaign, received support from Nixon and has evolving support from Cuomo.

“I see this as a social justice issue, not a way to raise money for the state,” Hawkins said. “There’s a lot of money in the state, I don’t want vices to be what we depend on for public finance. But we got to do this in a way that ordinary people can participate in the business, I think we should set it up so big pharma, big tobacco, big alcohol don’t run it, but small cooperatives, certainly all the farmers, can participate in different aspects of the business.”

Hawkins is running against Cuomo, Republican Mike Molinaro, Libertarian Larry Sharpe and Independent Stephanie Miner. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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