Ursula Rozum won’t be Central New York’s first Green congresswoman, but she’s still pleased with the results of last week’s election.
“I am very pleased with the results. An overwhelming majority in Central New York rejected Ann Marie Buerkle’s extreme right-wing views and an unprecedented number decided to vote against the policies of the corporate parties,” Rozum said. “Of course, we don’t know how many would have voted in support of my progressive policies if we had a truly democratic voting system. But it’s heartening to know there are so many people in our district that support a positive progressive program and who are fed up with the bipartisan policies that are not addressing the serious problems we’re facing.”
Rozum conceded the 24th Congressional District race to Democrat Dan Maffei Tuesday night after gaining the highest vote for a Green Party candidate in a three-way race in the district. Her campaign was outspent 1,000 to 1, but she managed to pull more than 8 percent of the vote, which exceeded the expectations of pundits watching the race in Central New York and beyond.
Local political experts said Rozum’s numbers indicate a deeper dissatisfaction with the existing two party system, as well as an appreciation for the way she ran her campaign.
“Usually third party candidates don’t do as well on Election Night as they poll. She did do as well she polled. That tells me something,” said Grant Reeher, professor of political science and director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. “This wasn’t just a protest of where the candidates were position-wise. A lot of those voters were trying to make an affirmative statement about a process they didn’t like, and they voted for her because they were trying to send a message. Some did vote for here because her issue positions matched well against their own, but others voted for her to register their discontent about the political process. They liked the way she was running. She didn’t have tons of money being funneled into the race on her behalf. She wasn’t running a ton of negative ads. She was very forthright and frankly spoken about what her plans with be, and she had very concrete plans. For a lot of people, it wasn’t about her views, it was about her way of campaigning.”
Rozum said she was, overall, happy with the manner in which she campaigned, although there were some thing she would change.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” she said. “There are issues that I care about deeply that I think would have resonated with voters that I wish we could have put more emphasis on, such as ending the drug war and highlighting the mass incarceration issue more. Also, I could have tried to take more time off from work. There are always things that could go better, but overall, I think we used our limited resources very well.”
As for her future, Rozum said she’s not sure she’ll run for office again.
“Perhaps if I’m asked,” she said. “A ‘political career’ isn’t a professional ambition for me, but someone has to do the people’s work and we need representatives with a commitment to justice. At this time, I would prefer to support others willing to run for office.”
In the meantime, Rozum will return to organizing for the Syracuse Peace Council and the Onondaga County Green Party. She hopes these groups and other associated endeavors can help with efforts to implement a statewide ban on hydrofracking, stop the use of unmanned drones and overturn the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, as well as the issues she raised during her campaign for office — electoral reform, a new jobs program, progressive taxation and reforms to Medicare and Social Security. Rozum and the rest of the Greens are eager for new candidates to come forward to run in the future.
“We have monthly meetings the second Monday of the month, and all supporters are welcome to attend and get involved,” she said. “I like to think we are welcoming and happy to include new people ready to be part of growing our people-powered party. And we are happy to talk with people who share our values about running for office as Greens.”
Rozum said she was hopeful anyone interested in pursuing a political office could learn from her campaign.
“It’s possible to run a positive, issues-focused campaign, rather than run a negative, opponent-focused campaign, and that there is a significant progressive voting bloc in Central New York willing to stand up to the status quo policies of the corporate policies,” she said. “Voters are increasingly independent and deserve positive, independent representation. I hope people realize that you don’t need to a professional politician to run for office. It requires passion and willingness to make a commitment to work with a team of people and give it your best shot. My biggest hope for my candidacy, post-election, is that more regular individuals are inspired to step up and run for office. I would be happy to talk with anyone interested in stepping into that role.”
Rozum was also hopeful that the voters of the 24th District, as well as their elected officials, didn’t become complacent in the period after Election Day. She invited all who were interested in doing so to work with her to address the issues she raised during her campaign.
“I hope that organizing doesn’t stop on Election Day and that all those people who were energized by the election continue in the work and movement building that we need to put pressure on elected officials at all levels, including Congressman-elect Dan Maffei, to implement solutions that will benefit our economy, our environment and improve our democracy,” she said. “For those who supported the issues and policies that I brought up during the campaign but perhaps did not vote for me — no hard feelings. Let’s get back to working to the variety of issues that matter to us — from abolishing corporate personhood and reversing Citizens United, to taking action to address climate change, to getting local electoral reforms passed — the issues are endless, and I know they don’t just matter to me and the Green party.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club’s Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.