Running for Congress Under Greens Banner

AS with many other trends in America, California is out front in the Green movement. About a fifth of all local US Green organizations are there. A registration drive has converted thousands of Californians to the Green Party. And in Mindy Lorenz of Santa Barbara, Calif., the Greens have a candidate for the United States Congress. She is running a write-in campaign against an eight-term incumbent (Republican Robert Lagomarsino) and also against the Democratic challenger, Anita Perez Ferguson.

Until they sign up 80,000 voters - their deadline is early 1992, and they have about 6,000 so far - the Greens will not have official ballot status.

That makes for a David-and-two-Goliaths race. But Ms. Lorenz, interviewed in Estes Park, is attracting attention in the 19th Congressional District (Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties).

Her platform is built on the fundamental Green values: ecology, social justice, grass-roots democracy, and nonviolence. This includes such things as universal health and child care, an end to US military intervention abroad, energy conservation and public transportation, and a ban on pesticides. Her positions are decidedly progressive, but her campaign slogan is: ``Neither Left nor Right, but Up Front.''

A college art professor for 20 years, Ms. Lorenz first became politically active while a student at the University of Maryland during the Vietnam War. Later, she worked for the nuclear freeze campaign and against US intervention in Central America. When she began reading about the German Green Party in the early 1980s, she says, ``I knew I was a Green.'' She is a founding member of the Southern California Green Assembly and was a US delegate to the European Greens conference in Brussels last year.

Lorenz acknowledges that many Greens have been wary about wading into electoral politics. ``A year ago, we weren't even comfortable with the idea of voting,'' she says. ``It's been very exciting to watch it develop from a few people sitting around in living rooms to thousands of people and now a party.''

Still, in an age of ultra-expensive media campaigns, the Lorenz organization continues to exist on barely a shoestring. Its 40 or so campaign workers recently celebrated when the campaign war chest passed $5,000.

Lorenz holds press conferences, is included in candidate debates, and has kissed her share of babies in front of US flags. Still, in keeping with Green philosophy, she is not a professional politician. She still teaches at California State University, Northridge. Her 17-year-old daughter, meanwhile, is ``holding down the fort at home.''

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