Green Party Greets Golden State

California is close to being latest home for the party recognized in 50 countries since 1973

CALIFORNIA, land of tax revolts, term limits, and endless political trends, now has a new political party: the Greens.

Philosophical kin of groups in Europe, the Green Party will focus on ecological concerns but will also push other issues - from abortion rights to campaign finance reform to antiwar themes.

The new party, the first in California in more than a decade, won't shoulder aside the Democrats or Republicans. But it could have an impact in some close races, and its emergence as a formal entity here will buttress the Greens' drive to become a political force elsewhere.

"As a new party, they will get a lot of attention," says Bob Mulholland, political director of the California Democratic Party.

Official certification is not expected until later this month, when final voter registration tallies are in. But Secretary of State March Fong Eu said last week the group appeared to have signed up more than the 79,000 voters needed to become a formal party.

That would give the Greens a spot on the June 2 primary and Nov. 3 general-election ballots.

Their emergence reflects growing discontent with traditional politics. Harboring their own agenda and frustrated with Democrats and Republicans, the Greens began organizing a party here two years ago.

"We're out to support issues," says Dennis Bottum, a Green organizer. "We want to move away from the left-right ideology that has paralyzed politics for so many years." Following Alaska

The party is an offshoot of the Green political movement that began in New Zealand and England in 1973. Green parties today exist in more than 50 countries, including Mexico, Canada, and parts of the former East bloc.

California is the second state, following Alaska, to officially recognize the party in the United States. Organizing efforts are under way in 15 to 20 other states. Some of the most active drives are in Hawaii, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

By garnering a preliminary count of 83,000 registered voters, the Greens have become the fourth-largest party in the state, behind the Democrats, Republicans, and American Independent Party. The state has two other official parties - the Libertarian Party and the Peace and Freedom Party.

The Greens' environmental agenda will include preservation of ancient forests, bans on offshore oil drilling, and a phase-out of nuclear power. Other causes listed in the party's platform: abortion rights, greater access to health care, a 50-percent reduction in military spending, and limits on campaign spending.

Organizers say they will start out fielding candidates for local and state offices. They don't expect to have a presidential or US Senate candidate on the California ballot in 1992. In some cases, they will endorse other parties' contenders. "We are not going to rush to the top of the pile without having a base underneath us," says Mindy Lorenz, who co-chairs the state party.

The Greens hope to register 500,000 voters by the end of 1992. Some analysts think that is optimistic. California pollster Mervin Field notes that no third party in California has ever become a significant force.

He says the Greens needed a last-minute infusion of $20,000 from one donor just to get the signatures needed to qualify for ballot status. Even with the sensitivity toward environmental issues in California, the recession has tempered some of the zeal for ecological concerns.

"I don't think there is a lot of sentiment for a new party," says Mr. Field. "It is conceivable the party could have some impact. But if it does, it will be at the local level in some environmentally sensitive areas." Democrats concerned

The Democrats, in particular, are worried that the fledgling party could become a spoiler, siphoning off enough votes in close races to give the GOP the edge.

"The issue in 1992 is that Californians are losing jobs and homes and hope," says the Democratic Party's Mulholland. "We are putting out an olive branch to the Greens to join us in defeating George Bush."

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