Ben Manski is confident that 77th Assembly District voters are receptive to a Green candidate. "The [Green] party has longevity now," says the 36-year-old attorney and activist. "The idea that there would be a Green alternative is in the air."
As evidence that Greens can perform well in the district, he points to the 2004 race for the 26th State Senate district, in which Green Party candidate Tony Schultz (brother of Up North Democratic Assembly candidate Dana Schultz) challenged incumbent Democrat Fred Risser. Schultz won 18.9 percent of the vote, which, as Manski puts it, was better than the performance of the Green presidential candidate by factors of thousands.
However, the bright side for Manski that Greens can outperform their presidential candidates in the area clearly does not translate into a good chance of winning in the area. For that to happen, Manski will not only have to appeal to the left-leaning values of the 77th; he will also have to radically change basic patterns of voting behavior.
According to two different sources, the percentage of voters in the 77th who check off the Democratic line at the top of the ballot is upwards of 70 percent. That means that a majority of voters in the district do not make a decision in each race they simply vote the party line. For Manski to be viable, that percentage has to reduce dramatically to well below 50 percent. And then, after that, Manski still has to beat a well-known Democrat in the area.
The TV ad Manski is running are a necessity in terms of publicity. While he would not comment on the cost of the ads, he did say he had bought 150 spots on Charter, which he believes will be an effective means to get in touch with voters watching progressive programming, such as the Rachel Maddow Show and Keith Olbermann.
One advantage Manski may have is that local Democrats may not take the race too seriously. The Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee and other groups consider the district safe D, so they likely won't pump too much money into advertising and other campaign expenses. So he may have a chance to catch the Dems off guard. Also in his favor will be the number of prominent progressives, including Peg Lautenschlager and various local officials, who support his candidacy. Brett Hulsey, as the primary showed, has made a lot of enemies in Democratic circles.
But until there are signs of an unprecedentedly strong grassroots movement (especially on campus), or enormous sums of money into Manski campaign coffers, the numbers project a safe Hulsey victory. If all of the liberals who endorsed Hesselbein in the primary couldn't overcome Hulsey's name recognition and willingness to contact practically every voter in the district, it seems unlikely that that type of support will translate into an upset of Hulsey during the general election, when the electorate is even more distant from the insider drama that plays in the favor of candidates such as Hesselbein, Fred Wade (Lautenschlager-endorsed) and Manski.