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Are Green concerns in Cook County justified?

As previously reported here, a (possibly former) Young Democrat named Sean Burke is running in the Green Party primary for Cook County Board President in Illinois.  There has been some concern that he is some kind of saboteur from the Democratic Party – concern that is not unwarranted, given the filing of a neo-Nazi in some Green primaries in Illinois this year and previous efforts by Democrats to undermine Greens (for the example, the bill that passed the legislature in Illinois this year making harder for Greens to nominate a candidate).

Now some are questioning the justification for Green concerns, like in this post at True/Slant:

The whole thing sounds downright paranoid. If you scroll down the NBC link, Sean Burke made  the first comment on the story, and the only reaction to his post was by another commenter making fun of Burke’s website and telling him “you’re full of crap”. This Burke is 24 years old, and I buy his switch,  his disenchantment with the Young Democrats. The  Green Party platform is an interesting mix of Republican and Democratic ideas, and I myself can understand the appeal.

The comment that the blogger is talking about reads:

Hi I am Sean Burke. I did design the website for the young dems and have worked with them for several years along with other Democratic politicians. However, the leadership at the young dems changed and they did not want me to continue doing their website.

I decided I had some ideas for Cook County government that would have been a good contribution to the debate. I thought a green party candidacy was my best bet at having my ideas heard. In all fairness I did get in touch with the Green party much later than I should have but I was caught up in getting my petitions signed and working on my platform on my site

I did not think I had a chance to win this election but I did want to let voters hear some of my thoughts on how county government could be run. My main point was that to restore faith in local government we need to put in place a web based system similar to social networking sites like facebook where all county employess and contractors have their responsibilities posted online and on which voters can leave feedback. Additionally 5% of the county budget should be turned over to the voters so that they can attack the problems that they think plague their neighborhoods, so that they can plan the solutions to these problems and so that they can decide who will be given any contracts or responsibilities in the implementation of any solutions. Visit for a more detailed explanation.

I apologize for not being as organized as I should be for a campaign like this but I am just one person and I just wanted to get out there and tell people we need a system of voter driven change not change handed down from on high from party leaders.

Sean Burke

It seems entirely possible that Sean Burke is either a legitimate Green or a tool of the Democrats.  For what it’s worth, the following exchange took place in the comments at True/Slant:

If you also read the NBC story carefully, you’ll also find that the Mr. Burke made no contact with the Greens whatsoever before considering a run. Even after filing, he did not return phone calls to the Greens. So there was no good faith effort.

As a active Green member in Cook County, I would have been okay with him AND Tresser on the ballot if the membership in Cook County was able to vet him and see if he holds Green values (see: that story about a neo-nazi trying to run as a Green in the 10th District). Our bylaws state that there is a internal recognition process by which the Green members in that local district give the okay and say “hey this person is a Green and he/she is legit.” So that way, you can have multiple RECOGNIZED Green candidates in a given district. We Greens believe in internal democracy unlike the Democrat machine and the Republicans.

As a member of my party, I want to know if my standard bearer: Is he/she serious about running? What does he/she think of our Ten Key Values? Is this person interested in building a third viable party or is he or she just using our ballot line for their own person agenda.

You see, as a grassroots Green member living in Cook County, I didn’t get that chance to ask Sean Burke questions or anything to see if he holds Green values. On the other hand, Tom Tresser came to the party, was transparent and any Green member was able to ask questions about his candidacy before recognizing him as a Green candidate.

And the reply from the blogger:

While I don’t know what is going on in Mr. Burke’s head:

I didn’t find the “not answering the phone” bit suspicious as I don’t know any one that age who answers an unknown number for fear of talking to a debt collector or a student loan officer. I am betting texting or e-mails would have yielded more results?

From what little I’ve seen of Burke, and his statements on the matter, I think it’s safe to assume he didn’t really know what he was doing, which was why I found the resulting hoopla hilarious.

Our very own Dave Schwab added in what amounts to a wise, reasonable conclusion (forgive me for a bit of bias here):

Hi. I’m a contributor at Green Party Watch. I can understand how the Greens’ reaction to Burke could seem paranoid, if you don’t know some of the details. Apparently, he hadn’t been in touch with anyone from the Greens before he filed as a candidate – and didn’t return their calls when they tried to get in touch with him. That’s suspicious, because getting on the ballot takes a lot of petitioning and the first thing most candidates do is call up the party for help. The fact that Burke had no contact with the Greens before his name appeared as a candidate, his link to the Democratic Party, and the Democrats’ history of messing with the Green Party (I can elaborate, if you have a few hours) are enough to raise a red flag or two. Maybe it’s much ado about nothing, but we’ve been burned too many times not to be cautious.
I encourage you to check out the Green Party – hopefully you’ll find that it’s a good fit for you.


  1. Ross Levin Ross Levin Post author | November 23, 2009

    He isn’t part of the party, but he got on the ballot for their primaries.

  2. Dave Schwab Dave Schwab November 22, 2009

    Mayers isn’t even a Green party member, from what I gather – he’s just trying to use the Green line to get some attention for his causes, which are completely abhorrent to the Green Party. But the Greens have limited legal options to prevent him from doing so.

  3. Brock Merck Brock Merck November 21, 2009

    If the signatures are not ‘legit’, knock him off the ballot. Good government requires honest representation.

    Brock Merck-Green Party Candidate for Cook County
    Board 9th District

  4. Mike Indiana Mike Indiana November 20, 2009

    The Illinois Greens are absolutely justified in seeking the removal of Sean Burke and the Nazi running against Rich Whitney in the gubernatorial race (who’s name I don’t mention so as to not give him any publicity, even negative). Third parties unfortunately are unable to field candidates in a great many race simply because the parties are not big enough in terms of members and financing. So long as this remains the case parties have to remain vigilant about who represents them on the ballot because in many cases one candidate can at least on a local level determine how a voter views the party as a whole, due to the lower level of voter familiarity with third parties.

    Some groups such as the non-green
    Independent Greens of Virginia (who sometimes pose as part of then green party when they are actually party of the Independent Party of America) believe that “running is winning” and that more candidates is always a good thing. This is hardly a mature and productive view, and may be part of the reason why the party has never had a candidate win a race (the party comes across as schizophrenic).

    Libertarians would most likely not have a candidate then have a Communist (advocate of big government) on there ballot line. Much like the Illinois Greens here are trying to prevent people who don’t share there views from using there ballot line.

  5. me me November 20, 2009

    Thank you, Tom, I am glad the Cook County Greens are aware and conscientious enough to see an opportunist, getting ballot access is just too damned hard to just give it to people who do not care about organizing and growing the GP.

  6. Ross Levin Ross Levin Post author | November 20, 2009

    Thanks, Tom. Your input is appreciated.

  7. Tom Tresser Tom Tresser November 20, 2009

    Hi, Tom Tresser here. I spent the day at the Cook County Clerk’s office going over Mr. Burke’s signatures one by one with him present. He came very casually dressed and with no documentation or apparent preparation. I was with Alberto Bocanegra, the chair of the Cook County Green Party. The process of examining signatures is mind-numbingly slow. I must say that the Cook County referee has been bending over backwards in the favor of the challenged Mr. Burke. That is probably as it should be. Even so, we are only through page 26 of 108 pages of 10 signatures each (some pages were not fully completed). So far the referee has sustained 68 objections out of 151 or 45%. We objected to 660 signatures out of the 1,042 submitted. And this doesn’t include many illegible and questionable signatures that were accepted which we will still challenge. So, if the sustain rate continues along these lines, Mr. Burke will be removed from the ballot.

    Now – is this all worthwhile? I spoke to Mr. Burke in the middle of last week and explained the reason for the challenge and urged him to return calls to the leadership – especially to call Mr. Bocanegra and to join the Green Party and come to a meeting to present himself – as I did. I said that if he wanted to get active in civic life as a change agent then he would surely be welcomed but if we wants to run as a Green candidate he has to come to a meeting, join the party and give the members a chance to see if he is genuine or some sort of a spoiler. He has done none of these things.

    Bottom line – I have just come off a tremendous victory as a lead organizer of No Games Chicago and I have risked my livelihood and safety in challenging the Mayor of Chicago and the entire political and business community here. Now I’m placing my future in civic life in the hands and hearts of the Green Party. After what I (and the other No Games organizers) have gone through, I am very wary of false actors in the political arena. I think we have a right to defend the party against bogus candidates do not hold to the values of the party and resist all attempts to connect with local party members and leadership.

  8. PFK PFK November 20, 2009

    It should be noted that comments left on the NBC site or anywhere else belong to the individuals who left the comments and NOT the Illinois Green Party.

  9. me me November 20, 2009

    This is a HUGE problem, during time to out people on the ballot, every screwball and flunky will come out of the woodwork and try to exploit the GP for their ballot line, they do not care about ideology, usually they are to the RIGHT of the GP or they are apolitical and just want the public attention of being on a ballot line for psychological reasons. My state Party is so stupid, they give these people huge chunks of their time and will have nomination conventions for these people who obviously care nothing about the Green Party. These people should not even get a hearing. It looks like the state runs GP primaries, is there any way to purge him from the primary?


    [Why have a TPW or IPR ?????? Well look at how the Democans and Republicrats at toward the rest of us:]

    “on the heels of a controversy sparked last week when footage from a conservative rally held over the summer was played on “Hannity” during a segment on a more recent rally. During the clip, host Sean Hannity marveled over the large turnout for a Washington, DC protest. The Daily Show later pointed out that there seemed to be some inconsistencies with the video shown on Hannity’s show, namely that the atmospheric conditions seemed to vary from shot to shot. Hannity later apologized on the air for what he called “an inadvertent mistake.”

    Barely a week into Palin’s blitz to promote “Going Rogue,” media coverage is becoming its own story. Fox News rival MSNBC caught heat last week for using altered images of Sarah Palin”

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