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Farheen & Elizabeth

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    ... http://www.womenspress.com/main.asp?SectionID=3&SubSectionID=3&ArticleID=2163   Special Issues Wednesday, December 28, 2005   Email this article •
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      Special IssuesWednesday, December 28, 2005

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      Paint the Twin Cities green
      Green Party first-time mayoral candidates Farheen Hakeem and Elizabeth Dickinson challenged established, well-financed incumbents and made strong showings in September's primary elections. Photo by Kris Drake.
      Be a changemaker
      If you want to give support to candidates, or become one yourself, visit these sites for more information:

      Minnesota Green Party website www.mngreens.org

      Vote Run Lead www.voterunlead.org (click on "In the States")

      or contact Liz Johnson, state field organizer at 612-819-9898 or ejohnson@....

      Farheen Hakeem's website should be up by January www.farheenhakeem.org

      Sustainable St. Paul group
      www.sustainablestpaul.org

      Elizabeth Dickinson's website www.elizabethdickinson.org.


      By Joanna Imm

      Before this year, Elizabeth Dickinson and Farheen Hakeem didn't have much in common. Dickinson is a former community affairs manager and lobbyist for the Minnesota AIDS project, an actor and a founding member of the advocacy coalition Clean Energy Now. Hakeem has a bachelor's degree in math and studied math education at the graduate level; she works for the Girl Scout Council of Greater Minneapolis. But this year, both women ran strong Green Party grassroots campaigns against the incumbent mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and both voiced the same reason for running: they felt they had no choice.

      When Hakeem announced her candidacy for mayor of Minneapolis, she became the first Muslim-American woman to run in Minnesota and, at 29, one of the youngest candidates ever. After seven months working with a fraction of her opponents' budgets, Hakeem won 14 percent of the vote in the September primary. She was particularly encouraged by the support she found in south Minneapolis. Supporters will see her pounding the pavement again: she's planning to run in the 2006 elections, though she hasn't yet decided for which office.

      Elizabeth Dickinson's campaign in St. Paul speaks volumes for the success a low-budget grassroots campaign can have. Dickinson's budget was a fraction of Mayor Randy Kelly's budget, yet she garnered nearly 20 percent of the primary vote. After the primary, Dickinson co-founded Sustainable St. Paul, a grassroots group of Greens, Democrats and Independents who will focus on keeping in the public eye issues such as a St. Paul renewable energy standard, instant runoff voting and limitations on the size of big box stores.

      Through the campaign Dickinson said she gained insight into what it will take to truly make politics open to all. To really level the playing field, she said, each candidate should receive a modest amount of money and be prohibited from raising money on her own. "You'd see democracy transformed and I think women in general would be creative with small budgets," she said. If a candidate knows how to stretch her money during a campaign that should tell voters a lot about how they will deal with the reality of city budgets.

      "If you really want to see new faces in government," she added, "you have to change the system."

      Dickinson had had no plans to run for mayor, but many people asked her to consider it. Then, she said, "I felt that I had to do it."

      Hakeem, like Dickinson, speaks of her campaign as a necessity. A few years ago she would never have imagined running for office. Her long-term goal is still to teach math. But, she noted, "As women of color, our communities have so much of a need and who else is there to empower our communities?"

      Dickinson's and Hakeem's campaigns showcased Minnesota's Green Party as a valuable organization for progressive women candidates.

      The Green Party is great at promoting women, said Hakeem. "It was a great risk to nominate me. The Democrats wouldn't do it. [The government] is bombing people who look like me. And the Republicans want to deport me," she joked. On the other hand, Hakeem said, the Green Party and others aren't great at making people of color feel welcome in politics.

      Both Hakeem and Dickinson look forward to the day when a candidate receives attention not because she's a woman, or a person of color, or from a third party, but because she's running a strong campaign full of powerful ideas.

      "I would never trade it for the world," Hakeem said of the experience. "I was the litmus test. Nobody knew what to expect, neither did I."

      Now that she knows what kind of support is out there, she can tell others that there's nothing to fear. "I can go back to my community and say 'Why aren't you running?'"



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