Reading is getting ready for Green Party

[From Reading Eagle Newspaper]

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader will speak during the political organization’s annual national conference, which opens Thursday at The Abraham Lincoln hotel.

By Mary E. Young

Reading, PA - Berks County will turn greener than it ever has been Thursday when the political party that has adopted that color as its name and theme holds its annual national conference in downtown Reading.

Between 300 and 500 people are expected to attend the four-day event at The Abraham Lincoln hotel.

Reading was chosen because of its convenient location and its setting in a state that Green Party officials believe has restrictive and antiquated election laws that prevent third-party candidates access to ballots, said Scott McLarty, media coordinator for the national party.

Carl Romanelli, the state party’s candidate for U.S. Senate last year, was nearly bankrupted by $81,000 in penalties because of those laws, McLarty said.

Romanelli will speak at a Saturday night rally along with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who paid $89,000 in penalties when he tried for the state nomination for president as an independent candidate in 2004, McLarty said.

“It’s two-party intimidation to obstruct third party and independent candidates from even thinking of running,” McLarty said. “Pennsylvania is the cradle of liberty. Shame on the state of Pennsylvania for allowing something like this to happen.”

Democrats forced Romanelli and Nader from the ballot by challenging their petition signatures.

The state Supreme Court required the candidates to pay the Democrats for the costs they incurred as a result of the challenges.

Romanelli is appealing the state court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

David Kurzweg, co-chairman of the county Green Party, said he’s hoping that holding the conference here will draw attention to the legal obstacles third-party candidates face, give people a better understanding of the party’s philosophy and increase its local membership of about 800.

The conference workshop topics should be useful to candidates and political activists from any party, he said.

Kurzweg said Berks residents are welcome to attend the Saturday night rally and also may be interested in a Friday night forum that will introduce Green Party candidates hoping to win the presidential nomination next year.

Party members running for local offices also are expected to attend, Kurzweg said.

The local candidates and offices sought include Heather Urkuski, county commissioner; Jennaro Pullano, mayor; and Jessica Ashman, clerk of courts.

McLarty said Nader, who is best known for his successful efforts to improve vehicle safety laws, has not yet announced his intention for the presidential race in 2008.

Reading police Sgt. Mark Stump, traffic division supervisor, said he does not expect the conference to cause any traffic problems because no other major events are taking place at the same time.

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