Former Rep. McKinney Heads Green Party Ticket

The Green Party selects Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia, to head its presidential ticket. McKinney is known for controversial and provocative statements — and a run-in with a Capitol Hill security guard.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

At its National Convention in Chicago this weekend, the U.S. Green Party selected an African-American former congresswoman and a Latina hip-hop activist to head its 2008 ticket. Cynthia McKinney, the presidential nominee, was once a Democrat, but she says the Green Party best represents the values of the American people. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

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CHERYL CORLEY: With the crowd roaring its approval and chanting power to the people, 53-year-old Cynthia McKinney danced on the stage surrounded by supporters and other Green Party activists.

Former Representative CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (Green Party Presidential Nominee): With 200 elected officials already, the Green Party can become the country's premier opposition party. One thing is clear, Democratic and Republican values are not Green Party values. And honestly, I believe Green Party values are the values held by the majority of people in this country.

CORLEY: McKinney has been on the campaign trail since last fall, pushing a platform that calls for universal healthcare and the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The nomination puts her back on the national stage. For 12 years, she represented Georgia as a U.S. representative, the first black woman to do so.

She was a controversial figure. She lost her seat, regained it, and lost it again in 2006 after a much publicized scuffle with a U.S. Capitol police officer and after she accused the Bush administration of covering up information about the September 11th terrorist attacks. Michael Canney, a Green activist from Florida, says the new ticket brings needed diversity to the party, and he believes the media only focused on McKinney's negatives in the past.

Mr. MICHAEL CANNEY (Co-Chair, Green Party of Florida): And it's like crazy Cynthia. How she slapped a cop, or, you know, she's a conspiracy theorist about 9/11. And the real reason she was drummed out of Congress, the real reason she has been smeared is because she was asking the wrong questions of the wrong people and telling the truth when telling the truth is a punishable offense.

CORLEY: McKinney beat out three other Green Party activists to clinch the nomination. Her running mate is hip-hop activist and journalist Rosa Clemente, who urged people to move in their seats and listen before she spoke.

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CORLEY: Clemente told the convention she was a representative of the work of a 30-year movement.

Ms. ROSA CLEMENTE (Green Party Vice Presidential Nominee): A hip-hop movement that is radical, not a hip-hop Republican movement, not a hip-hop Democratic movement, but a hip-hop progressive, radical activist movement that uses the vote to bring what we need in public policy.

CORLEY: In 2004, the Green Party drew just one-tenth of a percent of the presidential vote. Its best performance came in 2000, when Ralph Nader headed the ticket and won nearly three percent of the total. McKinney says the party will be successful this year if it's able to capture five percent.

Former Rep. MCKINNEY: Five percent confers on the Green Party major party status. And with that five percent, we can pull up another chair at the table of public policy making.

CORLEY: McKinney says she will also ask supporters to push for the Green Party to be a part of any upcoming presidential debates. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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HANSEN: The U.S. census bureau recently released its report on voter turnout, and our political blogger Faye Anderson has some thoughts about what it means for Barack Obama's Southern strategy. You can read about it at npr.org/soapbox.

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