The Marijuana Reform Party has its share of political adversaries, but most know better than to pick a fight with the single-issue fringe group. So it was genuinely surprising when Tom Leighton, the MRP's gubernatorial candidate and a party founder, announced two weeks ago that the Green Party was trying to have him thrown off the November ballot by challenging the validity of his petition signatures.
The MRP and the Greens, whose platforms are similar, each need 50,000 votes to secure a place on the 2002 ballot. That leaves the two lefty groups competing for the same bloc of alienated liberal voters. Leighton himself is a former Green and twice ran for Congress as the party's candidate.
The Greens admit that one of their members, Richard Hirsh, lodged the complaint against the MRP, but insist that he acted on his own. "We aren't trying to throw anyone off the ballot," says Green Party coordinator Craig Seeman. "We'd rather see as many parties on the progressive left as there are on the conservative side." Hirsh, however, believes that Leighton's candidacy poses a real threat to the Greens. "I worry that undecided voters go in, they see 'Marijuana Reform Party,' they go 'Ooh, pot,' and they pull the lever," he says.
The Board of Elections rejected Hirsh's claim, but the animosity lingers. As novelty candidates go, Leighton knows he's at a disadvantage against the Greens' celebrity nominee, Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis. "He has no environmental background," says Leighton. "He's a professional actor -- he should put on a good show."
"He has a history of activism, you know," counters Hirsh. "Much more qualified than Ronald Reagan was when he ran for governor of California."