Election 2018-Governor-New York-Debate

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins takes part in a debate in Albany in 2018.

Seven years ago, Howie Hawkins declined. 

The Syracuse resident was asked to run as the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2012. While he had been a candidate for governor two years before and ran for local offices, he was able to balance those campaigns with his job at the UPS hub in Syracuse. 

A presidential campaign, one that would require him to crisscross the country, wasn't possible. He still had to "punch a clock," he said in a phone interview last week about his UPS job. He opted not to run for president. 

With the 2020 election 19 months away, Green Party members are urging Hawkins to run. Now that's he retired from UPS, he has more time to commit to a presidential campaign. 

"When people want you to run that bad, it's hard to say no," he said. 

Hawkins announced Wednesday that he launched an exploratory committee — a first step toward a presidential run in 2020. His decision to explore a run came in response to the "Draft Hawkins" movement launched by members of the Green Party. 

The push came to Hawkins' attention after he finished a temporary job at a Syracuse post office. He began working 12-hour shifts at the post office about a week after the election. He said he took the job for additional income since his UPS pension is 19 percent less than what he earned — a product of a reform measure approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2014. 

After finishing the short-term assignment, he planned to read and possibly write a book. There were other items on his to-do list that he hadn't addressed because of the gubernatorial campaign. 

His reading list and other tasks will have to wait. 

Through his likely presidential run — Hawkins will officially decide in the next six to eight weeks, he said — he wants to build the Green Party and highlight issues important to the party. 

Hawkins calls himself the "original Green New Dealer" because he proposed the economic and environmental agenda long before it gained mainstream attention and the endorsement of prominent elected officials, namely U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

His version of the Green New Deal would not only shift the country to 100 percent clean energy in 10 years, it would alter the economy — everything from agriculture and manufacturing to transportation and waste management. 

Before he formally launches his presidential campaign, he is working with an economist to develop cost estimates for his Green New Deal proposal. 

Hawkins is aware of the criticism Green Party candidates have faced for splitting the vote with Democrats. Some Democrats have blamed the minor party for electoral defeats in the past. 

In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader was labeled a spoiler because of the close race between eventual winner George W. Bush, a Republican, and Democratic candidate Al Gore. 

"We've been telling the Democrats since Nader you can solve that problem with ranked choice voting, instant runoff voting, national popular vote so people can choose who they want as their first choice and rank their candidates," Hawkins said. "It gets rid of splitting the vote." 

When Hawkins co-founded the Green Party, he said an eventual presidential bid wasn't his focus. He was more concerned about building the party and electing candidates at the local level. 

Hawkins has played a major role in the party's growth. He has been a candidate for offices in Syracuse — mayor, city council and city auditor — and has received the party's gubernatorial nomination three times. He also ran for U.S. Senate in 2006 and the House of Representatives in 2008. 

In 2010, his first run for governor, he received enough votes to secure automatic ballot access for the Green Party. 

His experience will be an asset. As he prepares for a presidential bid, he believes he will need roughly $1.5 million to help collect at least 750,000 signatures to get on the ballot in every state. There are some states he can collect signatures in right away. Others have later periods to circulate petitions. 

"I don't want to run if we're not aiming for every state ballot," Hawkins said. "I think we need that to be taken seriously." 

There are at least three other candidates seeking the Green Party presidential nomination. Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry was the first candidate to enter the race. Dario Hunter, a Youngtown, Ohio, school board member, and Ian Schlakman, the Green Party's gubernatorial nominee in 2018, are also seeking the 2020 presidential nomination. 

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.