Governor candidate Howie Hawkins, left, and Ralph Nader drummed up newfound support for the Green Party in New York
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The new year will bring a stronger voice for conservatives, once on New York's endangered list, and for liberals with an environmental bent following gains they made in the November elections.
The big winners were the Green Party, which will be listed on ballots for the next four years, and the Conservative Party, which seized the No. 3 spot on ballots, behind Democrats and Republicans, also for the next four years.
A party needs to tally at least 50,000 votes in the governor's race to be guaranteed a spot on ballots and avoid having to petition for them.
Many political observers had written off the Conservative Party as the blue state approached a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage for Democrats. Yet the Conservatives tallied 232,263 votes on their ballot line for Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate they endorsed in the governor's race.
``It certainly is a stronger position,'' said state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long. ``We moved up, and the Working Families Party moved up. I would give them credit ... the reason we moved up is because both parties represent something.''
Long said his party's win ``sends a message to the ruling class'' about support for conservative values.
It's the first time the Conservative Party is on the top rung of minor parties since 1998. In New York, all major and minor party votes for a candidate are added together, giving minor parties more clout than in many states.
The Green Party pulled 59,928 votes. Their effort was led by the strong performance by the party's candidate for governor, Howie Hawkins, in the only debate of the campaign. An eye-catching TV and Internet ad had New Yorkers asking, ``Where are the (expletive) jobs?'' Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential nominee, also stumped for Hawkins in New York.
Hawkins told supporters now is the time to create a more organized and better-funded party.
``We give people a real alternative,'' said Hawkins, who has run for several offices, including Congress, under the Green Party.
The Green Party will have a stronger voice for revising the income tax so wealthier New Yorkers pay more, charge a stock transfer tax on Wall Street, fight against layoffs of unionized workers and ban the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from wells in the Southern Tier, a process critics say could threaten drinking water supplies.
Hawkins said ballot status also gives the party more time to back candidates in special elections between election terms and other advantages.
``It makes a big difference in how you run your campaigns,'' he said.
The Working Families Party, a left-leaning minor party closely tied to the Democratic Party, also moved up, keeping its spot behind the Conservative Party. Plagued by investigation, the party saved its automatic ballot spot with 154,857 votes. Democratic winner Andrew Cuomo at first didn't accept the party's endorsement, then didn't actively try to bolster it.
The Independence Party slipped to the third highest ballot spot for minor parties, attracting 146,646 votes for Cuomo, its cross-endorsed candidate.
State Independence Chairman Frank MacKay congratulated the other parties, but said the time was due for Conservatives because of the conservative tea party movement. Paladino also drew strongly from conservatives and independent voters in western New York, his home territory.
He notes, however, that the new voting system in use starting this year may minimize the damage of moving down the ballot. Now, all choices are on a single sheet for a voter to mark a choice, compared to the old mechanical machines, where a voter had to keep looking down a column to see the minor parties.
``I think it's a better system, even though we changed positions,'' MacKay said. ``Obviously we all want to be on Row A for bragging rights, but under the new system it's better for the voter to pick who he or she wants.''
Narrowly missing automatic spots on the ballots for the next four years was the Rent Too Damn High Party, which got attention for the performance of its candidate, Jimmy McMillan, including being parodied on ``Saturday Night Live.'' Also barely missing was the Libertarian Party, which attracted 48,386 for its candidate, Warren Redlich, who made a strong impression in the only televised debate.
Former Manhattan Madam Kristin Davis attracted 20,429 votes for her Anti-Prohibition Party, which advocated legalization and taxing of marijuana, while New York City Councilman Charles Barron received 24,572 votes for his Freedom Party.
Paladino's Taxpayers Party, created to compete for tea party voters, attracted 20,820 votes.