In late December, Green Party (GP) Media Coordinator Scott McLarty said he hadn't heard from declared candidate Kent Mesplay in several weeks. Two months earlier, the Boston Globe quoted fellow GP candidate Jill Stein saying his campaign was "not particularly active." Indeed, the San Diego County air quality inspector did not attend the California State Green Party meeting in early December. And he hasn't yet qualified for the 2012 ballot.
But when Mesplay joined Stein for a live-streamed party response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 24, he confirmed he is still in the race and called on the party to embrace the youth and their issues, especially student loans.
"Since Washington likes to bail out bankers, we ought to be bailing out students from having to pay their student loans," he said, adding that, at a minimum, they should be relieved of the excessive fees and fines charged by the banks.
"Since Washington likes to bail out bankers, we ought to be bailing out students from having to pay their student loans."In addition to Mesplay and Stein, actor Roseanne Barr and Harley Mikkelson, retired from a 26-year career with the Michigan Departments of Community Health, Education, and Human Services, are declared candidates for the GP nomination, which will be decided at the party convention July 12-15 in Baltimore.
Mesplay said his emphasis on education and student debt stems from his own experience obtaining a doctorate. After graduating as the valedictorian of Mira Mesa High School in 1980, the Native American earned a master's degree in engineering from Harvey Mudd College and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University, his website says.
His education, he said at the SOTU response, took a while. "Over that whole long haul, I acquired about $20,000 in debt, and then I had a hard time finding job afterwards."
The Green Party's support of education at all levels is the "really humane thing to do," he said, offering an expanded view of education for today's youth. Given the economically unstable conditions they face, everyone should be trained in at least two areas.
The party's future, he said, lies with the youth.
"Younger people are ready," he said. "We just need to keep getting out there and reaching out to them."
In his position as an enforcement officer with San Diego County's Air Pollution Control District, the 49-year-old Mesplay helps ensure businesses comply with local, state and federal air quality standards through education and regulation, his website says. "He is exposed, daily, to the effects of our current economic climate on small and large businesses."
He ranks climate instability as his top presidential priority.
"The melting glaciers and expanding deserts of 2009 were the result of greenhouse gases dumped into the atmosphere in the late 1970s."
"Climate change is the gravest environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever met," he says on the website. "Across the world, it is causing vanishing polar ice, melting glaciers, growing deserts, stronger storms, rising oceans, less biodiversity, deepening droughts, as well as more disease, hunger, strife and human misery."
Calling global warming a "tragedy unfolding in slow motion," Mesplay says greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2020, 95 percent by 2050.
Much of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is initially absorbed by the ocean, which creates roughly a 30-year delay in the impact of that heat at the surface of the planet, he says.
"Practically speaking, that means that the melting glaciers and expanding deserts of 2009 were the result of greenhouse gases dumped into the atmosphere in the late 1970s, when the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was below 350 parts per million (ppm)," he says.
Returning to safe greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere requires they be reduced as quickly as possible to pre-1980 levels, to 350 ppm carbon dioxide, he says.
In his capacity as an emergency shelter manager for San Diego County, Mesplay experienced first-hand the human misery and strife wrought by climate change when he helped manage the evacuation shelter in Del Mar during the last fire-storm in San Diego.
A civil libertarian, Mesplay says on his website that he believes each individual should be allowed, by government and society, to determine how to live their lives as long as their decisions do not negatively affect others. He supports the right to choose, same-sex marriage, reparations for African Americans and wants to end all racial discrimination and the "war" on drugs.
On the GP SOTU response, Mesplay said the two-party system is not in fact a two- or a three-party system. It's more like quarters. "The pie is not 50-50, Democrats and Republicans," he said.
And neither do the two major parties, nor the occasional right-wing third party, serve the public interest, he said. "The other parties are not providing good governance; they're not providing good leadership."
"We really don't like what comes with overly centralized federal government."
The mainstream media likewise fail the citizenry with their penchant for imposing simplistic labels on political parties, traditional or alternative, Mesplay said. Citing the Green Party's decentralization plank, he said it has a "somewhat Libertarian" element.
"We really don't like what comes with overly centralized federal government," he said. "There are problems with it. But as long as we have a centralized federal government, it ought to have something like a Green New Deal."
The Green New Deal is a doctrine Stein proposed at her announcement in Boston on Oct. 24, 2011. It calls for direct federal action to create the jobs needed to end the Bush-Obama recession and emphasizes climate change, universal health care and peace.
Mesplay said what centralized government must exist must provide for all its citizens, "not just the wealthiest ones, not just the political donor class."
Mesplay has been active in the Green Party of California since 1995. In 1996, he was a Ralph Nader delegate to the party's national convention and was elected treasurer of the Green Party County Council, San Diego, where he served from 1996 to 1997.
"As long as we have a centralized federal government, it ought to have something like a Green New Deal."
He sought the GP presidential nomination in 2004 and finished third with 5.6 percent of the delegates. David Cobb won the nomination with 53 percent. Second with 40 percent was "no nominee," a strategy delegates used to endorse Nader.
In 2006, Mesplay ran for U.S. Senate in California, the first time the Green Party had a contested senatorial primary in California.
In 2008, he again sought the GP presidential nomination by partnering "cooptetively" with another candidate, Kat Swift of Texas. They shared resources and made common arrangements for debates and events. Mesplay again finished third, out of an initial 12, behind Swift and the nominee Cynthia McKinney, the former Democratic Georgian congresswoman.
Polls show a majority of American voters want more choices than those now offered by Democrats and Republicans, Mesplay said. He predicted California Greens would get a half million voters registered in 2012.
"This is the time for the Green Party," he said.
Steven Higgs can be reached at .