BALTIMORE— Dr. Margaret Flowers says she’s more of an activist than a politician.
Flowers, a former pediatrician, is the Green Party candidate on the ballot against Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Republican Kathy Szeliga to take over the U.S. Senate Seat in Maryland held for decades by the soon-to-be retiring Barbara Mikulski.
While Mikulski, who is the longest tenured female politician in U.S. history, was busy helping to nominate Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton as the first female Presidential nominee in the nation’s history in Philadelphia last week, Flowers, like her two opponents, have been busy campaigning for November’s election.
“I had been asked for years to run for political office and never thought that it was the right time,” said Flowers in a recent phone interview. “It’s time that we set a different set of goals and I think it’s an interesting time to be in politics right now.”
Flowers represents the progressive mindset that feels disenfranchised and unsettled by the proverbial status quo, similar to that of Senator Bernie Sanders, who fell short in his quest to win the Democratic nomination for president.
Yet, like Sanders, who spent much of his career as an independent, she hopes her third party campaign can change the narrative and instill change, even if she is perceived to be a huge underdog in the race.
“In many places, third parties have sparked a lot of change,” said Flowers. “Only half of voters identify themselves as either Republican or Democrat in Maryland (21% Republican, 29% Democrat). That’s a lot of people who are on the fence and are looking for a better option.”
Flower points to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2014 election win, which surprised many political analysts in the state.
“Hogan’s win was partly because Democrats didn’t come out to vote,” she said. “The Democrats made a huge mistake in neglecting to energize their base and not realizing that people are shifting away from the norm.”
While Flowers has built a career as an activist fighting for usually progressive ideals and topics like fracking, single-payer healthcare, equal rights for women, racial equality and climate change, she says she got into the race because she believes the US Senate Seat in Maryland that’s been so strongly held by Mikulski needs to be held, once again, by a woman.
“We need a strong woman’s voice in Washington and I want to be that voice,” she said.
In addition, Flowers says she will be mindful of the non-metro spots in Maryland, like the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland, for instance.
“We need to be much smarter with how we develop jobs and how we use public money to fund projects,” she said. “As a government, we must help facilitate the transitions when change happens so we can ensure that the change is for the greater good of everybody.”
Flowers has been a lead organizer of a campaign to stop the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) for the past 5 years. She believes the TPP would outsource jobs, lower wages, threaten the health and safety of communities and undermine protection of the environment. “It’s “NAFTA on steroids,” she said. Additionally, she co-founded Clean Up The Mines!, a campaign to clean up the more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines throughout the US and she has been at the forefront of the fight to protect net neutrality.
Flowers says she hopes to find a way in the next several months to capture those undecided voters in the state who are looking for a candidate that doesn’t come from the two main parties that are so bitterly divided in Washington.
“People are getting wise now to the fact that they are getting played,” she said.