BRATTLEBORO — There are 13 candidates on the ballot for the Vermont Democratic Presidential Primary.
Only one of those candidates can credit Brattleboro for putting him on the ballot.
Mark Stewart Greenstein, a former lawyer who runs Educational Excellence, a college preparation firm in Newington, Conn., knows he has little chance of winning a primary on the home turf of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
But the self-described “Conserva-tarian, Jeffersonian, small-l libertarian” decided to come to Vermont and run in the state's Democratic Primary as an alternative candidate.
“Bernie is a good man and a good senator,” he said during a recent visit to The Commons. “I'd like him to stay one.”
And if that doesn't work out, he'll continue with his other campaigns - bringing back the Hartford Whalers to the National Hockey League and getting nominated as the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in 2020.
Greenstein, who campaigns under his first two names, was on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary on Feb. 11 and received 29 votes. Sanders narrowly defeated Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., receiving 76,324 votes to Buttigieg's 72,457, to take the Granite State.
Besides Vermont, Stewart is also on the ballot for the primaries in California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.
To get on the presidential primary ballot in Vermont, you need to collect 1,200 signatures. Stewart said he did so, collecting all of them in Brattleboro, mostly at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.
“The Co-op was really cool about letting me collect signatures and, in Vermont, it's really easy to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot,” he said.
A perennial candidate
It's not Stewart's first try at public office. In 2016, he ran in the Rhode Island Democratic presidential primary and got 240 of the 121,253 votes cast, which was good enough for third place.
Two years later, he ran for governor in Connecticut, under the banner of the AMiGo (Americans for Minimal Government) Constitution Liberty Party, against Democrat Ned Lamont. Stewart garnered 0.1 percent of the vote.
Last year, he lost a special election for a Connecticut State Senate seat, also as an AMiGo candidate.
He is also trying to form a new political party called EPIC, or Every Politically Independent Citizen, to serve as an alternative to the current political parties.
As a libertarian, Stewart says he wants to see the federal government cut back to the duties listed in the Constitution, with private entities taking care of everything else. His website, stewartforliberty.com, contains the details.
“Forced socialism is immoral,” he said, adding that progressives should welcome the libertarian philosophy of minimal government “because towns and individuals can do a better job.”
A puckish candidate
Stewart has had two campaign appearances in Brattleboro in recent weeks, but he admits he's had more queries about his campaign to bring the Whalers back to Hartford than about his presidential campaign.
The team played in the World Hockey Association from 1972 until 1979, when the Whalers were one of four teams that were included in the WHA's merger with the National Hockey League. The team played in the Hartford Civic Center from 1975 until 1997, when the owners moved the team to North Carolina and renamed it the Carolina Panthers.
There are still plenty of Whalers fans around, Stewart said, and his “Whalers Here - NHL to Hartford” group (NHLtoHartford.org) is trying to find enough people willing to buy ownership shares to convince another struggling NHL team to relocate to Connecticut.
“My goal is to see a publicly owned NHL team back in Hartford,” he said.