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16 Things to Know About... Jill Stein

By Joan Greve
Washington Week Fellow

The 2016 presidential election is unconventional for many reasons: one of them being that the two major-party candidates have record-high unfavorability ratings. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is viewed unfavorably by 54% of Americans, while GOP nominee Donald Trump has the same problem with 62% of the country.

With so many Americans disappointed by the standard options, many are turning to a third-party candidate. Green Party nominee Jill Stein is hoping to attract voters to the left of Clinton. Here are 16 facts about Stein:

1.    She has run for president before. Stein was the 2012 Green Party candidate in the last presidential election, in which she received nearly 470,000 votes, or 0.36% of the total vote.

2.    Those 400,000 votes made Stein an electoral record-holder. No other woman in American history has ever received as many votes in a general presidential election. With Clinton in the race, though, Stein is unlikely to hold onto that distinction for much longer.

3.    Before entering politics, Stein was a practicing physician of internal medicine. She credits her medical background as her springboard into politics because she saw the negative impact an environment could have on someone’s health. As she told the New York Times before the 2012 election, “I’m now practicing political medicine because politics is the mother of all illnesses.”

4.    Stein has a family filled with doctors, as her husband Richard is also a physician and their two adult sons are studying medicine.

5.    Stein has twice run for governor of Massachusetts, in 2002 and 2010. Her 2002 gubernatorial race pitted her against a rival she would face again during the 2012 presidential election: Mitt Romney.

6.    Although Stein grew up in Chicago, she has spent most of her adult life in Massachusetts because she is a double Harvard alumna, having received her bachelor’s and medical degrees there.

7.    In a four-way race between Stein, Clinton, Trump and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, recent polls put Stein at receiving 3% of the vote. But it’s not all bad news. This would be a marked improvement from her 2012 showing, and a recent poll had her receiving more millennial votes than Trump by 7 points.

8.    Stein’s long-standing commitment to campaign finance reform drove her out of mainstream party politics. In 1998, when the Massachusetts legislature overturned the Clean Election Law, a referendum-approved bill aimed at reforming moneyed interests in politics, Stein decided to move away from the traditional two-party system.

9.    Stein has repeatedly said that she considers the difference between Clinton and Trump to be rather marginal. In a July interview, she told NPR, “I will feel horrible if Donald Trump is elected, I will feel horrible if Hillary Clinton is elected, and I feel most horrible about a voting system that says: Here are two deadly choices, now pick your weapon of self-destruction.”

10.  The Green Party candidate attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, hoping to court former supporters of Bernie Sanders who remained unsold on Clinton. Stein said during the convention, “I almost feel like a social-worker, being out there talking to the Bernie supporters. They are broken-hearted. They feel really abused, and misled, largely by the Democratic Party.”

11.  Many of Stein’s platform points overlap with those of Sanders’, including a tuition-free college system, a $15 per hour minimum wage and a “Medicare for All”-style healthcare model. In fact, Stein supported Sanders so wholeheartedly that she penned an open letter to California primary voters asking those registered as independent or Democrat to vote for Sanders.

12.  In yet another similarity to Sanders, Stein was the lead singer of Somebody’s Sister, a 1990’s folk-rock band. Fans and curious voters can still buy the band’s 1999 album “Circuits to the Sun” on Bandcamp.

13.  Stein has attracted some flak for refusing to denounce the anti-vaccination movement. When asked about her opinion during a July interview with the Washington Post, Stein pointed to a lack of public trust in the Food and Drug Administration, due to perceived influence from the pharmaceutical industry, and said, “There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.”

14.  The Green Party candidate has currently spent more money than Trump on television ads--because Trump has spent nothing, while Stein has spent $189,000. (The Trump campaign told congressional supporters Tuesday that they would run television ads in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio starting Friday.)

15.  Stein has been arrested on at least two occasions: once for trespassing during a protest over the Keystone Pipeline and once for disorderly conduct as she protested her exclusion from a 2012 presidential debate.

16. Stein, along with Libertarian candidate Johnson, have filed a lawsuit to participate in the presidential debates. Currently, the debate rules state that a candidate must clear 15% in five major polls to participate, which would leave out Stein and Johnson from the debate stage.

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Photo via Flickr / Gage Skidmore