Minneapolis native hopes to unseat Joe Biden on Green Party ticket

While speculation continues over whether Mitt Romney will choose former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his running mate, another Minnesota native appears likely to clinch a vice-presidential nomination.

Anti-poverty organizer Cheri Honkala joined the ticket of Green Party presidential hopeful Jill Stein this week. The Green Party’s national convention takes place this weekend in Baltimore, Md.

Honkala has been dubbed “the queen of civil disobedience” for her work as an organizer for affordable housing in Philadelphia, where she set up a tent city in front of the Liberty Bell and took over a vacant Catholic church and turned it into a homeless shelter. She’s been arrested dozens of times and could be the first vice-presidential candidate who has been ordered not to visit the Liberty Bell.

Her commitment to ending poverty began in Minneapolis in the late 1970s. She tells the story often – She was homeless, living in a car with her young son, when the car got hit by a drunk driver. She decided to break into a vacant HUD building in Minneapolis and lived there for a few months. Honkala has been breaking into vacant homes in Minneapolis and elsewhere ever since.

Honkala spoke to reporters in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday after the announcement:

Every day for the last 25 years, I’ve worked with poor and homeless families, with middle class families in trying to help them with the basic necessities of life. This last year I’ve been devastated by the lack of concern or care by our elected officials and I haven’t seen anything come out of neither the Mitt Romney or the Obama campaign that really puts forward solutions for families. So that is why I have decided to step forward and accept Jill’s offer of running for vice president.

Honkala said a Green Party president would end unemployment and hunger in the United States, stop all foreclosures, and provide universal health care.

“We truly care about the 99 percent,” she said.

Honkala’s confrontational style has attracted both admirers and detractors over the years. Honkala ran for sheriff in Philadelphia last year with a vow to stop all evictions. She came in third.

Green Party spokesman Scott McLarty said Honkala is a logical pick.

“She’s someone who knows what she’s talking about. She knows from direct experience,” he said.

I asked McLarty whether he thinks the Green Party has a chance of winning the election.

“It would be dishonest for me to say anything other than we’re an extreme long shot,” he said.

That hasn’t deterred the Green Party from entering the race. Organizers hope the presidential campaign will boost local Green Party candidates and provide a platform to discuss poverty, global warming, and military funding, McLarty said.

“Nothing works better than a presidential campaign for having a voice in the national debate on so many issues,” he said.

But don’t expect Honkala to be facing off against Joe Biden in a vice-presidential debate any time soon — “although we’d love to see that, believe me,” McLarty said, laughing.

The Green Party ticket doesn’t meet the selection criteria of the Commission on Presidential Debates:

In addition to being Constitutionally eligible, candidates must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination. The Gallup Organization will advise the CPD in the application of its Criteria to polling data as it did in 2000, 2004, and 2008.