A group of about 15 people waited, serenaded by soft flute music and cooled by a fan. Then Howie Hawkins walked in.
A woman wearing a green hard hat belted, “Heeeere’s Howie!”
A year ago, Hawkins would not have guessed he’d be here – stopping for another visit as he campaigns for governor again.
Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for the New York State gubernatorial election taking place in November, campaigned Sunday in Buffalo.
Hawkins announced his intention to run for governor April 9. In 2010, he finished third out of seven candidates and received 59,906 votes.
It will take 50,000 votes for the Green Party to secure a ballot line in 2018.
Hawkins, a teamster who unloads trucks at UPS in Syracuse, started his day at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, where he participated in a “Fly Kites, Not Drones” demonstration that about 20 people attended.
Later he made his way to El Buen Amigo, a non-profit store and event location near Elmwood Avenue and Allen Street, where he delivered a speech, handed out fliers and lawn signs, and answered questions.
“When I come to Buffalo,” he said, “I go out in the neighboroods and see the abandoned buildings and the unemployed people and the people that really need help.
‘We need a bottom-up economic development approach, not trickle-down, which never trickles down to the neighborhoods.”
Hawkins does not mince words; he thinks the Common Core education system is “nuts,” calls fracking “crazy stuff,” says the war in Afghanistan is a “stupid war” and questions the intelligence of the distribution of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion.”
Leading candidates in the gubernatorial campaign are Cuomo, a Democrat who defeated Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino 63 percent to 33 percent in 2010, and Republican Robert P. Astorino, currently the Westchester County Executive.
Hawkins said he is receiving considerably more media attention this year, whereas outlets “didn’t cover me at all” in 2010. He said they focused instead on “a bunch of characters,” alluding to eccentric candidates such as Jimmy McMillan of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party.
The “Fly Kites, Not Drones” event, which included the flying of several kites, was intended to raise awareness about a proposal to change the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station into a solar panel farm and factory.
Hawkins supports the change.
“Our electricity is off the charts, so this solar energy is good in a lot of respects – fighting climate change, putting people back to work and making this area more business-friendly because of lower electric costs,” Hawkins said.
Santiago Masferrer, the founder of El Buen Amigo, said he has supported the Green Party for 50 years because he knows “the damage made by big corporations” to the poor. He was happy to have Hawkins bring his campaign through El Buen Amigo, which sells various goods and hosts Spanish classes, dancing events, art showings and even the occasional wedding.