BOSTON — A medical doctor and former candidate for Massachusetts governor announced Monday that she's seeking the Green Party's nomination for president, vowing to challenge President Barack Obama from the liberal and progressive side on jobs, foreclosures and health care.
Jill Stein said protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement reflect the same deep dissatisfaction with Obama as members of the Green Party, which she called the nation's only viable progressive third party.
"This protest movement, this movement of asserting democracy and justice, is unstoppable and we are proud to give that movement an electoral voice," Stein said, declaring her candidacy outside the Massachusetts Statehouse.
"We are not formally a voice for that movement, but we grow out of the same cloth," Stein added.
Stein said she's ready to take on Obama and whichever candidate wins the Republican Party's nomination on five key areas including the economy, health care, student debt, home foreclosures and bringing all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan back home.
Obama last week announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the year's end.
Stein faulted Obama for being too timid in his first term, and letting down the same progressive and liberal voters who helped elect him. Stein said she didn't vote for Obama, instead casting her ballot for the Green Party candidate in 2008.
Stein said she would push for what she called a Green New Deal to provide public jobs for the unemployed. She said she would also fight for systems that guaranteed health care for all and tuition-free education from pre-kindergarten through college.
Stein said she sees little difference between Democrats and Republicans, labeling them both "Wall Street parties" under the sway of deep-pocketed contributors. She said that indebtedness to special interests has helped feed what she calls "the Bush/Obama recession."
"You can try to hair split and find small differences between them, but in my view you have one sinking ship that is going down very fast and you have another sinking ship that is going down slightly less fast," she said, "The American people deserve more than that. We deserve a real lifeboat."
Stein said the party, which will have a national convention next summer, hopes to be on the ballot in 45 states.
She's not the only candidate seeking the party's presidential nod. Kent Mesplay, a Green Party leader in California, has also announced his candidacy.
Neither is well-known nationally, but Democrats are leery of a replay of 2000, when many party faithful believe Green Party candidate Ralph Nader siphoned enough votes from Al Gore to help elect Republican George W. Bush.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and staunch Obama supporter, said the president is fighting for every vote as he seeks re-election, including the support he received from voters during his 2008 campaign.
"I can tell you that he is not taking any aspect of his candidacy for granted," Patrick said. "I think the president is right ... to do the work on the ground and to ask for every vote from every corner."
It's not Stein's first foray into politics. Most recently, she finished a distant fourth in the 2010 governor's race as a candidate for the Green/Rainbow Party.
Massachusetts Democratic officials are quick to point out that there are no Green Party lawmakers in the state Legislature or any other elected office in the state.
"At the end of the day, middle-class families in the commonwealth and across the country will know that President Obama is the right choice to get Americans working again," said party spokesman Kevin Franck.
Stein said that if the party garners just 2 percent at the polls nationally, they will have been able to get their message out.
Even as she tries to tap into the energy of the Occupy movement — including the Occupy Boston encampment in downtown Boston — Stein is careful to keep a distance.
She's visited the encampment as an activist, now that she's a declared candidate, Stein said she has no plans to return out of respect for the movement. Protesters have tried to avoid aligning the movement with a political party.
One of those Occupy Boston protesters, Jason Potteiger, 25, of Cambridge, said he's intrigued by Stein.
"I'm a card-carrying Democrat and I like what she's saying more than anything out of the Statehouse," said Potteiger who recently found a job in advertising after two years of unemployment. "If people were happy with Barack Obama and the Democrats they wouldn't be camping out right now."
Stein isn't the only Massachusetts resident hoping to replace Obama in the White House. Former Gov. Mitt Romney is seeking the Republican nomination.