BANGOR — U.S. Rep. Tom Allen of Portland rallied supporters Saturday afternoon in the basement of a local church and urged each of the 80 or so people in attendance to step out of his or her comfort zone and persuade five people to vote for him on Election Day.
Allen is running against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, who is seeking re-election.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, considered by fair trade activists and union members to be a champion of fair trade, spent the day campaigning with Allen, who has represented Maine’s 1st Congressional District for more than a decade.
Brown and Allen’s appearance at Hammond Street Congregational Church in Bangor was their third stop of the day in Maine to discuss free trade, health care and other hot-button issues. The pair spoke in Biddeford and Lewiston this morning before heading north.
Peter Phillips, 59, of Bangor said that although he planned to support Allen before he came to the event, he didn’t know much about the Portland native.
“What do you think this half of the state thinks about you?” Phillips, a Vietnam veteran, asked the candidate.
Allen smiled and said that in spite of the television ads that his campaign has run in northern Maine, voters north of Waterville still were a bit suspicious of his southern Maine roots.
“Portland is not Massachusetts,” he said. “I’m a seventh generation Mainer. I trimmed pine trees for 15 cents a tree when I was in high school. With my parents, I camped and fished all over the state and we did the same with our daughters. I know the state from one end to the other.”
Phillips, who actively opposes the Iraq War, said that he did get to know Allen a little bit better at the event.
“I liked the idea that he was not bashing Republicans,” he said. “It’s refreshing not to hear that.”
Steven Butterfield, 25, of Bangor is taking a break from his job as a union organizer to run for the Maine House of Representatives. A Democrat, he is running for the seat now held by Pat Blanchette who cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
“I came today,” he said after the rally, “because I think if we don’t elect Tom Allen, people like me who come from the middle class and the working class won’t be represented in Washington. Susan Collins tries to sell herself as a moderate but when I look at her record, I don’t see it. He represents the middle that I come from.”
Brown urged Allen’s supporters to emphasize with family and friends that Collins has supported the policies of President George Bush 81 percent of the time.
“Then, when she comes back to Bangor,” the senator said, “she brags about the other 19 percent of the time. … I think you should tell people that if they support the economic policies of George Bush, they should vote for Susan Collins.”
A native of Mansfield, Ohio, Brown was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1993 and to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving in the Ohio Legislature and as Secretary of State. He, along with Allen, has opposed trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Act. Both men have sponsored a new bill known as the Trade Reform Accountability, Development and Employment Act which calls for the review and renegotiation of existing trade agreements as well as a new process to negotiate trade deals.
Although Allen and Brown’s sweep through the state is a campaign event, organizations that oppose NAFTA and similar agreements have sent out a flurry of press releases about the event. Representatives of labor unions in Greater Bangor and the Maine Fair Trade Campaign, a coalition of 50 groups that supports fair trade attended.
Allen, according to the MFTC, has “long been a proponent of fair trade policy.” In addition to being an original co-sponsor of the TRADE Act, Allen voted against the Peru Free Trade Agreement, the Fast Track and has been a vocal opponent to the pending Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade deals, which are nearly identical to NAFTA, the group said.
“Maine is leading the fight for a new fair trade model,” Bangor native Sarah Bigney, who works for the Maine Fair Trade Campaign, said. “The movement is strong and growing. It’s about working families, it’s about a healthy and sustainable environment, and it’s about the ability for state governments to set policies in the best interest of their citizens.
“We’re at a turning point in trade policy,” the Bangor High School and University of Maine graduate continued. “Never before have candidates talked so much about the failures of NAFTA. The TRADE Act marks a new era and a new way forward at a moment ripe for change.”
Allen and Brown left the rally for a fundraising dinner at Stephen King’s home on West Broadway in Bangor.