LEWISTON, Maine — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows strode into downtown Lewiston on Monday as she approached the final miles in a 350-mile walk from Houlton to Kittery.
With about 110 miles still to go, Bellows is walking to draw attention to her campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is seeking her fourth six-year term. Bellows, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, has said she wants to focus on jobs and the economy and is using the walk to reach out to working class Mainers.
“The walk across Maine, starting in Houlton two weeks ago Sunday, has been such an inspiration and an education about what Maine voters are seeking in Washington,” she said.
Bellows said while some parts of Maine, including the downtowns in Lewiston and Bangor, were bouncing back from the long recession that started in 2008, other places, especially in more rural parts of the state, such as northern Aroostook County, were not recovering.
“I tell people I’m walking because we need to restore grassroots in our politics, I’m walking to stand up for real people not big money in our elections,” Bellows said.
The next leg of Bellows trek will be into Oxford County and then through the Sebago Lakes region south to Cumberland County. The trek is expected to end in Kittery on Aug. 12, with a follow-up celebration in Portland’s Monument Square at noon that day.
Bellows posted updates on her progress on social media including Twitter as she made her way to Dufresne Plaza on Lisbon Street in the downtown for a rally and series of speeches from supporters, including several Democratic lawmakers from the region.
Bellows and those backing her touted her support for a federal minimum wage increase, as well as her support for increasing Social Security payments for seniors and the disabled by removing the caps on what the most wealthy Americans pay into the system.
She made a point of noting Collins has voted against increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 per hour as proposed by President Obama.
In an apparent acknowledgement that Collins, known for striking bipartisan deals, has a lot of support among Maine Democrats, Bellows also pointed out that Collins has endorsed Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage in his re-election bid.
And while Bellows is still the long-shot candidate, polling well behind Collins, her supporters are upbeat she can pull off the upset.
“I want to testify to her ethical standards, to her commitment to the people of Maine and to her commitment to winning this Senate seat,” outgoing state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said. “A lot of people ask me if I think Shenna can beat Susan Collins, and I always say, ‘Yes she can.'”