As the presidential campaign has narrowed to two candidates, Maine Democrats have a little breathing room to turn our attention to the U.S. Senate race.
It’s an important one. I believe Sen. Susan Collins has failed to represent the interests of average Mainers, instead, for example, putting her energy behind tax cuts for large companies that don’t even do business here. As a junior editor, I was there when she told the Press Herald editorial board in 1994, “I think we should listen to the voters.” It feels like a long time since that was her priority.
But who should replace her? We have three Democratic candidates running. The party leadership in D.C. has anointed its chosen one, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. But despite Gideon’s experience and good qualities, she shouldn’t win just because some people from out of state say so. This decision is too important to be made by anyone but Maine voters.
Because the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has blocked other candidates’ access to key resources, Maine voters are not being given the full opportunity to learn about them and consider whether one of them might be a better choice than Gideon.
We, the voters of Maine, don’t have to follow the DSCC’s lead, especially when it puts its finger on the scale. We can investigate all the choices and evaluate them against our values. In particular, I’d like to encourage you to take a closer look at Betsy Sweet.
Sweet is a strong and experienced leader who will be a voice for Maine values — environment, education, health care and human rights. Here are some of the policies she’s pledged to carry forward in Washington: Support for the Green New Deal. Support for Medicare for All and paid sick leave. (I mean if we ever needed it, that is now!) Criminal justice reform, including expunging the records of people convicted of marijuana-related crimes. Stricter limits on political fund-raising, including overturning Citizens United. Education as a fundamental human right. Human rights, including the rights of women and native tribes.
This race is a crucial one, and we can expect people from out of state to pour money into ads, mailers, and ground-game operations to try to sway Maine voters.
Some of their efforts will be — in fact, already have been — colorful, glossy confections that tug at the heartstrings. It’s easy to get caught up in the admakers’ beautiful world, where everyone in Maine has whatever they need plus a view of the coastline and a complete set of stainless steel kitchen appliances.
We live in the real world. You probably know someone who’s been unable to move forward in life because of student debt, the housing crunch, the opiate crisis. Every community has been affected by Republicans’ hateful policies.
Sweet strongly supports the idea that Maine’s elections should be decided by the people who live and vote here. Her 35 years of advocating for working-class Mainers include helping create the Clean Elections system, the first of its kind in the U.S.
And in the current climate, why would you not vote for Sweet, who helped write and pass the first Family Medical Leave Act in the country? I hope you don’t need to take time off to get through this virus, or to care for a family member. If you do, though, you can get your job back when you’re ready. Thanks, Betsy!
Sweet knows Mainers. Her values are progressive and human, including helping create the state’s Civil Rights Team Project to reduce bullying in schools.
In Washington, she’ll do the same thing — reducing bullying by big-money interests and advocating for the needs of the vulnerable.
I don’t need big money donors, out-of-state ad firms, or the DSCC to tell me what I think. I’ll be voting for Betsy Sweet July 14, and I hope you will join me.
Patricia J. Washburn is a writer and activist who lives in Portland.