Dems in Maine Predict Fall of Snowe (R-ME) in 2006
by Matthew Cardinale -
June 20, 2005
"Can you hold on a second? I'm baking a pie," says Jean Hay Bright, Progressive Democrat of Maine, 57, who is running for the US Senate seat currently held by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"Apple black raspberry," she elaborates, returning to a telephone interview for the progressive news community.

"There is a real effort by the Bush administration in Washington to unravel the social fabric that is critical to the whole functioning of society," Bright says, adding that she is particularly troubled by recent evidence that Bush lied about going to war with Iraq.

"Yes, I'm calling for an investigation that I expect will lead to the impeachment of Bush," she said, adding, "I think that [the Downing Street Memo scandal] is going to be equivalent to Nixon's downfall. And I'm delighted everyone's calling for impeachment."

Jean Hay Bright is currently unchallenged in the early stages of the Democratic primary and asserts that most other potential Democratic challengers are put off by the seemingly high approval ratings and low disapproval ratings of US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

According to her website, Bright supports the closure of the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, supports allowing medical marijuana, opposes the Patriot Act, opposes CAFTA, opposed NAFTA, opposes Bolton for UN Ambassador, supports removing the US from the World Trade Organization (WTO), opposes the Iraq War, opposes limits on class action lawsuits, and opposes the bankruptcy bill, for a few examples.

Snowe, for all her relatively progressive reputation, has towed her Republican party line on many of these issues, Bright points out. For instance, she says, Snowe voted for the Iraq War, for the Patriot Act, for the class action lawsuit limits, for the bankruptcy bill, and for confirmations of Condoleeza Rice, Alberto Gonzales, and Janice Rogers Brown.

US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) doesn't seem so moderate, then, in context.

"So many of these [progressive advocacy] groups spend so much time petitioning our two Republican Senators to do the right thing," reflects Bright. "I've been asking, How much time would you save by having someone who shares your values [in the US Senate]?" she explains.

"Here it's going to take six Republican seats to become Democrats to change the dynamic nationally."

Jean Hay Bright is just one of many Democrats who are poised to unseat out-of-place Republicans throughout the Northeastern states. Senators Santorum (R-PA) and Chafee (R-RI) are also considered vulnerable next year. It appears a consolidation of blue states in the Northeast may be on the horizon, whereas Republicans have made some gains recently in the US Southern Regions.

"Olympia Snowe is considered a moderate. But I've been looking at her record more closely at her more recent votes. She's not on the cusp anymore. For instance, the bankruptcy bill. She voted for several amendments that were needed, like exceptions for veterans or people with medical bills. They didn't pass, and she supported the bill anyway. That is indicative. She votes the right way when it doesn't count and the wrong way when it does," Bright summarizes.

"I've got fourteen months here to get people to look at her votes and see if they're counting for something."

"She [Snowe] is in an untenable position because she is a Republican and she does want to get stuff done. She's lost a lot of clout and I don't think she's happy in her situation," says Bright, adding that Snowe used to have more clout when the Republican majority was slimmer and she often played a role as a vote-breaker.

Maine is a small state with only 1.3 million people, half of whom are kids, Bright said. "It is of a size where you can do things that you can't do in other states," she adds, in terms of getting out and doing face to face campaigning. For instance, Chellie Pingree of Common Cause, who used to be a Congressperson in the Maine State Senate, tells often of how she enjoyed connecting with voters through door-to-door experiences.

The voting population of Maine is 1/3 Democrat, 1/3 Republican, and 1/3 other, she says. And in the 2004 Democratic Primary, "Dennis Kucinich got 6 of 24 votes. Dean got 7. And Kerry got 11, so the progressive wing of the Democratic party outpolled Kerry."

"And the energy! People are really disgusted with George Bush," Bright said. "The Democrat meetings are packed! 10 years ago, you'd be lucky to have 15 people at these things. Now we have at least 40, and in the spring of an off-election year. People are desperate for something they can do to take back our country from the destruction it is undergoing."

"Like with Social Security, it's a basic concept of, do we want a government that understands it has a responsibility towards its elderly, disabled, and orphans, which is who Social Security helps. We need people in there who can recognize that government can be good and good government is necessary for a decent civilization," Bright said.

"I came up to Maine with my former husband in 1972; we bought 30 acres of rough woodland for $2000.00. My ex-husband served two terms in Vietnam. During that time, everyone was interested in going back to the land, to be self-sufficient, to basically try to stay away from society and commercialism."

"Here I am 35 years later married to a [different] guy who helped conscientious objectors. Here I am in the throws of objecting a war all over again."

Bright says she saw the power of the media while working for the Providence Journal of Providence, Rhode Island. Then she moved to Maine and worked for the Bangor Daily News. Bright saw a lot of interconnectivity as she covered the different beats of the newspapers, from city council to courts to the police. "It was a real education about how we all have to work together as a society to make it all come out ok."

Since then, Bright has also run in the US Congressional primary for Maine's 2nd district in 1994 and in the US Senate race in 1996 [for the seat won by Susan Collins].

"I knew I could go back to the woods like 35 years ago," she said, but she realizes she has the potential to make a big political difference for Maine and for the country; hence, public life is necessary and important.

"You're going to know where I stand. People want someone who is firm in their positions and who you know where they stand even if you don't agree," she says, recalling how a lot of 2004 voters explained why they chose Bush over Kerry. "And I'm trying to use that to my advantage."

"We've been making a lot of progress," she says, in helping people realize how often they can see Snowe's true colors [of red], shining through. "And people know I'm not gonna support any of that," she says.
Matthew Cardinale is a freelance writer, advocate, and graduate student at UC Irvine in Sociology. He may be reached at