June 23, 2006

  1. Events in Washington
    1. Out of Iraq
    2. Election Year and the Minimum Wage
    3. Estate Tax
    4. Flag-Burning Amendment
  1. Post-Primary Overview
  2. Calling All Momentum!

1. Events in Washington
a. Out of Iraq
Had I been in Washington already, I would have joined the 13 Senators who voted yesterday (June 22) for the Kerry-Feingold proposal to redeploy American combat troops out of Iraq by July 1, 2007.

The Republicans, including Olympia Snowe (and, unfortunately, more than a few Democrats), are acting like the reluctant bridegroom, continually putting off the date for the wedding until an increasing number of improbable benchmarks are reached. For the reluctant bridegroom, it's after he lands that new job, finds a better apartment, pays off the car, after the holidays, after....after...after.

For the Republicans and the Bush administration, it's been after the Iraqi constitution is adopted, then after elections are held, then after the new cabinet is announced, then after the Iraqi forces are trained, then after quarterly security reports from the President turn up rosy, then after...after...after.

Snowe has reportedly sponsored her own amendment that would set out even more of these delaying benchmarks, saying in a statement (BDN 6/23/06) "This is critical because the message must be clear -- our presence in Iraq is in no way indefinite, open-ended and unconditional."

Sure Senator, that's clear. Uh-huh.

Many a bride has gotten her man to the altar -- or seen her man "cut and run" -- by setting a date and watching what happened. It's a definitive moment.

We saw what happened in Congress this week when some Democrats with backbone tried to set a date for the big event. Congress did a "cut and run" on the American people.

Face it, the Republican truth is that they have no intention of getting us out of Iraq, regardless of how many self-imposed benchmarks have come and gone -- or how loudly Olympia Snowe proclaims the opposite.

The 13 Senators who voted for the Kerry-Feingold proposal are: Sen. John Kerry (D-MA); Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI); Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI); Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT); Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA); Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
b. Election Year and the Minimum Wage
Members of Congress come up for reelection every two years, which puts them on the perpetual campaign trail, and keeps them on their toes. With the U.S. Senate, elections come only once every six years, leaving a lot of time for not caring what the voters think. For instance, Olympia Snowe's press secretary was brash enough in January to tell reporters that, by the time November came around, everyone would forget about Snowe's vote to confirm Judge Samuel Alito.

But the fall election is now less than five months away, and Olympia Snowe is changing her spots.

Last fall, Olympia Snowe voted against a Kennedy amendment raising the federal minimum wage above $5.15 an hour, despite the fact that Maine's minimum wage is $6.50 an hour and will soon go up to $7. Snowe's vote put Maine small businesses at a disadvantage if they are having to compete with similar businesses in other states that could still legally pay that poverty-level wage. The vote last fall was 47 in favor, 52 against.

This week (June 21, 2006), a similar Kennedy amendment returned a vote of 52-46, with Snowe now voting in favor. But 60 votes were needed for it to pass, so once again Snowe voted the right way when it didn't count. Sorry, no increase this year, folks.

But what a difference an election year makes.

(Republican leadership in the House refused to even call for a vote raising the minimum wage, because they were afraid it would pass. That's the power of majority status -- the majority party gets to set the agenda. So, regardless of how well you think Olympia Snowe might be doing fighting against her own party, the fact is she is a Republican, and her seat counts toward their majority status.)
c. Estate Tax
The Senate is scheduled to vote soon on the estate tax -- cutting it back or abolishing it. Senator Snowe has historically come down on the side of abolishing the tax, or, in the alternative, reducing its impact on wealthy families as much as possible. It will be interesting to see how she votes in this election year.

Right now the exemption limit is $3.5 million for an individual, double that for a couple. One Republican proposal is to raise that exemption limit to $5 million for an individual, a level at which all but about 5,100 estates would be spared any tax liability. Under that proposal, only amounts above the exemption limit would be taxed, and then at the extraordinarily low capital gains rate of 15 percent.

A Congress that refuses to lift the life-rafts of minimum wage workers above the poverty line, but has no qualms about lifting the yachts of its wealthy friends above the taxation line, is not a Congress that represents me and mine.
d. Flag-Burning Amendment
I've marched in many Fourth of July parades, covered others as a reporter, and enjoyed several more as simply an enthusiastic United States citizen. And I've got to tell you, I'm going to miss all those festive teeshirts and hats and jackets sporting the stars and stripes that line the parade routes and show up on some of the marchers, should this ill-advised "flag desecration amendment" to the U.S. Constitution become the law of the land.

Remember, it was Abbie Hoffman's arrest for wearing a shirt with a stars-and-stripes design that brought him to trial several decades ago. And it was his appeal of that conviction that elicited the Supreme Court decision in his favor, throwing out the law he was charged under. And it is that court decision, declaring that law unconstitutional, that this flag-desecration amendment is designed to "correct."

It just goes to show you, one man's celebration is another man's desecration. Which is just the beginning of what is wrong with this amendment.

You understand that this is a stick-it-to-the-judges amendment. The "logic" goes like this -- if the judges declare something to be unconstitutional, lets make it Constitutional by making it an amendment to that Constitution, on par with the Bill of Rights, and see what those durned judges say about that!

The problem is that this is also a stick-it-to-the-Constitution issue. Clearly the supporters of this amendment do not agree with the ideas embodied in the First Amendment, in all its ramifications. In their efforts to become thought police (it's not the burning of the flag that is the issue, it's what you are THINKING while you are burning the flag that matters), they are willing to trash the wonderful founding legal document that our flag represents.

Another problem is one of unintended consequences. If we stick into our Constitution an amendment that is in conflict with another amendment, which one wins? Who knows? Do you trust the current Supreme Court to come down on what you consider your side?

And, once we establish, through this Constitutional amendment, that the government has the right to determine how free you are, not by what you do, but by what your are THINKING while you are doing it, then we are on our way down the slippery slope toward full government repression.

Better not wear that sweatshirt with the flag across the chest. Best take the flag off the car antennae. Don't want to go to prison over something stupid like that.

Olympia Snowe is on record favoring this amendment. The Senate will be voting shortly, and the head count reportedly is close. Your Senate and mine.

Is this the America you want to live in?

2. Post-Primary Overview

As you know, election night was a real nail-biter around here. In fact, so was most of Wednesday. But a win by about 600 votes is still a win, and it is now on to November.
Primary analysis
An analysis of Tuesday's election results show that I carried 12 of the Maine's 16 counties, and came close in three others. I won Waldo County with more than 66 percent of the vote, Somerset County with 60 percent, Knox at 56 percent, and Washington at 55 percent. I also won in Lincoln, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, York, Sagadahoc and Piscataquis Counties.

My primary opponent, Eric Mehnert, did well in Penobscot County, which he carried by 59 percent of the vote. Eric ran an impressive campaign, and I congratulate him and his campaign team.

Online Newspaper Polls
The Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News both ran on-line polls about the U.S. Senate race in conjunction with their primary election coverage.

The June 15, 2006 Portland Press Herald poll, taken when it wasn't clear which of us had won, listed the choices as Snowe, Challenger, and Undecided. Results were Snowe with 48.7%, Challenger at 46.11%, and undecided at 5.18%, out of 1,351 votes cast. It is interesting that Snowe could not pull half the votes against an as-yet-to-be-named Challenger, in a poll sponsored by the state's largest daily newspaper.

The June 15, 2006 Bangor Daily News poll drew only 389 participants. In that tally, Snowe got 57.33% of the vote, I got 30.85%, and independent candidate Bill Slavick drew 11.83%.

Other analysis
Another curious analysis crossed my computer desk today, this one from a story in the Portsmouth Herald, which drew from a Congress.Org piece on "power ranking" members of Congress. According to this analysis, out of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate, Olympia Snowe ranks 50th, her "ranking in chamber based on member's 2005 Power Score. Formula based on position in Congress, actions taken to influence legislative agenda, and legislative successes." This independent analysis flies in the face of Snowe's recent pronouncement that she should be reelected because of her seniority and effectiveness in Congress.

A Rasmussen report released this week, an actual scientific poll taken June 15, 2006 (when, again, the official winner was not clear), showed Olympia Snowe with 66% of the vote, if the election were held that day. That sounds like a lot, but Snowe pulled 69% of the actual vote in 2000, the last time she ran. So she is already three points down from the last election. I scored 26% in that Rasmussen poll, but again in a race where the official Democratic opponent had not been determined the day the poll was taken. And, I had a 38% favorable rating, pretty good for what the pundits have been calling an unknown candidate.

I think this is an excellent baseline from which to build.

3. Funding the General Election

Now that the primary is over, the heavy lifting begins. During the primary we focused on Democrats, since only they (you) could vote in the primary. But now we have to also reach out to the general population, to the Greens, the unenrolled, the moderate Republicans. And that outreach takes money.

Right now we're trying to raise as much money as possible before the end of the FEC fundraising quarter on June 30. We've got a few bills from the primary to clean up, and we need to ramp up quickly for the work ahead. We've got about a week until the filing deadline. We need to translate the momentum from the primary into dollars for the general election. We need to show everyone that we've got what it takes to win this thing.

We've got a ways to go -- the way we'll get there is by having each person give what they can. Even if it's just $25, we'll be grateful for the contribution. If you've thought about contributing, but haven't yet, now is the time. If you've contributed before, but can afford to give a little bit more, please do so.

We need your support! Click Here.

Send your check, made out to:

JeanHayBright.US Senate

and mail it, along with our Mail-in Contribution Form to:

JeanHayBright.US Senate
4262 Kennebec Rd.
Dixmont ME 04932

But if you prefer to make an online or credit card contribution, go to our Online Contribution Page. Online contributions to Jean's campaign can also be made through ActBlue.Com, Here.

Credit card contributions can also be made off-line, with credit card information processed in the campaign office and deposited directly into the campaign's bank account. Fill out and mail in the Mail-in Contribution Form, and we'll take it from there. Or call us at one of our campaign numbers, and we'll take the information from you over the phone.

David Bright, treasurer