Maine's Democratic Reality
Senator John Kerry carried Maine in the Presidential election in 2004. And Maine has a Democratic Governor, John Baldacci. So it is not a leap to think that Maine voters would choose another Democrat in a state-wide race.
More interesting to political strategists, I think, is what happened at Maine's 2004 Democratic Convention. The convention was charged with electing 24 delegates to the National Democratic Convention in Boston. When the votes were counted, Howard Dean got 7 of those delegates, Dennis Kucinich got 6, and John Kerry got 11. That means the two progressive candidates, Dean and Kucinich, together elected more delegates than John Kerry.
The Democratic activists in Maine who were responsible for those numbers are still out there, and a lot of them are staying active. As a Maine resident since 1972, I've actually been working with many of them for decades, in many different venues.
I believe that the energy is out there, and the time is right, for Maine to make a positive statement of where we want this country to go, and what we want it to look like, by electing a progressive Democrat to one of Maine's two U.S. Senate seats.
The Republican Reality
Because Olympia Snowe is a Republican, she counts toward the 55-seat Republican majority in the 100-seat U.S. Senate. And that headcount is what codifies a Republican leadership, and what allows for the right-wing Republican agenda to move forward. (Olympia Snowe, you should know, cast her votes for that right-wing leadership.)
A swing of six seats nationally from Republican to Democrat in the 2006 election would tip that balance and put Democrats back in control of the national agenda. Maine should provide one of those crucial Democratic seats.
Despite Olympia Snowe's verbal assurances of her moderation, when it comes time to cast her vote, she's on board with the Bush administration on critical issues -- issues that are doing great damage to this country and to our national prestige and security around the world. Issues like the Iraq war, and more recently, the confirmation of Samuel Alito Jr. and John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General and Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State. We can also talk about her votes on the Bankruptcy bill and Class Action Lawsuits, her refusal to raise the federal minimum wage above $5.15 an hour, her votes to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
If you watch her voting patterns, you will see what I see -- that Olympia Snowe votes the right way when it doesn't count, and the wrong way when it does.
While her Republicanism counts toward the Republican majority, her "moderation" puts
her at odds with the Republican leadership. She is finding herself marginalized, making some noise but affecting little or no change. Because of the untenable situation in the Republican Congress, coupled with the destructive radicalism of the Bush Administration, Olympia Snowe is much less effective than one would expect of a politician with her tenure and political experience.
Maine and the nation deserve better.
Some of you may remember that I tried to run against Olympia Snowe once before. That was in 1994, when she was still in Congress and George Mitchell was Senate Majority Leader. That Spring, George Mitchell abruptly decided to retire, Olympia Snowe jumped into the Senate race against my old boss, 1st District Congressman Tom Andrews, and I found myself in a seven-person Democratic primary. John Baldacci won that primary, and went on to win the 2nd District congressional seat Snowe had vacated. After eight years in Washington, John Baldacci ran for Governor in Maine, a position he now holds.
Olympia Snowe won the 1994 race for U.S. Senate, and was returned to office in 2000.
Meanwhile, in the fall of 1995, when again no progressive appeared willing to challenge Sen. William Cohen in the 1996 race, I once more threw my hat into the ring. That January, just as the campaign season was picking up steam, history repeated itself. Bill Cohen announced his retirement, and I found myself in a five-person Democratic primary. Former Governor Joe Brennan won that one.
That summer (1996) I wrote a book about those two primary runs. Proud to Be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal is a compilation of some of my essays on government policy, a few campaign speeches, and a number of political columns written for several publications going back to the early 1980s. Here are some excerpts, printed on the back cover:
...on liberalism: "Hate to tell you, folks, but taking your definition of a liberal from Rush Limbaugh is akin to taking your definition of a Jew from Hitler, either before or after he, as Marge Schott explained, 'went too far.' "
Susan Collins won the race against Joe Brennan in November 1996. But the way she did it prompted me to write a behind-the-scenes book about that campaign, A Tale of Dirty Tricks So Bizarre: Susan Collins v. Public Record (2002).
...on abortion rights: "I do not see my America in the Republican drive to declare the wombs of American women to be government property."
...on the military: "People who do not respect people of other genders or sexual orientation should not be issued weapons and taught how to kill."
...on violence: "Real men know how to control themselves."
...on the flag-burning amendment: "Better the flag than the federal building. The flag can take it."
Much has changed in my life in the dozen years since I first announced my candidacy for a federal office. I sold my farm in Blue Hill in 1996 and bought one in Dixmont in 1999. I went back to college, and in 1998 I earned a degree from the UMaine Orono -- becoming the first college graduate in my family.
In 2000, I married David Bright, former Bangor Daily News state editor, agriculture columnist, political activist, and now a computer installation specialist with a company in New Hampshire. We are now in the process of developing BrightBerry Farm, a MOFGA-certified commercial organic farm specializing in raspberries and cherry tomatoes.
I spent February to May of 2005 "testing the waters" for a possible run for U.S. Senate. I pulled a team together, got this web page set up, made the rounds of Democratic and Progressive organizations, gauging the reaction. I've been pleased with the response.
The requisite candidate and campaign committee filings with the Federal Elections Commission were mailed out in early May and became official on May 10, 2005.
The filing deadline to get my name on the Maine ballot for the June 13, 2006 Democratic Primary is March 15. We are well on the way to meeting that deadline, collecting the necessary 2,000 nominating signatures to do it.
This is the right time in my life for me to run for office again. If things work out as I hope they will, I can see Maine voters changing the way this country is run -- and changing the world in the process.
-Jean Hay Bright, March 1, 2006