DNC Chairman Howard Dean came to Portland and canvassed on Munjoy Hill with candidates. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Winter 2006

by Ramona du Houx

As Maine goes so goes the Nation. There have never been truer words — with the results of the recent election.

Democrats swept the nation. Last count there was a 34-seat gain in the US House, one up in the US Senate, and 28 Democratic governors elected around the country.

Maine led the way, with 29 Democratic seats in the state House, one up in the state Senate, and Governor John Baldacci’s reelection victory. Congressmen Tom Allen and Mike Michaud easily won their races.

“I will continue to fight for more accessible and affordable health care, a cleaner environment, good paying jobs, quality education for all our children, honest and open government, fiscal responsibility, and an end to the Iraq occupation. These are the values held by Mainers and middle-class Americans across the nation. And in January these values will finally be given full voice in the US House of Representatives,” said Congressman Allen in a statement after the election results. “The American people have rejected the failed, ‘stay the course’ ideology and rhetoric of this administration and replaced it with a Democratic agenda that puts the common good of all Americans ahead of serving the privileged few. I am excited to help create this new direction for America. I remain dedicated to providing greater opportunity and security for all, along with real accountability in government.”


Congressman Mike Michaud talks with State Representatives on election day in Waterville, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

“Now that the Democratic Party has been returned to the majority, we will immediately go to work to raise the minimum wage, extend tax breaks for higher education, fund stem cell research, and eliminate huge tax giveaways to oil corporations,” said Congressman Michaud. “And most importantly, we will begin a public debate that has been lacking in Congress on a new strategy in Iraq that brings stability to that country and our troops home to their loved ones.”

Progress is what people in Maine and across the nation are looking for, and Democrats in Maine vow to deliver.

“The first order of business will be permanent property tax relief; that’s what the citizens deserve, and that’s what we will deliver,” said Governor Baldacci on election night.

“Maine is a tremendous responsibility. We’ve got to pull together. I’ve got to reach out to people, businesses, industry, labor — to the far reaches of the state and pull together everyone’s ideas, so we can all work together for the best interests of the state of Maine. That’s my mission for the next four years. We will confront the tough issues in a nonpartisan way — based on what works well for Maine.”

“Maine Democrats are committed to working together and to putting common sense ahead of extremism and ideology, and that is something Maine voters supported,” said the new House of Representatives speaker, Glen Cummings. “The challenges before us are great, and our first priority will be to bring both parties together to focus on lowering local property taxes and increasing tax relief to better protect Maine homeowners. Now is the time for all legislators to work in a bipartisan spirit to bring real and positive change for the people of Maine.”

“Creating more jobs by investing in R&D, higher education, and better roads and bridges will be some of our top economic priorities. We will also be looking closely at how best to protect the heritage of our state, by strengthening our communities, fighting sprawl, and protecting access to clean woods and healthy waters for future generations,” concluded Cummings.

Democrats in Maine now hold a solid majority in the House with 89 seats to 60 Republicans — a dramatic shift from the makeup of the previous Legislature where Democrats had a one-seat advantage.

The return of women to hold public office is also mirrored nationally. Nancy Pelosi is destined to become the first woman speaker of the US House of Representatives in history.

President of the Maine Senate Beth Edmonds easily won reelection. “I’m looking forward to the challenges of the next two years,” stated Edmonds. “Working with Governor Baldacci, we will invest in research and development to grow Maine’s economy, expand access to higher education, and address the escalating cost of health care. The state must fairly reimburse health-care providers for their services, which requires funding the hospital settlement and increasing reimbursements for nursing facilities.”

State Sen. Elizabeth Mitchell was reelected and will become the Senate majority leader. Mitchell was also the first woman to serve as Maine’s House speaker.

Overall, 57 of 186 state legislators are women, 33 being Democrats.

In the Maine Senate, 12 women won seats, 7 being Democrats.

Maine Democrats went all out to recruit women. The new majority leader of the House, Rep. Hannah Pingree, and Rep. Emily Cain set up a political action committee, Maine Women’s Leadership, to support women running for office.

“We feel great about the increase of women in our party in the House,” said Pingree. “While each election is a testament to the hard work of an individual candidate, I believe the increase of women in the House is due to a focused effort to recruit, train, and support women. We have made some good progress, and I hope we can continue to see this kind of progress for many elections to come.”

“Even when you’re a member of the majority party, if you’re a woman, you’re part of a minority,” said Cain. “It’s hard to put together a critical mass around women’s issues when there are so few elected women. Now, with so many more women — and so many dynamic women — we may not have to work as hard toward that critical mass.”

The student vote also made a difference in Maine and in the nation.

The majority of Governor Baldacci’s campaign staff were young adults under 30. “I wanted them to have the experience,” said the governor. “All these young people working together at the Maine Democratic Party, the campaign, and the college Democrats throughout the state of Maine are the future. Seeing them involved makes me feel I’m passing the torch to the next generation.”

About 24 percent of Americans under the age of 30, or at least 10 million young voters, cast ballots on November 7, 2006 — up four percent from the last midterm elections in 2002.

“This looks like the highest young-voter turn out in 20 years,’’ said Mark Lopez, research director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Rock the Vote, a youth group, said young voters favored Democrats by a 22-point margin, enough to decide tight races. In the 435-member US House of Representatives, 22 were won by less than two percent of the vote and 18 were won by just 5,000 votes or less.

In Maine key races in Lewiston, mid-coast Maine, and in the Bangor area hung in the balance. Students voting the Democratic ticket there made the difference.

“The get-out-the-vote effort this year had more challenges, given the competitive races around the country. A lot of students wanted to vote in their home states, for the congressional races,” said Charlie Ticotsky, president of the Bowdoin College Democrats. “We were fortunate that on Election Day students were allowed to register at the polls, so that’s where we got the majority of voters. In the end we managed a 30 percent turnout of students.”

On a city council race in Brunswick, a councilor won by the amount of votes Bowdoin College Democrats represented. “The Bowdoin College Democrats did a great job of getting out the vote this year. Prior to election day, we walked David Webb [a candidate for an at-large Town Council seat] and Charlie Priest [a state Legislature candidate] around to various dorms to help them forge personal connections with students at Bowdoin, which we hoped would encourage the students to go out and vote on election day,” said Catie English of the Bowdoin College Democrats. “Our strategy worked. David Webb and Charlie Priest were both elected to office, thanks in part to our efforts.”

“Young people are the future of Maine — not just in terms of politically but also economically and socially. We want to make sure that social progress drives economic development not the other way around. A lot of young people here are committed to that goal,” said Ben Chin, a Bates student who got over 500 students, working with the League of Young Voters, to the polls on election day to vote down TABOR and to vote for Democrats.

“The governor is one of the most progressive governors in the country. He’s leading the way,” said Chin.