Democrats turn out for Lincoln County caucuses
Lincoln County Democrats kicked off the 2014 campaign season with well-attended caucuses March 2 in Whitefield, Wiscasset, Waldoboro and Damariscotta.
Attendees heard some rousing speeches and showed strong support for Democratic candidates. Representatives to municipal and county Democratic Committees were elected, as were delegates to the 2014 Democratic State Convention.
The largest caucus gathering, bringing together Democrats from Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport, Edgecomb, Newcastle, Damariscotta, Nobleboro, Bremen, Bristol and South Bristol, was kicked off by County Chairman Lisa Miller of Somerville, who then handed the gavel to County Commissioner Mary Trescot of Damariscotta, who conducted the proceedings.
The first order of business was to mobilize support behind gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud. Michaud campaign finance director, Rick Redmond, reported that the campaign is going well in terms of polling and fundraising, had has broken all records in its fundraising last year. Redmond highlighted Maine Made, Michaud's business and investment plan to parlay Maine's competitive advantages into a strong economy and good paying jobs.
A representative of the Shenna Bellows for U.S. Senate campaign spoke of Bellows' strong commitment to restore economic fairness to the middle class, protect Medicare, and expand Social Security. During her tenure as director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Bellows was a leader of 2011 campaign to restore same-day voter registration rights and the 2012 campaign for marriage equality. She was also instrumental in advancing several key pieces of legislation, one of which requires law enforcement agencies to have warrants to access private cell phone data. Maine is one of only two states in the nation to have such a law.
Sen. Chris Johnson, running for reelection in the new Senate District 13 (all Lincoln County towns but Dresden and the neighboring towns of Windsor and Washington), emphasized his approach to getting things done in Augusta — take the long view on where we are heading for a better Maine and implement short-term actions that move Maine people toward those goals; stand strong for Democratic ideals, and reach out to find common ground with others.
As an example, Johnson introduced a "food hubs" bill that would make it easier for local farmers to reach an expanded market in Maine and increase their sales. In turn, food hubs will strengthen Maine's agricultural economy, create jobs, and provide better nutrition to students.
Johnson's bill received an ought-to-pass vote of 11 -2 in the Agriculture Committee, with the other two supporting the bill with a minor further amendment.
Rep. Mick Devin, running for reelection in the new House District 90 (Damariscotta, Newcastle, Bristol, Bremen, Louds Island, Monhegan Island and parts of South Bristol and Nobleboro) opened by voicing his strong support for this election's Democratic candidates.
Devin noted a point of pride for Lincoln County, saying that two of the six bills Maine's Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) elected to support were Sen. Johnson's "food hub" bill and Devin's bill to study the effects of ocean acidification and its potential effects on Maine's $1 billion fishing industry and its nearly 10,000 jobs. EPC rarely supports bills sponsored by junior legislators. [Update: On March 3 Devin's bill received a unanimous vote by all Marine Resources Committee members present.]
Devin's other first-term achievements include reversal of a law endorsed by Gov. Paul LePage and his former education commissioner, Stephen Bowen, that allowed the state to arbitrarily transfer a student from one town to another, meaning the receiving town was required to pay that student's educational costs. This new law will save those towns thousands of dollars annually.
In his remarks, outgoing Rep. Bruce MacDonald described some of the educational funding waste and abuse under the LePage administration. For example, MacDonald said an online charter school was about to be approved. With educational costs ranging from $6,000 to $9,000 for each student and the online charter allowed to accept up to 750 students, from $4.5 million to nearly $6.8 million of Maine taxpayers' money could be drained from our public education system and local economies. This legislation was initiated under the previous, Republican-controlled legislation and Democrats were unable to stop its implementation in the current Legislature.
In the Q and A session, a speaker supporting Mike Michaud for governor pointed out that Eliot Cutler has had hundreds of opportunities to stand up for Mainers, make his voice heard in Augusta, and let Maine voters know where he stood on issues. But, he did so only once, and that was to support Stephen Bowen, a strong proponent of charter schools, when Bowen was LePage's nominee for education commissioner.
Delegates also welcomed Lincoln County sheriff Todd Brackett, who is running, so far unopposed, for reelection.
Delegates selected at the caucuses will attend the 2014 Democratic Convention May 30 and 31 at the newly opened Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The event will include passage of the 2014 Democratic platform and floor speeches from Congressman Mike Michaud, Congresswomen Chellie Pingree, candidates for the U.S. Senate and 2nd Congressional District, and an invited keynote speaker.