Letters to the Editor June 18

Jun 18, 2020

Attention Maine politicians!

We call on Maine politicians at the local, state and federal level to fight for police reform, including the reduction of police funding and the reallocation of those funds to essential community and social services focused on redressing racial inequality in Maine. We call on them to also end white nationalism in our state.

We support Troy Jackson, president of the Maine Senate, when he called Maine, the whitest state in the nation, to action: “Now is the time to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our own complacency.”

The Maine Center for Economic Policy reported on our state’s racial inequality and its great need for racial justice. In part, MECEP states: “The findings are evidence that racially unjust systems exist in our state. We cannot create an economy in which communities of color can get ahead without taking a systemic approach to examining the unique, discriminatory hurdles that unjust policies have put in front of some Mainers because of the color of their skin.”

Maine, like the rest of the country, has a shameful history to reckon with regarding racism and white nationalism. For example:

1) Governor Owen Brewster ran on Klan support to become Maine’s governor in 1924; he went on to serve as one of Maine’s senators until 1952.

2) In 2006 in Lewiston, a man threw a severed pig’s head into a mosque during prayers. He specifically targeted Lewiston’s Somali community and told the Lewiston police what he was planning beforehand. The Lewiston police took no action and, reportedly, laughed at the incident when it did occur. This event sparked a white supremacist rally in Lewiston.

3) Maine’s first federal hate crime case was in 2018 when two white men from Biddeford targeted black Mainers and harassed and beat two men.

4) The twice-elected former Governor LePage has made numerous racist statements. Just this year, LePage told reporters, “Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that.”

5) Black Mainers are contracting COVID-19 more than 10 times the rate of white Mainers.

Just as Maine led the nation by being at the forefront of democratizing elections at the local level through ranked-choice voting, we can be a leader in making our state racially equitable and free from white nationalism.

Bret and Anne Wunderli

Rockland

Sweet versus Gideon, the Democrats finally choose

I have been puzzled that the state and national Democratic Party seemed to decide months ago who should run against Susan Collins, before any campaigning, before a primary election. Ads began appearing for Sara Gideon, followed by well-funded Republican ads attacking her. But Maine Democrats hadn’t yet chosen.

In fact, Maine Democrats finally will be choosing their candidate in the primary July 14, and there’s a good chance they will choose Betsy Sweet.

Statewide, many know her from her campaign for governor a couple years ago, when she ran against Janet Mills. She’s had a 37-year career in crafting legislation — the country’s first Family Medical Leave Act and bills to publicly finance elections, raise the minimum wage, and secure funding for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention services – all to improve the lives of Mainers. Betsy Sweet has been clear that the United States needs universal health care, a policy that was supported by 69% of Americans even before the pandemic made the case even stronger.

The pandemic forced her to cancel 50 events, which she says is "hard for a hugger." Anyone who hasn’t met Betsy Sweet really must visit her website, then check out articles and interviews elsewhere on the internet. You’ll see how warm and friendly she is, but also how passionate about issues that affect women, children, elders, low-wage workers and people without health insurance.

She’s articulate and persuasive, well-schooled in how government can and should change. It’s easy to imagine her bold, reasonable voice commanding attention in the U.S. Senate.

Either Sara Gideon or Betsy Sweet would be an immense improvement over Susan Collins, who has allowed herself to succumb time and again to her party’s misguided leadership.

Either candidate can defeat Collins. But Betsy Sweet has the longer track record of accomplishment and effective leadership. She is by far the better choice.

Sherry Cobb

Union

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