Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Maine Senate Seat Is Not An Open And Shut Case-- Meet Cynthia Dill


Conventional wisdom: Angus King is destined to be the next senator from Maine. This week, while insisting he would be a true independent in the Senate, he said he had decided to vote for Obama, making it even harder for a Democrat to make the case against his election. But state Senator Cynthia Dill had decided to run long before Olympia Snowe had bowed out and long before King decided he wanted a coronation.

What we know about Cynthia is that she has a staunchly progressive record and that she was instrumental in creating bipartisan business councils that produced jobs and opportunity in a rural state with pockets of 20% joblessness, cast votes for Maine’s first-in-the-region marriage equality law, opposed measures that increased the cost of and access to health care for rural families, earned a 100% rating from the Maine Women’s Lobby, fought attempts to increase child labor and make it harder for workers to unionize, and backed a proposal for the first increase in Maine’s minimum wage in nearly three decades.

All core Democratic issues. Which makes it a little odd you haven’t heard her name. In one of the few places where there’s an open U.S. Senate seat, at a time when there’s a unique chance to win it for progressives, what on earth is the Democratic Party doing? The answer in Maine, it seems, is very little.

Maine Democrats, discouraged with Congress and reeling from a 2010 governor's race that produced a tea party governor, are at a crossroads. The wrong road could mean keeping a U.S. Senate seat in the hands of an increasingly dysfunctional Republican Party. “The alternative” is an aging, thin-skinned miscast independent who refuses to be straight with Maine voters and left the state in a $1.2 billion hole upon exiting the governor’s mansion more than a decade ago.

Maine Democrats are struggling to remain relevant. But the solution is not difficult: they must restore the party’s core values and move away from GOP talking points. Nominating a conservative in the primary to challenge a wishy-washy independent in the general election is not the answer. That would squander the party’s best opportunity in decades to bring the people’s agenda to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Without a true champion of small business, working families, women and the most vulnerable, the debate will forever be dominated by calls for tax cuts for the wealthy and austerity measures for everyone else to address the costs of war, unfair taxation and the public backstop for private gain on Wall Street. Candidates influenced by the rabid tea party will only fight about who can shrink government programs the most, dismantle the safety net and public institutions the fastest.

That's not the Cynthia Dill I've been talking with on the phone. She’s a young, bright, experienced and courageous legal advocate, with a bold vision of shared prosperity and a track record of casting progressive votes in Maine. She sounds like she'd be someone who would fit right in with Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Bernie Sanders. I asked her to introduce herself to DWT readers and below is a guest post. If she appeals to you, please consider contributing to her campaign here

Has Republican Extremism Turned 2012 Into Another "Year Of The Woman?"

-by Sen. Cynthia Dill

After beating Republican efforts to end women’s access to birth control, abortion and other basic health care, the gender wars are raging anew in this country, prompting many to call this election the year of the woman.

Is history repeating itself? “The Year of the Woman” was a popular label in 1992 after the contentious Senate confirmation hearings in 1991 for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. There were only two female senators at the time; four were elected in 1992 alone.

This time, the movement against women seems wider, and more formal. Legislation from Republicans, those champions of personal liberty, would order women to have an ultrasound if they want an abortion. The GOP caucus won't fund adequate prenatal services if a woman wants to carry her child to term. They want your 26-year-old daughter off your health plan. And, of course, they tried (through a transportation bill) to give employers a way out of covering abortions and birth control by objecting on “moral” or “religious” grounds.

As lawmakers grow more intent on not just writing laws, but legislating their bodies, inhibiting their ability to earn and cutting off their health care, is it any wonder women seem ready to fight?

But clear away the rhetoric from the “mommy wars” and consider what’s really important:

• Women are 52 percent of the electorate-- unmarried women, 25 percent-- making women’s issues the domain of a majority, not a special interest.

• The “average” woman who works full-time year round makes 77 cents for every $1 an “average” man in a commensurate position does, or $10,784 less annually.

• For the nonunionized, the wage gap is bigger: The gap stands at 79.9 percent among employees who aren’t represented by a union; 87.8 percent for those who are.

• A woman making the federal minimum $7.25 an hour full-time, for a year, earns $14,500-- more than $3,000 less than the poverty line for a family of three. Yet Congress has only raised that wage three times in the past 30 years, ignoring perhaps a quarter of all voters.

• A woman who gets 30 or more days paid family leave is 50 percent more likely than those who get nothing to see her wages increases the year after her child’s birth, according to a Rutgers University study. Yet Congress hasn’t passed a family leave bill since ....

It turns out that issues important to women are also important to mainstream America and the health of our economy. In fact, a Jan. 31 poll conducted by EMILY’s List shows that the issues women consider priorities are the economy, tax fairness, Social Security and Medicare … not the hot button issues such as reproductive freedom.

Because there’s a wide number of people affected by “women’s issues” when defined that broadly, a pro-woman legislator has to do more than ensure access to health services privately considered between a woman and her doctor.

They also have to vote to raise the minimum wage, bolster family leave, back union membership and endorse steps to stop violence against women. I voted to support all these things, which is why the Maine Women’s Lobby gave me a 100% rating in its most recent legislative review.

The others, not so much.

Angus King may be independent, but he has been absent the last six years when it comes to protecting economically brutalized middle-class families, especially those led by single mothers. While governor, King vetoed a law that would have raised the minimum wage, vetoed a law that would have given parents 24 hours a year of unpaid leave to take sick kids to the doctor, weakened labor unions and spearheaded legislation that denied the most egregiously injured workers benefits to support their families. He said these were fiscal — and not policy — decisions, but the $1.2 billion budget deficit his administration created tells a different story. We spend a lot of time in the Senate trying to close the structural budget deficit created during the King administration.

This year presents a possibility for 1992-styte gains for women in Congress, with female candidates potentially taking over a seat occupied by a man in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Hawaii, which will have its first female senator ever this year, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican wins.

The truth is, you don't have to be a woman to support women's rights.

But you do have to have the votes to show for it. That-- not gender-- is one of the key reasons I am the best candidate to succeed Olympia Snowe in the U.S. Senate.

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At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more about Maine Democrats getting "a core" based on progressive ideas and values. Afraid they're going to be a pushover for another wealthy well-connected independent. This post-Citizens United environment certainly poses huge barriers for running a statewide race and "moneybags" Angus with his connections to wealthy donors doesn't make it easy but I'm hoping the ME Dems get their act together and mount a real fight. There's lots to go against the "King" with: http://www.dirigoblue.com/2012/05/the-king-and-me-crash-barrys-angus-beef/#comment-1765

Oh, and I am looking at Cynthia Dill.


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