Wednesday, September 06, 2017

There's A Pretty Amazing Candidate Running For Governor Of Maine-- Meet Diane Russell


If Newton's Third Law Of Physics is looking for some political validation-- that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction-- Diane Russell is sure to be the Democrat to follow crackpot Trumpist Paul LePage as governor of Maine. A Berniecrat and an organizer, as a member of the State House of Representatives she sponsored Maine's groundbreaking marijuana legalization bill. In 2011 The Nation Magazine named her "Most Valuable State Representative" in the whole country on its annual Progressive Honor Roll. "A good case can be made," they wrote, "that the most extreme of the new crop of radical right-wing Republican governors is Maine’s Paul LePage. An equally good case can be made that no one has caused LePage more frustration than Portland Democrat Russell. With deep roots in Maine and a record of agitating for progressive causes, Russell battled to block a right-wing move to eliminate Maine’s election-day-registration law. After Republicans rammed the change through, she became a leading advocate for the referendum that restored the law. Active with the Progressive States Network, Russell joined the protests in Wisconsin and returned to Maine with a renewed determination to pass pro-worker legislation. She succeeded with her work-sharing bill, which allows employers to avoid layoffs by making the state unemployment insurance program more flexible. Even Tea Party Republicans backed it." And now she's running for Governor. I asked her to write a guest post introducing herself.

It’s About the Many, Not the Few
-by Diane Russell,
Candidate for Maine Governor

Like most connoisseurs of the Foxbody Mustang, some of my fondest memories involve waiting for a tow truck. This time, I was on my way to the Central Maine Labor Council’s Labor Day BBQ. As the truck pulled up, I couldn’t help laughing at the incongruity of the situation: This kind of problem is normal for most of us-- and chronic for Mustang addicts-- but it’s not the sort of thing most candidates for Governor have to deal with.

As we pulled away, the driver and I started chatting. When I told him I was a Bernie Sanders–style progressive running for Governor, he wasn’t shy about his support for Trump and LePage. He wasn’t keen on their bluster, but he thought all that was just a distraction from the good they were trying to do. To the naked eye, someone with a reputation for being a bold progressive fighter might have found herself in quite the pickle.

However, we quickly found that we had far more in common than the duopoly would have us believe. He wholeheartedly believes as I do that the system is rigged against us, against “working people!” as he said animatedly. We talked about how working people were being divided along made up lines -all to keep us from fighting together for better lives for all.

We obviously didn’t agree on a wide swath of issues, but in our short chat, he confided that he’d really like to not have to work three jobs to make ends meet. He said it with a hint of shame that despite all his hard work, he just could not seem to get ahead. “And I bet you’d like to spend some time with your family, too, huh?” He laughed at the irony that such a basic dream somehow has become an audacious ask.

As I went to leave, I handed him a window sign on the long shot he might find it useful. He immediately held it up with great pride and said, “Hell yeah! I may just put this up in my truck!”

This is the story of how we heal our country, how we take a moment to see past the distrust just long enough to see the hurt that has caused it. It’s easy to blame your neighbor when you’re not getting ahead, especially if someone hands you an easy talking point. It’s harder to have these kinds of one-on-one conversations, devoid of judgment and filled with an honest, frank conversation about the economic system that has been rigged against us all.

Economic power has been purposely stolen from working people by the multinational corporations who are bent on rolling back worker protections, minimum wages and child labor. They have been successful in breaking unions, and significantly reducing our ability to collectively negotiate for economic power.

Let me be very clear: I am running for Governor to end this rigged system and put economic power back into the hands of working people.

While I spent eight years in the Maine House making the case that the system is broken and rigged toward the Billionaire Class, it’s now suddenly become fashionable to talk about it for both Republicans and Democrats. The challenge, though is sorting out who can and will change the system-- and who just finds it a convenient talking point. Last year, I led or was a leader in three distinct policy fights that led to transformational, systemic change:
Superdelegates. Last year, I led the fight to democratize the Democratic Party by fighting to reform the Superdelegate system. The fight seemed clear and simple, but as with any fight over power, it would never have happened if we didn’t have strong, strategic leadership and a strong grassroots movement. Upon our victory, Senator Bernie Sanders asked me to speak at the DNC.
Legalizing Marijuana. After six years of fighting in the Legislature to end the War on Drugs in Maine by legalizing adult use marijuana, I took my case to the people with the help of strong grassroots supporters. Last November, Mainers sided with common sense and legalized marijuana. By transforming our drug laws, we also are paving the way for minority communities to live more freely without the fear of being arrested for having a joint in their pocket. When arrests lead to a permanent federal ban on federal student aid, public housing, etc., removing those arrests means students can attend college, and communities can get other federal benefits to get them on their feet when needed. When those arrests disproportionately impact minority communities, it means this policy will have a transformative impact for them.
Ranked Choice Voting. Since 2007, I have been advocating that Maine change its election system from a winner-take-all system to a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system. Again after years of being turned away by our fellow politicians, a former independent state senator and I launched a campaign to get it on the ballot. We did so with the novel idea that people should be able to vote their hopes, not their fears. In a state where we have such a fierce independent streak, a traditional election system means that third-party or independent candidates can “spoil” an election. With RCV, voters just rank their candidates in order of preference meaning they can vote for a candidate instead of against their worst choice. This election change will open the door for independent voices to run on their ideas, and be heard, and for elections to be about who should win, not just on who can win.
As a movement-building Governor, I will take on some of the most difficult political issues head on. The solutions may not be rocket science, but they are “radically common sense” which makes it all the more important to have a clear, visionary leader who can build a movement to bring these ideas to fruition:
Single-Payer Health Care. If anything, the federal debate on health care has proven two things: 1.) The feds are not capable of fixing the political side of this issue and 2.) the private health care system is truly broken beyond repair. Thus, it is up to the states to innovate, and the only rational path forward is to create a single-payer system that gets Wall Street profits out of our health care decisions. Maine also is #2 in the nation for the opioid crisis. Increasing access to health care immediately for people struggling with addiction is the clear path toward addressing this health crisis. We must also ensure safe staffing ratios in clinical settings for both staff and patient safety. Good health care outcomes are hard if there aren’t enough qualified nurses and other staff members to help patients. As Governor, my top priority will be to transition to a single-payer health care system.

Education. To properly compete globally, we must end the trend of disinvestment in education that has been occurring since Reagan, and finally recognize that an individual’s education attainment has collective benefits to society. Quality pre-K education has demonstrated clear long-term criminal justice savings, mitigating the school to prison pipeline. We also know kids who move past the third grade without being fully literate suffer serious issues in attempting to learn other subjects. And of course serious student debt has hindered the financial freedom and entrepreneurialism of many members of Generation X and Millennials. The fight over interest rates fails to account for the sheer magnitude of the principal debt itself, and almost seems trivial to anyone who understands what it is doing to the economy. We must again prioritize education at all levels if we are to have an educated workforce that can continue to compete globally. As Governor, I will work to institute Pre-K while also investing in K-12 and higher education with the end goal to achieve a functioning pre-K through 16 public education system for all Mainers.

A Fair Economy. The wealth disparity in this country is astounding, and despite working class rage, it seems to be accelerating instead of abating. I would like to create a state public bank, much like the Bank of North Dakota, to allow us to divest our state’s treasury from Wall Street and put it back onto Maine Street where it can be put to its best use. The more states divest their resources from Wall Street, the less power the Billionaire Class will have and the more leverage we will have to restore some semblance of economic stability. We must also ensure that workers have the right to collectively negotiate for better wages, safety standards, and staffing ratios through union organizing. In the middle of the Wisconsin protests, my friends and I drove through three snowstorms to Madison to see what was happening and to stand in solidarity. What bad policies I saw in Wisconsin quickly found their way to Maine through Governor LePage. While we stopped some of the worst from taking effect, Maine workers have much fewer protections than they did seven years ago. As Governor, I will set up a State Public Bank and work to raise wages, strengthen worker protections and institute paid family leave and paid sick days.

Clean Energy Economy. Before LePage took office, Maine was attracting entrepreneurs to our burgeoning clean energy economy. Our commitment to a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard, and our community renewables pilot projects made us a clear place to want to do business. At the time, the clean sector was the fastest growing part of the economy. Seven years later, that economy has stalled because LePage has continued to undercut it at every opportunity. Investments in solar, wind, offshore wind research and energy efficiency will send a message once again that Maine welcomes clean energy entrepreneurs. Further, it will be a big step forward in investing in climate change mitigation. As one of just 13 states that are part of a cap and trade system, we understand that it isn’t just good for the environment to put a check on pollution-- it’s good for the economy as well. We were able to put our money from the auction directly into energy efficiency programs further accelerating the cost savings. However, as states surpass Maine’s RPS, we have a lot of work to do to catch up. As Governor, I will work to restore those key investments, raise the RPS and “sign on” to the Paris Climate Accord’s standards.
The 2018 election cycle is going to be a unique one. We have seen wave years where America “throws the bums out,” but the backlash I think we’re about to see is going to be universally focused on establishment-style politics. It would be a mistake to assume that Democrats have 2018 “in the bag.” Voters have swung the pendulum back and forth to the hard left to the hard right hoping that someone would hear them and fix the damn system. I think both parties are going to see tough primary years where insurgent candidates come out of nowhere to break up the political classes so that people-centered policies can move forward. We are already seeing an unprecedented wave of Bernie Sanders style progressives running for office for the first time.

Voters have had it with both parties and are looking for candidates who speak their language, who are authentic, and who they can trust. Elitist “talking points” are just not going to cut it and smooth talking elected officials who spout such stuff off are going to lose their seats in favor of rapscallion underdogs. For real progressives, 2018 is the first year where our mission may not only be welcomed into the Democratic Party, it may be just what we need to save it.

When an unapologetic progressive who supported Bernie Sanders can win over a LePage-Trump supporter in a matter of minutes, it tells you there’s strong room for candidates who don’t have a “message” so much as a clear vision for, and strong record of, unrigging the system back in favor of the many, not just the few.

As Governor, I’ll transform Maine back into the beacon of good government light it has long been for the country, putting power back into the hands of the people where it belongs. I sincerely hope I can earn your support in doing so.

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At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She may or may not be amazing. But she's still trying out for the worst team in political history with zero chances of being improved.

She might be the very best democrap... but that is like being the very greatest operatic soprano in kindergarten.

At 12:47 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Go for it Diane.


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