Local Democrats tout ‘Blue Wave’ in hopes of November election success

Candidates talk with voters during ‘Meet and Greet’ at Boothbay Harbor Opera House
Posted:  Saturday, September 15, 2018 - 10:00am

Local Democrats hope a “Blue Wave” envelopes and wipes out recent Republican electoral success this fall. In 2016, President Trump scored an upset victory over heavily favored Hillary Clinton, and in the process Maine Republicans retained their majority in the state senate, gained seats in the House of Representatives, and for the first time in five presidential elections earned a vote in the Electoral College. Republican Governor Paul LePage also won the past two elections, and no Democrat has won a statewide election since John Baldacci in 2006.

This year, Democrats believe after almost two years of the Trump administration voters will ride a “Blue Wave” toward electing Democrat majorities in Maine and across the country. On Sept. 13, 125 residents assembled at the Boothbay Harbor Opera House to meet three local and one federal candidate on this year’s ballot. Legislative candidates Holly Stover and Laura Fortman participated along with District 6 District Attorney candidate Natasha Irving. U.S. Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein also spoke during the two-hour event.

As a first-time legislative candidate, Stover, a Boothbay Harbor native, touted her past government experience. She worked for 12 years as Office of Violence Prevention director at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2017, she has worked as addiction outreach specialist for the Boothbay Region Community Resource Council. As a legislator, she would support affordable housing, funding Medicaid expansion, and local technical school education.

“I see a lot of hope and enthusiasm out there because there’s a lot at stake,” Stover said. “I’m committed to this election, and I think we will win because of our hearts, brains and our vision. We all share a positive message.”

Fortman of Nobleboro is a former Maine Department of Labor commissioner in the Baldacci administration. She also worked in President Obama’s administration in the U.S. Department of Labor. Fortman has also worked advocating for several womens’ organizations. She is running against Republican incumbent Dana Dow of Waldoboro. Dow defeated Democrat Chris Johnson in 2016 for senate district 13 which includes Lincoln County along with Washington and Windsor.

Like Stover, Fortman supports funding Medicaid expansion. Fortman also wants more state involvement in the opiod crisis, health insurance without exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and access to early childhood education and sustainable kindergarten through grade 12 education funding. Fortman believes she is a good fit for the rural coastal Maine legislative district because of her life experience.

“I grew up in a working class background. I know hard work doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said. “There is more wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and I’m fighting to be a voice for everyone fighting the same battle.”

Boothbay Harbor Democrat Barbara Burt is optimistic about Stover’s and Fortman’s chances this fall. “We have great candidates who are running for all the right reasons,” she said. “They really care about the people and both understand how government works.”

Brian Papineau has served as Boothbay Harbor Democratic chairman for two years. He thinks Democrats will receive a boost this fall from President Trump’s tenure. He described the country as being “in crisis” due to Trump’s ties to Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“What happened in 2016 is not going to happen again. There were voter irregularities including myself who was disenfranchised by being taken off the Boothbay Harbor voting rolls. This happened all over the country and voters are energized all over the country to reverse course,” Papineau said.

But Burt and Papineau were both cautious about Attorney General Janet Mills’ chances to win the governorship. Both see another close race between the Democratic and Republican nominee.

In Maine, the federal races (U.S. House and Senate) will use ranked choice voting. The local races (legislative and gubernatorial) won’t. This makes both Burt and Papinaeu concerned about another governor winning with less than 50 percent.

“I like Janet Mills and I wish her all the best, but I see a lot of Hillary Clinton in her, so I’m not sure how it will come out,” Papineau said.

Burt admires Mills, but she is also concerned about a multiple-candidate race without ranked choice voting. “I’m very hopeful about Janet. She is a fabulous candidate who is both tough and caring. But the polls say it’s going to be another close race,” she said.

In the district attorney’s race, Irving is seeking a four-year term. District 6 includes Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Knox and Waldo counties. She is running against Republican Jon Liberman who is filling the unexpired term of longtime DA Geoff Rushlau.

Irving described the DA as an administrative position with a great deal of influence. Irving said the DA decides case outcomes “97 percent of the time.” She believed Liberman focuses too much on punishment and not enough on restorative justice. Irving complained about recent decisions sentencing homeless teenagers to jail for shoplifting a $6 meal and lenient sentences for rape and for serious crimes against children.

“A seven-day sentence for a hungry teen doesn’t make a heckuva lot of sense. We pay a lot of tax dollars to house inmates at local jails, and I think it makes more sense to sentence them to pay restitution and community service.”

Ringelstein, a former public school teacher from Yarmouth, is trying to unseat U.S. Senator Angus King, who has no party affiliation, in a three-way race. He described King, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, as a “good, but not great senator.” Ringelstein objected to King’s political contributors.  “I really like Angus King, but unfortunately he’s not going to get us Medicare for all. He takes money from fossil fuel companies, pharmaceuticals, predatory student loan companies. This is not OK, it’s 2018 and time to take back our country,” he said.

The one Democrat most likely to win election this fall is Sheriff Todd Brackett. He is running unopposed for a four-year term. He didn’t attend the event because his high school golf team had a match.