CAPE ELIZABETH – Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill planned to do a phone interview Friday morning during her ride to the Rosemont Market in Portland, where she had called a press conference.
The radio interview with The Voice of Russia’s American Edition was scheduled for 10 a.m. But as Dill walked out of her basement door at 10:01, she saw Marley, her 4-year-old yellow Lab, looking at her from the woods in her yard.
Cursing softly, Dill scurried up the driveway in her charcoal pant suit.
“Come on, Marley. Come on, girl. Let’s go,” she repeated in that high-pitched tone typically reserved for animals and babies.
It wasn’t the last obstacle Dill would encounter as she campaigned that day, or even the last holdup on her way to Portland that morning.
As the campaign car, a Toyota Prius driven by Dill’s scheduler, approached the Fore River on Route 77, yellow lights flashed. The Casco Bay Bridge was up.
Despite the delays, the Prius, which has amassed more than 24,000 miles since January, rolled up beside the market on Brighton Avenue with a few spare minutes before the news conference for Dill to collect her thoughts in the back seat.
She wanted to meet the press to dispel the notion that she could split enough of the vote with independent Angus King to hand a victory to Republican Charlie Summers.
Every day, she said, people tell her they want to vote for her but are afraid of repeating the scenario of Maine’s three-way race for governor in 2010, when Republican Paul LePage won with less than 40 percent of the vote.
“It’s time that Maine people stop looking back out of fear,” Dill said, standing outside the market with cameras in front of her and cars whizzing by.
She pointed to the latest polls, showing Summers with 24 percent. No matter how the rest of the votes are divided, she said, the Republican is not going to win.
The same polls, however, show Dill with half the votes that Summers has. Addressing that later in the day, she said those numbers reflect people’s fear. If they voted for the candidate who best represents their values, she said, “I definitely would have a chance.”
After grabbing a coffee in the Rosemont Market, Dill went to the Preble Street Resource Center in Portland to help serve lunch to the city’s needy.
She left her double-breasted blazer in the car and rolled up the sleeves of her button-down shirt before mixing a tray of mashed potatoes and shredded cabbage. As diners filed through, Dill scooped heaping spoonfuls of the traditional Irish dish called colcannon.
“Potatoes?” she asked each person. Some nodded silently or held out their plates. Others smiled and said thank you. One man rolled his eyes when he saw the cabbage. He came back for seconds.
For Dill, each face had the same significance.
“It reminds me why I’m in this race,” she said with wet eyes. “It reminds me how much work has to be done.”
Dill took time to go home and make lunch for her teenage son and daughter, who had the day off from school because of parent-teacher conferences. Then it was off to Sanford with her three young female staffers – recent college graduates who had responded to Dill’s job posting on Craigslist.
They met state Rep. Andrea Boland, Dill’s friend and a fellow Democrat, at Aroma Joe’s Coffee on Washington Street and, from there, took a tour of Sanford’s downtown businesses.
They stopped at Bergeron’s Shoes, where Dill sucked on a candy from a jar while Richard Bergeron told her about the custom orthotics made in the basement. Dill, whose bunions have forced her to rethink her footwear, promised she’d be back.
That afternoon, Dill and her staff checked out crafts by seniors at the Old Timers Shop, talked to waitresses at the Third Alarm Diner and crossed the Mousam River to the York County Community Action Corp.
All along the way, Dill told the people she met to remember her name when they got into the voting booth. “Like dill pickle,” she said.
That was something she didn’t have to repeat to the people she met with next. In a private room at The Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery in Saco, Dill was surrounded by a couple dozen of her biggest supporters, who chatted over cocktails and crudites.
It was a quick fundraising event. Everyone was out of the restaurant by 7 p.m., which worked out well for Dill, who planned to attend a breakfast at 6:30 the next morning at the Maine State Employees Association’s convention at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland.
There has been no typical daily schedule during the campaign, she said, walking to her car in the brew pub’s parking lot. On any given day, she may be traveling across the state, working from home or meeting voters.
Through it all, she said, she’s learned a lot about Maine and its people. And regardless of the results on Nov. 6, she plans to keep trying to help them.
“I definitely know I’m going to wake up on Nov. 7 and go to work,” she said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]