October 14, 2012

U.S. Senate race: Democrat Dill stands her ground, then and now

From the schoolyard to the campaign trail, the Democratic nominee for Senate has a reputation for challenging the big guys.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

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Cynthia Dill speaks during the Maine Democratic Convention in June. Dill won a four-way primary to become her party’s nominee to vie for Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat in the U.S. Senate, but has lagged behind her rivals in polls. Political scientist Jim Melcher says Dill “has a reputation for being tenacious, scrappy, willing to say what she is thinking and to let the chips fall where they may, even if they rub her own party the wrong way.”

2012 file photo/Kennebec Journal

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Democrat Cynthia Dill speaks at a candidates’ forum Oct. 4. In six years, she has gone from being a town councilor to her party’s nominee for U.S. Senate.

2012 file photo/Gordon Chibroski

Additional Photos Below

She’s also a vocal proponent of the creation of a North Woods National Park, and in August founded a group, Friends of the North Woods, to further the effort. Burt’s Bees co-founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby, who wants to donate land for the park, has donated $12,000 to Dill’s leadership political action committee and another $2,500 to her U.S. Senate campaign.

“For people who follow Maine politics, she has a reputation for being tenacious, scrappy, willing to say what she is thinking and to let the chips fall where they may, even if they rub her own party the wrong way,” says political scientist Jim Melcher of the University of Maine at Farmington. “She has a strong profile as a liberal and there are parts of the state where she might be seen as representing a southern Maine point of view that they don’t care for, particularly concerning the national park issue.”

She’s regularly tangled with LePage in public, but says in person they get along well. “I have a good relationship with the governor and when I was elected to the Senate, we had fun and he gave me a big hug,” she says. “We have no similar views when it comes to politics, but I don’t hate him.”

Melcher says Dill and LePage are similar in some respects. “They’re mirror images of each other, in that they both say, ‘I’m going to say what I’m going to say and if you’re going to be offended about it, that’s too bad,’” he says. “They are both farther from the middle than the average person in their parties, and there are parts of the state where they don’t play very well.”

REACHING FOR CAPITOL HILL

Early this year Dill, a half-term state senator, took the most audacious step of her political career, announcing she was running against popular three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, who Dill felt was moving too far to the right.

When Snowe subsequently announced her surprise retirement, Dill was briefly elated. “I ran out to the car and my heart was pounding,” she told the Press Herald in May. “It lasted about an hour before the reality hit that now everyone would be getting in.”

When Angus King jumped into the race, he cleared the field of many of Dill’s strongest potential primary rivals, including U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and former Gov. John Baldacci.

She went on to win her party’s four-way primary by 9 points, but has been well behind King and Republican nominee Charlie Summers in polls. The national Democratic Party hasn’t endorsed her, and all of the television ads in support of her candidacy have been paid for by Republicans seeking to weaken King’s left flank.

Pyle, Dill’s childhood friend, hopes she can defy the odds. “She’s an honest person with a lot of integrity who really values trying to make this world a better place to live in,” she says. “I think we need more Cynthia Dills in this world.”

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Cynthia Dill, then a state representative, listens to a debate in the Maine House in 2007. In Augusta, Dill sponsored measures to allow the recall of the governor and to ban nepotism in state government (both in response to actions by Gov. Paul LePage). She also spearheaded the creation of an expansion of broadband Internet in rural Maine.

2007 File Photo/John Ewing

  


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