July 31, 2012

Election 2012: Cynthia Dill trumpets values, makes waves

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Cynthia Dill

File Photo/John Ewing


Cynthia Dill

File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

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CYNTHIA DILL will answer your questions live online at pressherald.com today at noon.


PARTY: Democrat

AGE: 47

RESIDENCE: Cape Elizabeth

FAMILY: Married to Tom Clarke, one son (Harrison, 17) and one daughter (Isabel, 15)

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, University of Vermont; law degree, Northeastern School of Law


POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Won a seat on Cape Elizabeth Town Council in 2005; elected state representative in 2006, and re-elected in 2008 and 2010; won special election for state Senate in August 2011.


Do you support President Obama’s health care law? Yes

Do you support a balanced budget amendment? No

Would you support a tax increase for the wealthy? Yes

Would you vote to extend the nation’s debt limit? Yes

Do you support legalizing gay marriage? Yes

Do you support legal access to abortion? Yes

What should Congress be doing to create jobs and improve the economy?

“Directing resources away from excessive military spending and subsidies to big business and towards quality public education, making college affordable, investing in research and development and public infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, rail, Internet and public places like libraries, schools and parks.”


Rep. Kim Monaghan-Derrig, D-Cape Elizabeth; former Rep. Marilyn Canavan, D-Waterville; John Naylor, owner of Rosemont Market; Women’s Action for New Directions; DAPAC.


CAPE ELIZABETH — The solution to the gridlock tying up Washington seems fairly clear to state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth.

Dill, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, is an unabashed liberal who believes that to break the logjam and advance its agenda, her party needs to stand up for its values.

"I don't think that being a progressive Democrat means that you're partisan," she said. "The Republican Party is the party that's dysfunctional and causing problems."

Being a progressive Democrat, to Dill, means you're willing to make waves.

When her own party's president came to town earlier this spring, Dill held a "bake sale" in Portland across the street from the Obama fundraising dinner with big donors, offering a bag of cookies for $25,000. Her point, she said, was to demonstrate against campaign finance laws that give the wealthy easy access to politicians, while "people of average means are priced out of democracy."

But it did cast the fundraising by her party's leader in a negative light.

Dill also has been a frequent thorn in the side of Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican.

Last year she sponsored a bill barring state employees from hiring relatives after LePage hired his daughter for a position in the governor's office. Dill also started an online petition calling for Mainers to be allowed to recall elected officials. It was perceived as an effort to initiate a recall of LePage, who was elected with 38 percent of the vote.

Such tactics put a target on Dill's back. The GOP hoped to defeat her last year in a special election for the state Senate. During the campaign, the head of the Maine Republican Party, Charlie Webster, called Dill perhaps the most liberal lawmaker in Augusta.

Still, Dill won easily – helped, no doubt, by an opponent who was weakened by a slew of personal and professional financial problems.

Dill's entry into politics was fueled by her partisan passion.

She's a lawyer, originally working on commercial transactions. But she was energized by a couple of police harassment civil rights cases she took on and won.

Moving to Cape Elizabeth for the good schools, she pegged one member of the town council as a Republican – even though the races are non-partisan – and ran against him, losing by a handful of votes. She tried again the next year and won.

Then she ran for an open House legislative seat in 2006 and won.

Her top achievement during three terms in the House, Dill said, was helping to expand broadband Internet access in the state through the "three-ring binder" approach.

In 2011, state Sen. Larry Bliss, D-South Portland, resigned to take a job out of state, setting up a special election. Dill jumped in and won easily against Louis B. Maietta Jr., whose family had deep ties to South Portland, home to a majority of votes in District 7, which also covers Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough.

Dill carried South Portland by a wide margin on her way to winning the seat. Maietta was hampered by unpaid property taxes, liens and an unpaid judgment of more than $800,000 stemming from a lawsuit.

Despite the weak opponent, Dill's win was seen as carrying a message: The Republican tide of 2010, which gave the GOP control of both houses of the Legislature and propelled LePage to the governorship, had been reversed.

In the district that Dill won, the incumbent Democrat in 2010 barely held onto the seat in a race that required a recount. The easy win by one of LePage's top detractors suggested Democrats might gain back legislative seats this year.

(Continued on page 2)

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