June 1, 2012

Election 2012: Hinck keys on workers, environment

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Ninth in a series profiling the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.

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Jon Hinck

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ASK A QUESTION

JOHN HINCK will answer your questions live at pressherald.com today at noon.

JOHN HINCK

PARTY: Democrat

AGE: 58

HOME: Portland

FAMILY: Married (Juliet Browne), one child, 14

OCCUPATION: an attorney whose practice focuses on litigation representing multiple plaintiffs

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Maine House of Representatives, 2006 to 2012

ON THE ISSUES

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? “Reform the regulatory framework and the tax code to benefit small businesses and the middle class; support new technologically advanced, high-precision manufacturing with work force development;  and invest in research and development that generates new opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

VOTING RECORD

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Hinck has received a 100 percent lifetime score from Maine Conservation Voters.

LABOR ISSUES: Hinck has received a 100 percent lifetime score from the Maine AFL-CIO.

BUSINESS ISSUES: Hinck received a 9 percent rating in 2008 and 20.5 percent in 2010 from the Maine Economic Research Institute.

NOTABLE ENDORSEMENTS

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan

Lamey-Wellehan Shoes President Jim Wellehan

Twenty-five legislators, including Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, Rep. Edward Mazurek, D-Rockland, and Rep. Jeffrey McCabe, D-Skowhegan

Jon Hinck was 24 and out of work in Seattle when a newspaper help-wanted ad caught his attention: "Sell advertising for a good cause."

The good cause was Greenpeace, a controversial environmental group that had emerged in the 1970s from anti-nuclear protests and the peace movement.

Despite his misgivings about joining what he believed to be a radical group, Hinck began selling ads for its magazine, the Greenpeace Chronicle. He soon began writing articles about some of the group's environmental causes, such as stopping the dumping of nuclear waste at sea and the use of toxic herbicides to kill Eurasian milfoil in lakes.

His creative ideas -- including posting official-looking pollution warning signs at local lakes -- earned him a full-time job as the campaign director for Greenpeace Seattle. Two years later, after local Greenpeace chapters merged and created Greenpeace USA, Hinck became the group's national campaign director.

He says his involvement with Greenpeace changed his life.

It set him on a path that led to the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, the Republic of Palau -- where as acting attorney general he litigated a series of cases that led to the Pacific island nation's sovereignty in 1994 -- the Natural Resources Council of Maine, a legal career focusing on cases representing multiple plaintiffs, the Maine House of Representatives and, now, his Democratic candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Even when he was working for Greenpeace, Hinck said, he recognized that his association with the attention-seeking environmental group could hurt any future career in mainstream politics. But he said he is proud of the group's accomplishments -- including an international agreement in 1993 that banned ocean dumping of radioactive waste. Moreover, it would be dishonest for him to downplay a part of his life that was so important to him, he said.

"I found it very satisfying to be making a living and pushing for positive changes in public policy," Hinck said of his Greenpeace experience. "It hit me that it might be the way I could go on making a living and getting something worthwhile done."

His opponents in the June 12 Democratic primary are state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, former Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and Benjamin Pollard.

Hinck has represented state House District 118 in Portland since 2006, when he defeated the incumbent, John Eder, a Green Independent Party leader, by 61 votes.

Hinck describes himself in his campaign literature as a "dynamic progressive leader" and a "champion for working people."

He said he would be the best Democrat to take on former Gov. Angus King, an independent, in the general election because his background and positions are more aligned with working people.

Hinck grew up in Libertycorner, N.J., a township of about 250 people in the northwestern part of the state, a rural area on the outskirts of metropolitan New York City. His father, a management consultant who commuted by train to the city, lost his job when Hinck was in high school, and didn't find another job for several years.

To pay his tuition at the University of Pennsylvania, Hinck drove a cab in Philadelphia and worked in a machine shop during the summer.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in English and history, he taught English in Iran for two semesters and traveled extensively in Afghanistan.

Today, he lives a comfortable life in Portland's West End. He and his wife, Juliet Browne, are lawyers. Still, the experience of seeing his father out of work and his own work experience in his 20s affect Hinck's views on policy.

(Continued on page 2)

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