October 7, 2012

Dan Demeritt: Responsible representing calls for responsible criticism

The five Republican senators seeking re-election don't deserve Democrats' unfair attacks.

The Maine Democratic Party has sent a barrage of mailers to voters pointing out that several Republican candidates for the Maine Senate voted in lockstep with Gov. Paul LePage on a biennial budget that enacted huge tax cuts for the rich while shredding the social safety net underneath Maine's retirees and disadvantaged.

Democratic state Senate candidates Emily Cain, Justin Alfond, Ed Mazurek and Seth Goodall cast the same vote. Are they minions of a menacing tea party governor unconcerned with the plight of their fellow Mainers?

No.

These Democrats are thoughtful, dedicated public servants who cast a vote for a complicated budget package that was negotiated between the parties in good faith over the course of several months. The same can be said for the Republicans now being attacked for that vote.

Democrats in Maine desperately want to regain control of the state Senate. You can follow the dollars like a map showing that their road to partisan control is paved with the political careers of five incumbent Republican state senators: Nichi Farnham, Chris Rector, Tom Martin, Lois Snowe-Mello, and Garrett Mason.

Nichi Farnham represents the Bangor area and Chris Rector represents Knox County. I spoke with them last week about living life as a political target. I am encouraged by their message and resolve.

Like most citizens, Farnham and Rector have little interest in political games, but they are in for the fight of their lives this fall. They are responding by going door to door to remind their friends and neighbors that they are not the uncaring political caricatures the campaign mailers make them out to be.

And their records bear that out.

Farnham, a former city councilor and mayor in Bangor, chaired the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee over the last two years. As the leader of that panel, she worked hard to forge agreement among a politically diverse group of lawmakers. Her commitment to accord and willingness to accommodate helped the committee reach unanimous opinion on many of the bills it reported to the full Legislature.

Despite her inclusive leadership style and reasonable stance on the issues, political expedience makes Farnham a target.

She is a first-term state senator representing a traditionally Democratic district -- there are about 1,000 more Democrats than Republicans across Bangor and Hermon. And her challenger in the race has his own history of community service.

As Farnham knocks on doors, she reminds people, face to face, that she is the same dedicated community leader she has always been. She has faith that, come Election Day, the citizens of Bangor and Hermon will remember that she is running for office for the right reasons and doing the best job she can.

When I spoke with Chris Rector, he was just completing a three-day door-to-door blitz that took him to 450 homes in his district. He is finding a higher level of frustration with politics and more uncertainty among voters.

But his constituents also appreciate his leadership style and record of accomplishment over his 10 years in Augusta.

This past term was Rector's first in the majority and it gave him the opportunity to chair the Legislature's Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. His leadership was critical to enacting workers compensation reform, unemployment reform and a bipartisan agreement on how to define independent contractors in Maine. The latter accomplishment, reached over months of inclusive discussion, has become a national model for reform.

When it comes to the political attacks, Rector takes a very pragmatic view. He loves policy and has come to understand over several election cycles that you have to endure the politics to be in a position where you can effect change.

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