October 2, 2012

Maine Voices: Libby Mitchell: Urging Dill to drop out ignores values she represents

The Democratic Senate candidate stands up for her party's core beliefs and has earned a place on the ballot fair and square.

VASSALBORO — Greg Kesich's presumptuous call for Cynthia Dill, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, to avoid a repeat of the 2010 gubernatorial race by dropping out leaves me as dumbfounded as did the referees' touchdown call in the Seahawk-Packers game. Both calls are myopic. Both calls ignore fundamental fairness.

Angus King and Eliot Cutler disavow both parties, calling them failures. They claim that only an independent can cure the errant ways of public servants who run for office as a party member. They ignore Maine's world-class leaders from both parties. Who can deny the stature of Margaret Chase Smith, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Bill Cohen, George Mitchell and Chellie Pingree?

Kesich also ignores the values Dill and her party represent. Instead, he advocates choosing a candidate who may or may not share enough of those values, to avoid the disaster of electing Republican Charlie Summers.

King consistently states that he does not know which party he will caucus with; he says he may caucus with one or the other depending on the issue. How noble, many may think. In reality, legislators caucus with those whose principles they embrace. No good legislator ever walks in lockstep with a party -- although it is politically popular to make that claim. Thoughtful legislators work across the aisle, recognizing that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas.

President Obama and Mitt Romney make crystal clear the value differences in the two parties about community and the role of government. Those are legitimate differences and worthy of robust debate. With Dill, you know which principles she embraces. That does not make her any less independent than those who have no party. It simply enlightens us about where she stands on important issues of the day.

Kesich blames my standing up for those core beliefs in the governor's race, and not dropping out at the end, for Cutler's loss to Paul LePage. The truth was that throughout the race our campaign was very competitive in the polls. Cutler was not. Republicans acknowledged that fact by focusing their firepower on me.

Cutler escaped the media blitz, while thousands of dollars were spent to distort my record of public service, telling the voters that I taxed everything in sight. The race was for the Republicans to lose because the entire country was disenchanted and discouraged by the economy. Democrats who had been in government were easy targets across the country. The Maine House went Republican for the first time since 1974. The Maine Senate went Republican.

During the last 10 days or so of the race, many of my colleagues left our campaign for what they believed a winning alternative. Cutler was riding a surge fueled by polls and endorsements by editorial boards and Angus King.

Even if I had known the final outcome, I could not have endorsed Cutler. Voters make their own decisions. Cutler and I did not share the same political values.

Both Cutler and LePage blasted unions. I believe that working men and women have the right to stand up for themselves.

In every debate, Cutler and LePage blamed the Democrats for ruining our state over the past 30 years. I know better. Democratic leadership brought a clean environment, consumer protections, investments in economic development and education, care for our elderly and children, and better health care. We did not cause the financial meltdown of 2008.

Cutler and LePage repeatedly charged that I had done nothing but harm to Maine. So had the Democratic Party.

Cutler and I did both support equality in marriage; there was a difference, however. I had put my political life on the line over the years for equality.

Democracy needs Democrats, Republicans and independents. Editorial writers and poll watchers should be beware of trying to silence important voices by saying the two women Democratic nominees are not worthy of staying on the ballot.

Instead, these armchair quarterbacks should work harder for their candidate and stop cynically trying to game the process. May the best man -- or woman -- win!

Libby Mitchell of Vassalboro was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010.

-- Special to the Press Herald

 

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