TRENTON – In his April 23 column, former secretary of state and longtime Democratic operative Rodney Quinn puts forth the idea that: “An Eliot Cutler candidacy for governor as the choice of the Democratic Party would be splendid — a productive and promising opportunity for Maine.”

Quinn’s reasoning is that, although Cutler is “an intelligent, capable man, one who could be valuable to Maine,” independent candidates and politicians by design are divisive and “do nothing to support and elect a responsible or friendly Legislature (and) encourage resentment among party members and voters.”

Quinn also writes that: “The greatest contribution to Maine is through a common group effort — and a political party is the best such vehicle ever invented.”

In my opinion, Quinn misses the mark because he is so firmly entrenched in partisan dogma. How about this new paradigm: have “the greatest contribution to Maine” come through a genuine group effort — all the voters of Maine.

The Democratic nominee lost in part last November because the Democratic Party was mired in old, stale ways (which is what “tried and true” becomes after such a long period of time) and downright vicious campaign tactics.

Even if you believe that a political party is the best vehicle through which to get candidates elected and to then govern, that cannot be said for a party that let itself become stagnant and didn’t evolve with the changing times and demands of the electorate.

In the last gubernatorial election, Mainers wanted a positive campaign, but the Democrats lost a significant number of voters after mailing malicious, misleading mailers that in some instances were borderline racist and contained outright lies. The Republican mailers took the same low road.

I bristle when political pundits and party leaders tell me negativity works. If it works, it is because too many of us want it to work and no one in the parties is willing to stand up against it so that it won’t work. And in many cases it “worked” to achieve the opposite effect when voters rejected it.

Mainers wanted fresh, bold, new ideas. They wanted someone who would make the tough decisions necessary with thoughtful, informed consideration. The Democratic candidate was perceived to represent more of the same, the status quo.

Mainers also looked for new ways to organize and communicate. We made our phone-bank calls and our robocalls, blasted out our hideous mailers and went door to door. We paid limited attention to online and social media tools. We might want to rethink that, too.

Those who know me know that I have been, and remain, a proud Democrat. But we as a party need to rebuild and refresh the way we are perceived by changing our actions.

We also need to remember that we are Mainers first and partisans second. This needs to be done before the next gubernatorial race.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in the “No Labels” organizing meeting in Portland. This idea of putting process — having candidates commit to work together regardless of their party affiliation — before politics is integral to not only rebuilding the Democratic Party, it is vital to moving government forward and regaining voters’ trust and respect.

We, as a state and as a nation, cannot afford to continue the winner-take-all politics of trying to always “beat” the other party while in session.

I spent eight years in the Senate, and I assure you that governing is more effective and longer lasting when not thought of as a campaign, but instead done in the true spirit of compromise and not simply an exercise of us winning and them losing.

I plan on continuing to work with and for my party to rebuild and rejuvenate it, not for the end game of having the most seats or the most percentage points in some horse-race polling, but so that we will be in a position to make real, positive changes for the state.

I urge my fellow Democrats and my friends across the aisle to not let the typical party politicking get in the way of genuine, necessary progress.

Finally, it must be the next governor’s job to continue rebuilding the state, not a political party. The governor, regardless of party or political persuasion, works for all Mainers and cannot see the position as just a vehicle to rebuild a party.

Asking Eliot Cutler to run as a Democrat (and Quinn isn’t the first to urge him to do so) is a cop out for us Democrats.

I supported Eliot in the election because I firmly believed he was the absolute best candidate to move Maine forward. Moving Maine forward was and is more important to me than a party label.

It should be more important to everyone.

– Special to The Press Herald