AUGUSTA — The Portland Press Herald editorialized over the weekend that “‘not Paul LePage’ is not an organizing principle for a party” (Our View, “Democrats have to be more than ‘not LePage,’ ” June 3).

I couldn’t agree more, and the breadth of the Maine Democratic Party’s principles were on display at our recent Maine Democratic Convention in Augusta.

True, Gov. LePage looms large in this election, and he should, since it’s his agenda that is steering the ship of state – for now. But changing leadership requires making a credible case that a different approach is better.

One lesson from 2010, however, is that “different” must go beyond a return to the status quo. While Democrats are proud of many past accomplishments, in 2012 our focus is how to move forward from here.

While we intensely dislike the LePage agenda and approach, in 2012 we will not be arguing for a mere return to the pre-LePage era. We can’t be satisfied with our work in politics and government until the people of Maine are satisfied with the results in their daily lives. This year, we have candidates in all 186 legislative districts of Maine who are ready to deliver that message.

We have state Senate candidate Colleen Quint of Minot, who wants to stop reforming education from the top down and instead start working with Maine’s public school teachers, our students and our communities to make sure all of Maine’s children, regardless of where they come from or their ability to learn, can reach their potential.

She knows that starts with renewing our commitment to public education in Maine – not just K-12 but higher education, technical schools and adult education so Maine’s low-wage workers have access to training they need to get better-paying jobs.

Another state Senate candidate, John Cleveland of Auburn, wants to change the way we do business in Maine. He knows that our future isn’t secure until our local economies are thriving, our small Maine businesses are turning a profit and our young entrepreneurs have the resources they need to get off the ground.

That means we need to stop spending taxpayer money on tax breaks for big out-of-state corporations and start spending that money on our main streets, so the young entrepreneur who is manufacturing skis in Phillips has the resources he needs to grow his business and create jobs, or the young farmer in Cornville can achieve her dream of producing local food for her friends and neighbors without struggling to heat her home.

Jean-Marie Caterina of Scarborough, a candidate for the Maine House, believes it’s time that we lower taxes for Maine’s middle- and working-class people. But because she won’t stand for less education, less road repair or less health care, she knows that taxes must be spread fairly to those who can most afford it.

Closing loopholes and asking high-income Mainers to pay their fair share will allow us to refocus our attention on the middle class, our real job creators, by putting money in the pockets of working families.

And lastly, we have Maine House candidate Joel Pitcher of Jefferson, who wants to make government work better for more people, but he isn’t in favor of taking the easy way out by blindly slashing programs and calling it “reform.”

He believes it’s time that elected leaders did the hard work together to cut costs by ensuring the proper use of taxpayer dollars and to work positively with the state’s work force to find efficiencies.

He, like all of our Democratic candidates, believes that if there is waste, we have to root it out. And if there is fraud in the future – whether it’s committed by the poorest individual or the wealthiest company – it won’t be tolerated.

Candidates like these will define the Democratic agenda, day by day, door by door, conversation by conversation. And if we run on these issues, and then fulfill the promise when in office, our candidates will demonstrate that they can run Maine better than it is being run right now. And that’s what it means to be more than “not LePage.”


– Special to the Press Herald