CAPE ELIZABETH — We are fortunate in Maine, where politics are clean and good people step forward to serve. In seven past elections, I have faced honorable opponents — a member of the armed forces, successful business owners, a proud grandfather, an Olympic gold medalist.

Now I am the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, facing the Republican secretary of state and a former independent governor. But my strongest opponent seems to be fear.

The Republican candidate pounds the GOP drum, sounding alarms over the deficit and debt “crisis” caused by tax cuts and unfunded wars. He wants to cut the social safety net and turn back women’s legal status 50 years.

The independent’s campaign relies on Maine people’s guilt about our current governor, Paul LePage. That camp stokes the conventional fear that 2012 will repeat 2010: The Republican again will split the progressive vote in Maine, this time sneaking into the U.S. Senate.

A new TV ad sponsored by a GOP super PAC cynically feeds into that fear. The result: More reports of the unchallenged narrative that three-way races are rare and that the Republican wins easily in November. I do, however, challenge that mythology. And I do challenge the fear.

I am not afraid that Charlie Summers will become Maine’s next U.S. senator. He has run for Congress three times, and lost. He is on the wrong side of issues that matter to working families and small businesses. As secretary of state, he took away Maine’s popular same-day voter registration.

I am not afraid that Angus King will become Maine’s next U.S. senator. King says Washington, D.C., is broken and that he alone can fix it. But honestly, if an esteemed lawmaker like Olympia Snowe can’t “fix” Washington, how arrogant is it for King to tell us he can?

I also disagree with King’s crusade to save us from partisan politics. He knows that partisan politics aren’t the real issue. It is that the GOP obstructionists, led by tea party hardliners, have taken the U.S. Congress hostage.

That’s why we have tea party stars like Todd Akin of Missouri, who also is running for U.S. Senate. Akin talks about “legitimate rape” and women’s magic biology when it comes to forced pregnancies. This is the face of the Republican Party.

Would King actually meet Todd Akin “in the middle” when it comes to women’s rights? Would King strike a deal with Republicans like Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential pick, and turn Medicare into a voucher program? Who knows? King won’t even tell Maine voters which party he would caucus with in Washington should he win.

We should not condone such secrecy. That’s why I am making accountability and transparency twin pillars of my Senate campaign. The major issue differences are stark:

Summers and King support a “balanced budget amendment.” I don’t. This gimmick is unnecessary, dangerous, and restricts America’s ability to finance itself in times of war or other crises.

Summers and King support extending the Bush tax cuts to millionaires. I don’t. I agree with President Obama that tax cuts should only be extended for families making less than $250,000 annually.

Summers and King support the Keystone XL Pipeline. I don’t. Excavating one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, tar sands oil, and transporting the toxic residue through America, to be shipped overseas, is an enormous environmental risk.

Summers and King don’t support a new federal assault weapons ban. I do. The unchecked sale of killing machines and large ammunition clips contributes to the high incidence of gun violence in America.

Summers and King oppose studying the feasibility of a Maine Woods National Park. I don’t. The gift of 70,000 acres of private land, with a $40 million endowment to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, will create jobs and diversify Maine’s economy.

Summers and King haven’t pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I have. Summers and King have opposed increasing the minimum wage, expanding family leave and strengthening collective bargaining. I have always been a champion of efforts to help American workers.

In this election, Democrats and independents must focus on the issues. Not on fears. Not on myths.

I am running as the Democratic Party nominee, as a proven legislator and as a mother, wife and Maine small business owner who will bring true reform to the U.S. Senate. It’s time to man up, Maine Democrats.

State Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, is a candidate for U.S. Senate.

– Special to the Press Herald