The race for the District 11 state Senate seat has gotten a great deal more publicity than local races usually get, in large part because there is such a contrast between the two candidates.

Incumbent Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, is a professorial economist. The only independent in the Senate; a moderate, bipartisan problem-solver who attends both the Republican and Democratic caucuses. Republican challenger Chris Tyll of North Yarmouth is a former Navy SEAL who owns a Pat’s Pizza franchise in Portland. Tyll is running as a veteran and a businessman, but it’s what he is not running as that should bother you.

Tyll’s website and literature is all about family and community, but you’d be hard pressed to figure out from his campaign platitudes that he is an ultra-conservative who is more apt to do the bidding of the hard-right faction of the Republican Party than he is to represent the common good of all constituents.

Thanks to conservative PAC money, Tyll has way outspent Woodbury, whose publicly financed campaign has a spending cap. (Tyll makes a virtue of not taking taxpayer money, but the reason we have public financing is to avoid the out-of-control spending that pollutes elections like this.)

To his credit, Tyll has apologized for the excesses of his supporters, whose mailings so far have misrepresented Woodbury’s voting record (See Dick Tax. Tax, Dick, Tax), misrepresented Tyll’s military record (he served in Iraq, but not Afghanistan) and misrepresented Tyll’s political involvements (he had nothing whatsoever to do with any tax savings anywhere.)

What Tyll’s campaign literature does not mention, however, is the one political action he was involved in before running for the Senate. Last year at this time, Tyll was heading up Secure Maine’s Ballot, the Republican vote-suppression group that fought to keep voters from registering on Election Day.

“If there is a potential for fraud, maybe we need to look at changing the system,” Tyll argued. “One case of fraud is too many. It’s a slap in the face to guys who keep our country free.”

This is the kind of statement that reveals who Tyll really is: a good soldier of the far right. No sooner had Republicans taken power in 2010 than they moved to protect it by trying to make it harder for the young, the poor, minorities, and the elderly – all of whom might have very good reasons not to vote Republican – to vote. They did this with a nationwide campaign of disinformation, voter I.D. laws, purging voter lists, and legislative actions aimed at eliminating the phantom menace of voter fraud.

Here in Maine, the newly Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law stripping Mainers of the freedom to register to vote on Election Day. Secretary of State Charlie Summers was detailed to document the rampant voter fraud threatening our American way of life. Summers wanted badly to do so, but he couldn’t find any rampant fraud because there wasn’t any. It was the GOP that was the fraud, pretending to be concerned about voter fraud when what they were really trying to do was keep college students from voting.

I’m sure Tyll believes that voter fraud is “a slap in the face to guys who keep our country free.” It’s just that it’s not true, just as it’s not true that only “guys” keep this country free. For that matter, it’s not just the military that keeps this country free. It’s also police officers, firefighters, school teachers, factory workers, and government employees – just the kind of folks the Young Guns of the Republican Party are gunning for, trying to strip them of their freedom to organize.

It always amazes me how the people who make the most noise about freedom and individual liberties are often the first to want to deny those rights to others. Ask Tyll where he stands on a woman’s freedom to make her own reproductive choices or on the freedom of his gay brothers and sisters to marry.

Tyll has also signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge never to raise taxes under any circumstances, which means he owes his allegiance to tax-capper Grover Norquist, not the people of District 11. It is that No New Taxes pledge that has put America in financial jeopardy.

On Nov. 8, 2011, Maine voters overwhelmingly (a margin of 3 to 2) supported a peoples’ veto that overturned the Republican voter suppression effort and restored our freedom to register to vote on Election Day. Secure Maine’s Ballot was a slap in the face to every freedom-loving man and woman in Maine.

Because Tyll apparently does not understand this, because he does not own up to his role in Republican voter suppression, and because we already have the best bipartisan representative in the state, we will all be better off returning Dick Woodbury to the Maine Senate.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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