FREEPORT — I worked with Shenna Bellows for nearly seven years when she was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

When Shenna took over the organization, its finances were shaky, its staff was small and inexperienced, its mission was muddled and it had lost influence in Augusta. Over the next seven years, during three of which I worked especially closely with her as president, Shenna transformed the ACLU.

In her time there, she nearly doubled the budget, substantially upgraded the size and the skills of the staff and increased the financial reserves by tenfold. Just as importantly, I saw first-hand her ability to influence legislation and impact public policy. Whether speaking at events or persuading the Legislature, Shenna had – and still has – a rare ability to deliver a message with passion, respect and modesty and to get others to see her side.

On her watch, the ACLU became an influential policy force. Indeed, one could hardly walk down the corridors of the Capitol without seeing legislators approach her to chat about pending legislation and hear her views. Her skills will serve all of us well when she represents us in Washington as Maine’s next senator.

She has the rare ability to build coalitions and work with people of all political persuasions. In the Legislature, Shenna, a Democrat, worked with Republicans and Democrats to enact some of the state’s most important civil liberties and civil rights protections.

Few of the ACLU’s accomplishments could be achieved without the coalitions she built. When Shenna worked with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to oppose REAL ID and its massive intrusion into individual privacy, she showed a unique gift for finding the right partner on the right issue and getting things done.


Just as importantly for a leader, Shenna is incredibly principled. As many Mainers remember, she helped lead two successful campaigns for marriage equality.

The first resulted in Gov. John Baldacci becoming the nation’s first governor to sign marriage equality into law in 2009. After that law was unfortunately repealed, Shenna stayed with the marriage equality movement to help pass it a second time in 2012.

She didn’t just work to re-enact the law that voters had rejected three years earlier. She lived her values when she and her then-fiance, Brandon Baldwin, announced they would postpone their marriage until everyone in Maine had the same right to marry that they did. Seeing a leader put her principles into action inspired a lot of Mainers, no matter their politics, and it showed how seriously Shenna takes what she does and says.

Her opponent in this year’s election, Susan Collins, did not come out in favor of marriage equality until two years after Maine voters passed it into law. Shenna has always been a leader, not a follower, and she wasn’t afraid to fight for years for what she believed. She worked long hours, made sacrifices and helped Maine win a great civil rights victory while Collins sat on the sidelines.

Shenna is who we need representing us in Washington. She has not forgotten her roots or her values, and she’ll take those values with her to the Senate. She grew up with no electricity or running water until she was in the fifth grade. She worked hard as a child and student. And she still remembers how hard it is to earn a living wage in Maine.

That’s why she supports increasing the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour, passing payroll equality for women, supporting veterans pay and benefits improvements, and getting big money out of politics. Her opponent voted to block or defeat each of these proposals earlier this year.


Shenna has consistently opposed the federal government’s intrusion into our personal privacy. She will work from her first day in the Senate to repeal the Patriot Act and end the unwarranted collection of email and cellphone data.

For me, and for a lot of other Mainers, who I support for U.S. Senate this year is an easy question. Shenna has the right values for Maine and for America.

I hope you join me in voting for her in November.

— Special to the Press Herald

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