So. Susan Collins is headed back to the Senate.

I have a few thoughts on this. First of all, I think we can all be grateful that the ads are over. Our mailbox was stuffed with fliers for months – from the Collins campaign, from the Gideon campaign, from various outside groups – and all of them were in coated paper that we can’t even use as kindling for the woodstove. (Newsprint, guys. The way to my heart is a large supply of newsprint.)

Then there was Collins’ margin of victory. In 2014, she won re-election with 67 percent of the vote (including my vote. What can I say, back then I was young and foolish). That’s a huge chunk of agreement; it’s what you might even call “a mandate.” But this time around, she won with 51 percent of the vote. She barely squeaked by; if Max Linn had had any interest in running an actual campaign, rather than just making a fool of himself on live local television, we would probably have ended up with a ranked-choice runoff, and she probably would not have won.

Fifty-one percent is not a mandate. So the question is, what will Susan Collins do with those numbers? Will she take to heart the fact that half of the Mainers who cast ballots voted against her and become a true moderate in the Senate, even if it means going against her party? Will the maverick who helped John McCain and Lisa Murkowski stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act make a return? Or will she take her victory and leave half of Maine in a cloud of red dust? I guess it depends whether she runs for re-election in six years. She’ll have to prove herself to earn 51 percent of the vote next time, but if she’s decided this is her last term, she can ignore all popular input. I don’t feel particularly confident that the Collins office will listen to my concerns and Collins will vote in ways that will benefit me.

One of the primary lines of attack that the Collins campaign used against Sara Gideon was that she moved here from Rhode Island in 2004 – literally 16 years ago. They could have gone after her policy plans or her record in the State House, but they didn’t. They hammered home that she was “from away.” I don’t know if it would be a successful campaign issue in any other state, though it certainly seems to have worked here. But it shouldn’t have.

We need to get rid of this “from away” bull hooey. I certainly understand the impulse. Living in Maine feels like something special, and it is! Living in Maine can also be hard – if you’ve ever played Pothole Slalom or rationed heating oil for the long winters, you know that. I think that being a Mainer is something you earn, by choosing to live here and make this cold and rocky state your home. It shouldn’t be reserved for those of us who were lucky enough to be born here. The last time I wrote about this topic, I got a bunch of emails from readers who said they had been told some version of the line “a cat can have kittens in an oven but that doesn’t make them muffins/biscuits/cookies.” I have a better idea for a snappy quote. I’ve seen shirts and stickers with the slogan “I’m not from Texas but I got here as fast as I could.” We should have that sort of attitude about Maine.

Maine is one of four states that currently has more deaths than births. I don’t think we’ve reckoned with what that means. We are slowly but steadily losing people, losing population, losing futures. I mean my god, if the pattern continues, our state will die out! Say what you want about Sara Gideon as a political figure – she’s had three kids in Maine, so she’s done her part to help fix our population problem. The only way we’re going to address the population issue is to get more people to move here. In order to do that, we have to make them feel welcome. Nobody wants to move somewhere where they will be tarred with the “from away” label for the rest of their days, no matter how hard they work or how much they contribute to the community.

Plus, I’m still single. I need more people in my age bracket to move here so I can find someone to date. Someone get the Maine Office of Tourism on that.

The other thing I can report is that I worked as a greeter at the polls in Buxton on Tuesday evening. My main job was pointing people to the entrance door and offering masks to those who didn’t have one. I am happy to report that the vast majority of Buxton voters had masks on when they went to the polls, and even the few people who refused my offer of a disposable mask did so politely. Lots of folks brought their kids with them. Democracy continues.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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