Democrats turn to authentic, populist progressives to take back State Senate

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe announces his bid for a Maine Senate seat.  | Christopher Cousins/Bangor Daily News

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe announces his bid for a Maine Senate seat. – Christopher Cousins | BDN

As Steve Mistler notes, Democrats are emphasizing rural districts in their effort to win back control of the State Senate this November. Perhaps more interestingly, they’re depending on authentic, progressive candidates to win those seats.

As Senate Candidate Jonathan Fulford described himself and his fellows, it was “a logger, a builder, a lobsterman and a Maine Guide” who braved the freezing temperatures outside the Statehouse yesterday to speak at a press conference organized by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. All four hail from the economically progressive wing of the Party.

Rock Alley, the lobsterman, has the lowest public political profile of the four. He’s best known for helping to build and serving as president of the Maine Lobstering Union, an affiliate of International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.

Former senator Troy Jackson, the logger, ran an insurgent and ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Democratic primary for the Second Congressional District last cycle, with a clear message of progressive change:

“I’m running because of income inequality, poverty, unfairness, corporate greed and political cowardice. I’ve known these things my entire life. And I have watched them wreck communities and tear people’s lives and their families apart. And during those cold nights in that small shack along the river, I never would’ve thought that one day I’d have the opportunity to do something about it. And if I am lucky enough to pull this off, I damn sure intend to,” said Jackson in a barnburner of a convention speech.

Before Jeff McCabe, the Maine Guide, became House Majority Leader, he was chair of the Working Families Caucus, a coalition of progressive Democrats and independents in the House. In 2011, following a Republican electoral victory and when many Democrats wanted to give in on budget policy, it was McCabe who took a stand against new tax cuts for the wealthy.

Fulford, the builder, I’ve written about before. As a first-time candidate last election he nearly upset Senate President Mike Thibodeau in a tough year for Democrats. He ran on a platform of clear, progressive values; vowing to, for instance, “fight for single-payer, universal health care for every Mainer.”

Based on the lineup of new challengers they presented yesterday, Democrats seem to have taken an important political lesson to heart: Maine voters will support authentic candidates who share their basic values on the issues that matter most and who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.