Progressive voters in Maine have had a rough year.
After witnessing the defeat of our dreams for a young progressive mayor in Lewiston and a democratic socialist in the oval office, things were starting to look bleak. It was becoming easy to feel hopeless.
All that impending dread, or at least some of it, just dissipated last night when an exciting new set of Democratic activist leaders were nominated for four of Portland’s state-level seats. Given that Portland is such a Democratic Party stronghold, it’s almost certain that these candidates will take the election in November.
It’s a big victory in the movement to build an Augusta where economic justice is taken seriously and outspoken residents are seen, not as a nuisance, but as what we really are, the lifeblood of our communities.
Here’s who won:
State Senate: Downtown Portland and surrounding area:
Ben’s a well-loved local community leader who for the last six years has represented the low-income Portland neighborhoods of Parkside and Bayside in the Maine House of Representatives.
He genuinely cares about people and puts in an enormous number of hours, always readily accessible to his constituents. He visits every door in his district at least once a year, whether he’s running or not, just to keep in touch. He’s been a charismatic leader on a wide range of issues, including advocating for a higher minimum wage and increasing funding for education and drug treatment.
He’s scrappy and diligent, a real street-level community organizer, and ran his senate campaign on the $10,000 he got from Maine Clean Elections, a drop in the bucket compared to the almost $87,000 that Diane Russell, his biggest opponent, raised privately. Ben’s campaign was consistently honest and positive, a far cry from the vicious and misleading attack ads against him that Diane spent tens of thousands of dollars in out of state money disseminating.
Read the story I wrote about that race:
Desperate to win, Diane Russell swindles Portland voters
State Senate: Outer Portland
Mark started his career as a beat cop in Portland where, from what I understand, he was one of the few members of the police force who actually cared about the street kids who were being preyed upon by pedophiles. From there, he put himself through law school and ended up becoming the sheriff for Cumberland County where he moved serious, hard-hitting criminal justice reform.
Today, he’s a charismatic solidly progressive house rep. He’s passionate about ending the corrupt war on drugs and defending the public sector. He’s a strong leader of profound compassion and integrity, exactly the kind of big, imposing personality we need on our side.
State House: Parkside, Bayside and Oakdale
Rachel Talbot Ross
Rachel is one of the most compassionate and dedicated social justice advocates that I’ve ever met, and I’ve been doing activist work for over a decade across several different states. The nonprofit that she runs, the King Fellows, does truly inspiring work with immigrant teenagers, and I’m consistently floored by the courage she’s shown as one of Maine’s leading advocates for reforming our criminal justice system.
The district she’s been nominated to represent is one of the most diverse in Maine and includes many people who are struggling just to get by. Rachel’s a grounded homeowner and public school mom driven by genuine passion and tender kindness for those in need.
Read the story I wrote about her:
Heart in the right place, Talbot Ross courageously seeks State House
State House: Munjoy Hill, Downtown and the Islands
Mike worked for over twenty years as a labor organizer, helping low income workers throughout the country build bargaining units and negotiate contracts. He’ll bring an incredibly high level of skill and strategy to the state house, leveraging his decades of organizing experience to deliver real, pragmatic wins for progressives in Maine. Plus he’s wicked smart and easy to get along with. Just a really good guy all around!
Read the interview I did with him:
An interview w. Mike Sylvester, State House Candidate and Union Organizer
Thanks for reading (and voting)!