A progressive surge in Lewiston/Auburn
My community has been getting quite a bit of attention these days.
As a political activist that has stated as loudly and as often as possible that the Twin Cities don’t generally get the statewide electoral respect that they deserve, Lewiston-Auburn (the second and fifth largest cities in the state, respectively) have quite suddenly re-appeared on the radar in this off-year election cycle.
By far the biggest draw for onlookers and pundits has been the charged and dramatic mayoral race in Lewiston, where the first round winner and progressive standard-bearer Ben Chin will go head-to-head with right-wing incumbent Bob Macdonald in a runoff election sometime early next month, after Chin fell just short of hitting the 50% threshold in a five-way race that brought out the worst and best impulses of our community. While the ultimate outcome of that race has yet to be determined (and there is still plenty of time to get involved), a quiet revolution occurred down the ticket, finding four progressive candidates capturing a narrow majority on the Lewiston City Council. Throw in three progressive newcomers (including, I am happy to report, myself) winning seats on the Auburn City Council, and you have the ingredients for a local political movement that is brewing on both sides of the Androscoggin River.
These surprising results in an off-year election cut against a larger narrative in recent years that both cities have become key battlegrounds in the larger political map of the state, with many legislative districts in Auburn flipping from cycle to cycle and once unquestionably Democratic Lewiston seeing races won and lost with sometimes razor-thin margins. Given that local races often see lower turnout, and that lower turnout usually benefits conservative candidates, the results become that much more surprising.
As someone who knocked on hundreds of voters’ doors this year in this community, I chalk this phenomenon up to two key factors, the first being that we all each knocked on hundreds of doors across the community. Seriously: the tide that lifted up these races was powered by the energy of the candidates and their supporters, several of whom are young rising stars in Maine’s progressive movement who understood that successful campaigns are built on engaging with constituents and doing the work of pounding the pavement to meet people where they are at. Just as importantly, to these doors we each carried with us positive messages of visions for communities that are both vibrant and equitable, challenging voters to imagine cities that worked for all residents and stood welcoming to those who would come to L/A looking to lay down their roots and build fulfilling lives.
Despite the rhetoric claiming otherwise, the Twin Cities’ voters just showed the state that candidates can run– and win– in Maine’s working-class heartland by laying out bold, authentic, and unapologetic progressive visions for the state’s future, even in the face of cynical attempts to divide and intimidate us into backing down. With any luck, the punditry will start to take notice as they continue to give L/A the attention it deserves.
Photo: volunteer for Ben Chin for Mayor
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