As Clean Elections deadline looms, here’s how to help get big money out of Maine politics

Joe Brusky/Creative Commons via flickr

If we believe in getting big money out of politics, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is. There’s a huge deadline coming up for any candidate in Maine who wants to be a “clean elections” candidate next week, and if you already know all about it, I need you to go to the state’s clean elections site to make your contributions to all of the local progressive candidates right now.

As a reminder, clean elections is Maine’s public financing system for legislative candidates. Passed by the people via referendum, it’s one of the most successful public campaign finance systems in the country, and it’s made a huge difference in keeping politicians accountable to the voters, rather than lobbyists or special interests. Under Maine’s clean elections system the $5 check from the senior citizen next door is worth just as much as the $5 check from the wealthiest individual in the district. It truly levels the playing field of influence in Augusta.

Here’s the catch. Candidates can’t just sign up for the system and leave it at that. To participate in the clean elections public financing system, candidates for the Maine House and Senate have to collect a minimum number of $5 checks from voters in their district by next week. House members need to collect 60 contributions each. Senate candidates must collect 175 contributions. If a candidate falls just one check short by the April 20 deadline, they can’t participate.

One would think this wouldn’t be a problem in 2018-– a year that feels so critically important. Candidate recruitment this year was fabulous. More women are running than ever before. More progressives new to politics are challenging incumbents. In the Senate, we have good Democrats running in every single district. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that there are many amazing progressives all over the state in danger of not qualifying for clean elections funding. Veterans including myself are shaking our heads at the difficulty that some of our wonderful new candidates are having. If our candidates don’t qualify, they won’t have the funds they need to run a basic, competitive campaign, and the status quo will have won before we’ve begun the fight.

I can’t tell you why this year is harder than years past. I know it’s not lack of enthusiasm for change. Every indication suggests that 2018 could be a blue wave. I fear it’s over-confidence. Are Mainers taking for granted that 2018 will usher change? Are we assuming that our local candidates are going to win without our help? This I know: We cannot assume that 2018 will be a year of positive change if we fail to support our candidates now.

So, have you donated $5 today to both your House and Senate candidates? It’s easy to do. Go to today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, or it could be too late.

Donated already? Then, I’d like two hours of your time. Open up your cell phone and start calling your friends, especially your friends in rural areas. Tell them that their gift of just $5 by April 20th will help fight back against special interest and corporate money at the State House. It doesn’t matter if they’re Democrat, Republican, Green or Unenrolled. They can give to multiple candidates, and I hope they will! Let them know that the single best thing we can do to fight back against our greatest fears is electing new, fresh people who will represent our values in Augusta. Time is running out, but it’s not too late.

Photo: Joe Brusky/ Creative Commons via flickr

About Shenna Bellows

Avatar photoShenna Bellows is the state senator for District 14 and was the 2014 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Maine. She is the former Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and is now owner and president of Bellows and Company, a public advocacy consulting firm.

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