Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Friday, May 20, 2005

Green Inroads in Portland

PPH PhotoWith Eder as the highest-ranked Green in the country and with Portland having the second-highest Green presence on a school board anywhere in the U.S., it's obvious that the Green Independent party has some support in Maine's largest city.
Sive Neilan, head of the Portland Democratic City Committee, said the Greens are making inroads in city politics because they run effective campaigns. "They really have that piece of the politic down."

She said voters who are frustrated with the lack of new ideas in the national Democratic Party tend to mistakenly view Democrats here in the same light.

Yet, she said, Portland Democrats have long led progressive causes. "They have fought the right causes for a very long time, but people new to politics equate us with the people in Washington, and that is simply not the case."

One example, she said, was a Democratic candidate whose environmental record was stronger than the Green candidate's.

She said the election of five Greens to office in Portland - Portland Water District trustee Erek Gaines is the fifth - has been a wake-up call to Portland Democrats who had grown complacent. She said the Greens are galvanizing voters and are showing Democrats that they are losing their political hold.

"The Democrats, in a sense, do not own the city any more," she said.

In addition to recent local success, the Greens have played a role in several major races in Maine. The congressional candidacy of Jonathan Carter was potentially responsible for a Democratic loss in the 1992 2nd CD election when Olympia Snowe narrowly beat Pat McGowan (imagine if Snowe could have been stopped then) and the Greens were also seen as spoilers during the 1994 Gubernatorial race when Carter received 6.4% and Independent Angus King defeated Democrat Joe Brennan 35.4% to 33.8% (Republican Susan Collins got 23%). The Greens of course claim that they take votes from both parties and independents and do not act as spoilers for Democratic candidates.

In the most recent house elections there were two races in which Green voters may have tipped the balance in favor of the Republicans. In district 46 (Camden and Rockport) Democrat Susan Dorr lost to Republican Stephen Bowen by 254 votes while Green Independent Marc Bedner garnered 405. In district 78 (Oakland and Sydney) Republican Robert Nutting beat Democrat Dennis McLellen by a margin of 152 votes and Green Independent Theresa Savage received 604.

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Mike, are you arguing that Greens are the problem, or the Democratic candidates in those districts? I mean, in the race I managed, a Green took 34% of the vote where only 3% of the electorate was registered Green. Doesn't that say something for the strength of that Green's messages, as well as the possible weakness of the D. candidate?

I see much of the problem is that we D's are resting on our laurels way too much, pulling on the Progressive mantle when at times we don't deserve it (come on, who can claim Michaud, with his rabidly anti-Choice record, or Baldacci, who has been running to the right of many moderate R's, are really "Progressive"?) Heck, I hear that certain mainstream Progressive organizations may not even endorse the governor in '06. (Hhe endorsed me twice, but I can't say I would endorse him at this point.)

Anyway, it's good to see the Portland Ds are finally waking up to the fact that the Greens are in fact a formitable force, and not just an annoyance to be brushed aside. Check out the Forecaster a few months back, and their reaction was quite different. 

Posted by MB

5/22/2005 09:25:00 PM


I wasn't arguing in this post that the Greens or the Democratic candidates were the problem, but if pressed I'd say the change has to come from the Democrats. The Greens aren't about to stop running for office.

I notice that Sive Neilan in the article and you in your comment both blame the wider Democratic party for not appealing to progressive Portland voters. The party isn't likely to change, however.

So MB, as someone who's been in the trenches in Portland politics, what would you reccomend individual candidates do to minimize the effect of a Green challenger? 

Posted by Mike

5/29/2005 12:25:00 PM



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