In September of 2019, journalist Reid Wilson of The Hill named Maine’s Lincoln County one of the “10 countries across the country that will determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.” In a county that is at least purple, if not leaning blue, the local Democrats planned a big campaign focusing on making personal connections with voters of all persuasions, through canvassing and neighborhood and countywide gatherings. COVID-19 put an end to those plans.
Faced with this question: “What is a campaign without door knocking, candidate house parties, or a rally to engage and energize campaign volunteers and voters?”, the Lincoln County Democratic Committee (LCDC) came up with an original idea. The “Drive In for Democracy” was an outdoor, in-car rally, strictly following COVID-19 precautionary guidelines which took place on Sunday, Aug. 30 at the Wiscasset Speedway and showcased speeches by federal, state, and county candidates as well as a bit of levity and entertainment.
In LCDC Chair Chris Johnson’s opening remarks, he shared “... the reasons for holding a rally in the midst of a pandemic are the other very real perils we face. For all of us who believe in the idea that people have inalienable rights; for all who believe in democracy, equality, justice, and governance by and for the people, even knowing our nation has yet to FULLY realize them for all people; we KNOW these are powerful foundational ideas. … Disappointment is not enough. The time has come to act. To WORK, all of us, to connect with neighbors, turn out voters both absentee and in-person, encourage new voters, and bring a landslide victory by candidates who share those ideals, who share our values.”
Maine humorist Tim Sample served as emcee and live music was thoughtfully provided by Griffin Sherry, founding member of The Ghost of Paul Revere, authors of the Official State Ballad, Midcoast singer/songwriter Lauren Crosby, and the Damariscotta-based band Driving Charlie Home, comprised of Caleb Jones, Olivia de Lisle, Ben Millett, and Jackson Cromwell.
Performers and candidates were cheered on with honking, flashing lights, flag and banner waving from an enthusiastic crowd of just under 90 vehicles, likely the largest gathering of Maine Democrats in one place since March.
Democratic candidates who appeared live included U.S. Assistant Majority Leader State Sen. Eloise Vitelli, Dist. 23, and State Rep. Chloe Maxmin, candidate for State Senate, Dist. 13, opposing State Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow.
Vitelli shared, “I started my career many years ago as a Head Start teacher in Waldoboro, and had the opportunity to get to know the people, communities, and many a back road, doing home visits. What I learned then is true today: the people of Maine are hard-working, resilient and they care deeply about family and community.”
Maxmin summed up her campaign and representation approach, "Today's politics is incredibly divisive. But we have the opportunity to build a network of hope and love, even when it's hard, because that is the deep work of local politics."
Other incumbent candidates for re-election who attended included State Rep. Holly Stover, Dist. 89; State Rep. Allison Hepler, Dist. 53; and County Commissioner Mary Trescot, Dist. 3.
In speaking of the current issues facing many during the pandemic, Hepler acknowledged, "Along with my constituents, I walked through each question on the Unemployment website with people who had never had to look for a job, including a 73 year old nurse and nursing educator."
House candidates Tim Marks, Dist. 87; Chris Hamilton, Dist. 88; and Lydia Crafts, Dist. 90, also attended to speak in their own words how their values and their vision has a place in our vision of Maine and this nation.
“Like so many Americans I am frustrated about politics in this country. Instead of complaining I am stepping forward to try to make a difference,” said Hamilton.
“The most rewarding part of my campaign has been listening to diverse perspectives throughout the district. People caring for their neighbors,” he continued. “I am proud of how we help each other – neighbors helping neighbors.”
From Crafts, “We need to continue building state leadership that believes in bringing people together by working hard, remaining dedicated to each other in tough times, and collaborating regardless of party affiliation. Our state has difficult decisions to make and our journey out of this pandemic will not be easy. It must be a journey that brings everyone along, for we cannot afford to leave our vulnerable neighbors behind. I am here for this journey.”
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Maine Congressional Dist. 1, had a last-minute family obligation and sent an audio message, which included the assurance that, “When we can get our nation beyond this terrible pandemic and undo the damage that this administration has done with its equally terrible mishandling of our nation’s health and well-being, we have so many other challenges to deal with. We have a destroyed economy, a safety net and healthcare system that needs to be rebuilt, economic injustice, racial injustice, and the huge challenges of climate change staring us in the face. I am committed to fighting for all of you in these battles and to be able to do that we need to work as hard as we can for the next 60 days. I know I will be taking nothing for granted.”
Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for president, also sent a recorded greeting, emphasizing that he, “stands united with every single Democrat in our shared mission to beat Donald Trump and restore decency, dignity, and leadership to the White House. But we have to do more than just beat Donald Trump. We have to keep the House of Representatives and we have to win the United States Senate. And we have to lead and deliver meaningful change for the millions of people who are hurting all across this nation.”
Local youth activists, Riley Stevenson and Jamie Dalgleish, took the stage asking that all voters should consider the future generations when electing our leaders.
“We need you, our parents and grandparents to think about the world that you want to leave us. Not one of chaos and disaster but one of hope, clean energy and cooperation. We need you, our elected officials to continue fighting against bigotry and hate to pass meaningful legislation which helps more than just the wealthy and instead saves the many. We need you to act. Not tomorrow, not next year, but right now,” Stevenson pleaded.
Event photos and video clips along with more information about the candidates, the committee, its meetings and other activities may be found at https://lincolncountydemocrats.com or https://www.facebook.com/lincolncountydems/.