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Monday, June 26, 2006

Barbara Merrill, Independent for Governor of Maine

I intend to use this blog as a tool in deciding whether I want to support Ms. Merrill's run for the Blaine House.
Based on her bio on "BarbaraMerrill.com" her political experience includes her work as an attorney representing nonprofit organizations and businesses before the State Legislature. A quote by her reflecting that experience, "The growing fiscal irresponsibility of state government, the increased partisanship and the destructive synergy between them" is very much in keeping with this writer's feelings expressed in "A Representative Government" just last week. In 2004 she ran for the State Legislature as a Democrat in a mostly-Republican district, taking 60% of the vote.
As an attorney she was honored by the Bar Association for her pro bono work. Reflective of the work ethic of the people of Maine, she quips, "If I was a little better gardener, I might never have found myself up to my elbows in state government. At least if you garden in Maine, you learn how to deal with adversity."
A very intriguing quote from her candidacy announcement at the Charles Butler Army Reserve Center (named in honor of her father who was killed in Viet Nam), "We need leaders with the courage to trust the voters with the whole truth and we need leaders with the courage to offer a new independent Maine vision." From that very same announcement in regard to the gender factor and that no woman independent has ever been elected in any state, "As Maine's first woman Governor I will be held to a higher standard and I welcome it. Not as a fancy that I can be perfect, but as inspiration to seek the very best people to serve beside me without regard to party affiliation or whether their star may shine brighter than my own. I will set a higher standard not in the conceit that best and brightest will transform Maine, but in the humble understanding that if we can transform state government into a useful tool, Maine people will be enabled to do what needs to be done to secure a bright future for the state we all call home."
She has also penned a book entitled Setting the Maine Course, which can be downloaded from her website.
At first blush these are my thoughts on her candidacy: Having worked as a lobbyist sends up red flags in this day in age, though a more thorough analysis of the work she did as a lobbyist and her position on lobbying would be in order. Certainly having been a lobbyist does not disqualify someone from political office, but we want to ensure we elect someone who will represent the citizens of Maine first and foremost.
Can a woman successfully govern this state? I certainly see no reason why not. This really never should be an issue. The larger questions would more likely be: Can an independent governor succeed? Absolutely, this state has had two two-term independent governors. Would the people of Maine elect a woman governor? Based on the legacies of Margaret Chase Smith (this writer interned at the MCS Library) and Olympia Snowe, they certainly would.
Is her relative lack of experience a positive or negative? That would certainly depend upon your perspective. My position is that I would take fresh ideas, which this candidate seems to have plenty of, over someone with connections but no idea what to do any different than anyone else.
At first blush, based on her philosophy and approach to government, this is someone I could support. Obviously a look into her voting record and her views on more substantive legislative issues would be in order, something I plan to do in my next blog, as well as a review of her book.

9 comments:

Ingrid said...

Hey Zeb!
I did not realize when you commented on my blog that you're another Independent... check! hehe.
Sometimes it doesn't feel that there are too many of us, even though many more people than who vote consider themselves Independents, wasn't it about 33%? I am marginally involved with Independent Texans as you might know, we have two people running as Independents. Having said that, I do think that the Libertarian candidate here has something good to say. I see you have my blogger pal Robbie listed (Independent Voices). He's pretty astute in his writing too. I'll try to stop by more often. I don't have 6, but I do have 2 kids and no summer camps so there is a bit more involvement that just doing my posts online that needs to be done. That said, off to swim lessons!
Ingrid

Zebster said...

Yeah, that Robbie makes us look bad. He could dumb it down a bit.
Libertarians and Liberals have more in common than Libertarians would like to admit.
We're only 3 years from having zero kids around. Yippee.

N. Hanks said...

Zeb - I am so glad to see independents coming out of the woodwork on Inside Zebster!!! By the way, I think a good litmus test for independent candidates is election reform. And, like any good candidate, they're subject to "lobbying", so when grassroots independents request support for political reform, a lot of times independent candidates will listen! I like the idea that you're using this blog to learn about Barbara Merrill - maybe you can contact her and see where she stands on political and election reform?
Nancy

Zebster said...

Thanks for the support, Nancy. Email sent yesterday with a link to this blog. No response yet. Those questions would be at the top of the list.

Anonymous said...

An Independent woman Governor for Maine sounds great. But, of course you knew there would be but, She's no Angus King. It will take a lot of work for her to get known. It would seem that an Independent (I use upper case but as you probably know there is no recognized Independent party in the State of Maine) could work with both parties in the Legislature and get things done. I think King did this but left the State with fiscal problems. The Baldacci administration has gone a long way to remedy this.
I will be watching Merrill and checking on her views. It should be an interesting race. I do really feel bad that Peter Mills didn't win for the Repubs. If he did win, I would feel comfortable with him, being a fairly liberal Repub. Don't think Woodcock has much of a chance. He was conservative enough to win primary but not to be elected, which I feel is great LOL. Keep up the good work, Mom

Zebster said...

Mom, I like Peter as well, having gotten to know him well when he was a client of mine. Having worked as a stenographer in a small state like Maine, you get to know a high % of the attorneys...the current governor included. Eric Mehnert was one of my best clients and good friend before he left for Mass several years ago.

Barbara said...

I just wanted you to know I'm listening in and will check back once in a while so I can answer any questions which might arise.

If I could comment on a couple of points, I would like to say that I think looking closely at my experience as a lobbyist is very understandable. I was not a hired gun in the sense that I would represent anyone and am proud of the businesses and nonprofits which I served. But the question always follows, that now that I serve the public as a whole am I able to to seperate myself from this past work. I believe my record in the Maine House demonstrates that. I hope you all come to the same conclusion.

I don't know if you know this but Governor King once worked as a lobbyist before the Maine legislature. He lobbied for environmental groups. He also worked on the inside of government for a brief period as did I. His work was for the US Senate, mine for the Maine Senate. I think the fact the King saw the world as an outsider but had experience as an insider made him effective. I hope my similar experience will serve me as well.

Finally, mention is made of the fact that the state got into financial problems in King's second term and that things have improved under Gov. Baldacci. I agree with the former and strongly disagree with the latter. In King's defense, he was the first Governor elected after the Maine government shut down and as such was understandably worried about pushing back too hard on a legislature which wanted to spend more. Having observed this first hand, I have made clear that when I am elected, there will be no budgets passed by a simple majority and I will veto any budget which isn't fiscally responible.

It is very important to avoid any shut down of government services but it is even more important to fashion a government which we can afford which is managed soundly.

TrotRocks said...

Good hustle Newt (not a reference Newt (the Grinch) Ginrich). Not every day one corresponds with candidates for governor in such thoughtful manner. I read Ms. Merrill's response and found it quite articulate and thoughtful. I have to confess that I didn't read the post yet. haha. Anyway, I am proud of Zebster for participating in the political process in Maine (you to MamaJoan). Maine is a great state is needs thoughtful, intelligent, and engaged citizens. (Someone has to do it, because I bailed to become a Masshole. lol

susan said...

I hate it when a candidate is compared to someone else just because they are also an independent. Of course, Barbara is no Angus King, they are two totally different people. The state of the state was also very different at the time he was governor. We should be concentrating on what a candidate will do once in office. Let's look forward and not backwards.