Maine is a very independent state and a very moderate state. Many voters aren’t hyper-partisan as much as they are just looking for the right person regardless of party affiliation. I want to tell you about a Republican elected as a moderate and as an independent voice who consistently voted for radical right policy items– and, of course, for the radical right party leaders who set and control the agenda. On vote after vote this self-professed “moderate” voted for and with the Republican leadership– until Mainers could take no more and decided it was time for a change. Do you think I’m writing in the wrong tense? I’m not. I’m talking about 1996, the year Tom Allen challenged “moderate” Republican James Longley– a supporter of Gingrich’s and DeLay’s “Contract With America”– and beat him with 55% of the vote. 1996 was also the year Susan Collins was first elected to the U.S. Senate. More about her in a moment. I want to fill you in a bit on today’s Blue America guest, the congressman from Maine’s first CD, Tom Allen.
Tom was raised in Portland, where both his dad and his grandfather served on the city council. Long before he became mayor he had been president of both his high school and college. Captain of the Bowdoin football team, he was critical of the institutionalized racism of the fraternity system and he spoke out. Like Bill Clinton– in fact, at the same time as Bill Clinton– he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Sounds like a pretty well rounded guy, huh? It gets better.
I asked Tom about his views on some of the indicator issues that are important to the Blue America community. On much of it, his voting record speaks for itself. But sometimes a voting record doesn’t tell the full story. In 1992, as Portland’s mayor, Tom pushed for Maine’s first ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and credit based on sexual orientation. That’s a position that always shows strength and courage. Another is his embracing public financing of elections, something Maine already has in state elections and is severely needed in federal elections.
A member of the Energy and Commerce Committee (which oversees telecommunications, environmental issues and health care), Tom has been an outspoken advocate for net neutrality and for getting a grip on the runaway costs of prescription drugs. He’s been a crusader for giving small businesses and their employees an opportunity to get the same health insurance coverage available to congressmen.
Now, back to Susan Collins, the fake moderate and self-proclaimed independent who Tom is challenging for the U.S. Senate seat. When she won re-election in 2002 she vowed it would be her last term. She’s trying to go back on that now but by showing the people in Maine that her record is as unmoderate, unindependent and as much a rubber stamp for the far right as Longley’s was, Tom will help her keep that broken promise.
One of the things he told me when we spoke was that the two of them, elected on the exact same day “have both been subjected to the same pressures and we voted on the same issues. She’s been a supporter of the president’s policy in Iraq from the beginning and I voted against the war and against the occupation starting on October 10, 2002 [the authorization for the use of force] and have been a steady critic. This year she voted against deadlines at every opportunity and I voted for them. In 2001 and 2003 there were two huge tax cuts for the wealthy which she supported and I opposed. We differed on Dick Cheney’s energy agenda, Medicare Part D, the Torture Bill, the Military Commissions Act. I urged her to oppose Sam Alito but she voted to confirm him.”
If Susan Collins is sounding familiar to you– like another senator we’ve gotten to know here in the last couple of years– there is good reason. Joe Lieberman is taking a prominent role in trying to help Collins win re-election. Bush’s most loyal Senate lieutenant is fundraising across the aisle, trying to repay Bush, Cheney and Rove for delivering the Republican votes he needed to beat Democrat Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Senate race. Collins and Lieberman have very similar voting records on many key issues.
And Ned Lamont has joined John Kerry and Rhode Island freshman Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in an attempt to counter Lieberman’s pitch for Collins. Tom has become close with Whitehouse and he told me that his race against Collins is very similar to Whitehouse’s race against Lincoln Chafee last year.
“This is about changing the direction of the country with a working Democratic majority in the Senate.”
In fact I want to make a special request today. When you go over to our Blue America page to contribute to Tom’s campaign, whatever you plan on giving, please add 51 cents. Why 51 cents? Let it be a message to Lieberman and to the Inside the Beltway Democrats who supported him, a message that reminds them that Ned could have been the 51st Senate Democrat for a working majority. Now we’ll have to wait another year and a half. Replacing Collins with Tom will go a long way towards making the Senate work for working people and consumers after being saddled with Lieberman (who, needless to say) Collins campaigned for in Connecticut last year.