The Muskie School of Public Service and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute hosted its last presentation in the series “Politics Then and Now, In Maine and the Nation” for 2013, which began in September. Next March, they will have gubernatorial candidates speak. Former state Senator Cynthia Dill, Representative Kenneth Fredette, the current Republican leader in the Maine House and Amy Fried, professor of political science at UMO, who also wrote Pathways to Polling, spoke about the current challenges in politics and government on Thursday evening.
“The last house session was very tough. There was a bill to sell the Blaine House and a bill to eliminate the governor’s pension,” Fredette said. He said the bills pointed to a certain amount of friction in the house. He alluded to Governor LePage’s off-color comments about Senator Troy Jackson, of District 35, a logger from the Allagash, a small town in northern Maine.
Fredette moved on to discuss the discrepancies in campaigns by comparing clean election candidates running for the state house, who get $4,500, versus other candidates who spend $60,000. He said, “People have figured out how much power the state has and are trying to get into the House or Senate.” When Seth Goodall stepped down, Fredette said, “$100,000 was spent on both sides for the state senate race.”
“Money and influence of independent expenditures has changed the playing field. We need reforms that both Democrats and Republicans work on together,” Fredette said.
He provided an example of bipartisanship that he experienced with former Speaker of the House John Martin, a Democrat who worked with Republicans. “I served with John Martin, a legend in Maine, he was in the legislature for almost 50 years.” Being a Democrat didn’t stop him from working across party lines, Fredette said.
Part of the solution to the problems in Maine government is having fresh insights from young people. “John Martin recruited people at colleges for the legislature.” Fredette said, before reitorating that getting young people involved is something both Democrats and Republicans must do.
Because representatives and senators sometimes refuse to work together, Fredette called upon every citizen to act for change to occur. “We need to be accountable. Obviously, we need reformers: I am, you are, we are.”