(Updated 10/25/13- What I did not yet know yesterday when posting this diary is that the campaign has an Act Blue page- please feel free to donate and share the link.
Maine Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows kicked off the start of her official campaign yesterday with events in Ellsworth, Portland, Lewiston and finally Eliot.
Today she is in Presque Isle and Bangor; her week concludes with events in Topsham, Rockland and Skowhegan, as Bellows plans to speak in every Maine county this first week of campaigning with a target goal of stops in all of Maine’s cities and towns over the next year.
The photos below were taken at the Portland event, held at Rising Tide Brewing Company- a local Maine business hit by the recent federal government shutdown.
The 38 year old Manchester resident and native of Hancock was introduced by friend and former ACLU of Maine coworker Jill Barkley, with supporters of all 16 Maine counties speaking briefly on why they support Shenna’s run for Senate and then addressed the large crowd assembled.
(Speech as prepared)
Good morning. My name is Shenna Bellows and I am running for United States Senate because I believe we need more courage and honesty in Washington.
Unfortunately, both are in short supply.
But we have an opportunity for change.
To make things better.
To put government back to work for everyone and not just the few.
To get our country back on the right track.
And that work starts here and it starts today.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks.
As some of you may know, I was married on September 21.
Brandon and I made the decision to spend our lives together in 2010.
But we had made a vow that we wouldn’t get married until every loving committed couple could do the same, including our gay and lesbian friends and family members could be legally married.
Last November, Maine made history when our state became the first to pass the freedom to marry at the ballot box.
It was an amazing day made even better when the first couples started to wed last winter.
But it wasn’t until June, when the Supreme Court overturned the outrageously named Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminated against gay and lesbian couples.
I don’t think they knew it at the time, but when the Supreme Court justices said DOMA was unconstitutional, they were also opening the door for Brandon and I to tie the knot.
We were engaged on a trip to the Potato Blossom Festival in Aroostook County. We were married at our home in Manchester. We honeymooned in Rockland.
And though we’re still traveling around Maine, I think the honeymoon is over.
Being part of the leadership team of Mainers United for Marriage for seven years was to date one of the greatest honors of my life.
We stood up for equality and freedom, and we created positive change one conversation and one person at a time. And we did it together.
I share this story because it is fundamental to who I am, why I am running and what I would like to see change in Washington.
First, who I am. I am a principled leader who has a proven track record of standing up for people’s rights.
I was the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, a non-profit organization.
Our mission was to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I am proud of the work I did there – defending the right to vote, protecting privacy and fighting for freedom of speech and equality.
Through that work, I had the opportunity to be involved on several statewide campaigns where I gained valuable experience that I plan to put to work over the next year.
I grew up in Hancock.
My mom, Janice Colson, is here this morning.
She just got off the night shift at the hospital.
She is the bravest person I know.
When I was a kid, we grew our own food, organically. I don’t think we were trendsetters. Truth is, I don’t think we could afford pesticides and fertilizers.
One day, mom was pounding fence posts in the backyard.
She smashed her thumb. It was terrifying to us kids seeing mom hurt.
We didn’t have a telephone so there was only one thing to do.
Calm as could be, she just put the three of us in the car and drove herself to the emergency room.
He’s a carpenter, and he and his wife Bethany Reynolds worked hard to make this day happen today.
I get my courage and my work ethic from my parents.
Thirty-three years ago, my dad started his own carpentry business, Bellows Woodworks.
My mom stayed home with me, my brother and my sister.
When I was in the fifth grade, she went back to work at the local greenhouse, Surry Gardens, and we were able to afford electricity.
It takes a lot of courage to start your own business, especially when you’re trying to take care of a young family.
My father took a risk.
His story is the story of countless other entrepreneurs.
And it’s the story of our country and what gives America the reputation of being the land of opportunity.
My mom worked in the greenhouse for over 20 years. At age 49, she too took a risk by going back to school, first with adult education courses at Ellsworth, and then at the University of Maine where she obtained a degree in nursing.
My parents’ courage and work ethic have inspired me my entire life to work hard and to try to make the world a better place.
I have worked throughout my career to do my part to change the world.
From my time as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Panama, to service as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Nashville to standing up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the ACLU.
I understand what it’s like to work for a living.
I’ve waited tables, worked retail, worked at the local lobster pound and was even a Subway sandwich artist. When I was in college, my job was in the recycling program, which meant essentially that I collected the trash each week.
My community and education gave me other opportunities along the way too – the opportunity to go to Middlebury College, to work as a research assistant at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and then as an assistant to an economics professor who writes leading economics textbooks.
These experiences shaped who I am today. I am unafraid of hard work, and I am inspired to make the world a better place.
I’m running for United States Senate because I believe we need more courage and honesty in Washington.
A dear friend tried to dissuade me from running when he heard the news. “Politics in Washington are too corrupt and too partisan,” he argued, “for an honest and independent person like you to be happy there.”
The sequester, the shutdown and the default debacle made his argument for him.
When senators congratulate themselves for doing their jobs – for doing what decent people do all the time and talk through challenges – something is deeply wrong in Washington.
It took three weeks and cost our country billions of dollars because grown men and women couldn’t put aside their ideology and do the peoples’ business.
When Congress acts merely to kick the can down the road three months, so that we will continue to lurch from one economic crisis to another, something is deeply wrong in Washington.
The sequester and the shutdown are unforgiveable.
When Head Start and Meals on Wheels programs are cut back while members of Congress pay themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and benefits, something is deeply wrong in Washington.
When workers’ pensions are underfunded or frozen but government pensions for members of Congress are not, something is deeply wrong in Washington.
Our democracy is too important for good people to stay on the sidelines.
Our democracy demands a full and fair debate in this race about our priorities.
The future of our democracy requires that good people with good ideas participate and that at all levels we debate in a civil and respectful way the solutions that will move our country forward.
Look, I understand that the road ahead in this campaign will be hard.
Daughters of carpenters don’t usually run for the United States Senate.
Races like this can cost millions of dollars, which is why we have a Congress of millionaires instead of a Congress of working people.
I understand the power of the incumbency, but I am undaunted and promise to run a strong campaign that will challenge the status quo and give voters a real choice next November.
And if elected to the United States Senate, I can assure you: I will work hard to advance meaningful campaign finance reform so that more sons and daughters of carpenters and working people can represent us in Washington.
In addition to courage and honesty, we need more people in Washington who will listen respectfully to people with different points of view and work together toward meaningful solutions.
No two people can ever agree 100% of the time. Even my husband and I don’t agree on everything.
While we may not agree, you will always understand where I stand, and I promise that I will come to any policy debate with an open mind and treat everyone with respect.
Earlier this year, I organized a broad coalition that included Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Greens to pass a groundbreaking law that protects cell phone privacy.
While we might disagree on other issues, we all came together to fight against the dangers posed by government intrusion into our personal lives.
Our opposition was intense, bipartisan and included some of my close friends, but we were able to disagree respectfully.
After months of hard work, Maine was one of two states in the country to pass cell phone privacy protections in the wake of the NSA spying abuses, and we were one of just five successful veto override votes when the Governor vetoed the legislation.
I am proud of my work in Augusta to build broad coalitions across party lines to pass legislation that has made Maine a leader and a model for the rest of the country when it comes to civil liberties.
This brings me to what I would like to see change in Washington and what I would do if elected to be Maine’s next Senator.
In the last two decades, we have experienced a constitutional crisis, an economic crisis and an environmental crisis that threaten our country’s future.
What unites us as a country are our shared values set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Politicians in Washington have trampled on the Constitution over the last decade.
Washington has created a constitutional crisis.
My first job at the ACLU was as a “Safe and Free” organizer working back in 2003 to educate the public and organize opposition to the Patriot Act.
I think it’s terrible that only one Senator, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, voted no to the Patriot Act.
It’s concerning that only Rand Paul is taking to the floor to filibuster on drones. Abuses of power like the Patriot Act, REAL ID, NSA spying, and domestic drone surveillance threaten our democracy.
We need to repeal the Patriot Act and REAL ID.
We need to stop the NSA and the FBI from wasting their time and taxpayer dollars spying on ordinary Americans through our cell phones and email.
We need to place limits on drones.
A reporter asked me last week why should we care if we have nothing to hide. The question suggests that we need to sacrifice our freedoms for security.
But it’s a false choice. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
We do not have to sacrifice our fundamental freedoms to be safe.
When the government spies on its own people, we, the people, lose trust in our government.
We can restore trust and a sense of community by restoring our constitutional freedoms.
In addition to a constitutional crisis, we have an economic crisis, manufactured by politicians in Washington who seek short-term solutions rather than visionary change.
When I graduated from college with a degree in international politics and economics, I had more than $30,000 in student loans.
It took me 10 years to pay off my loans, but I was lucky: I was able to get a good job after graduation.
I met a woman a couple of weeks ago who told me with anger and sadness that her college-educated son and his wife are living with her at home because they can only find part-time work.
Another friend laughingly told me that perhaps his college-educated daughter would work for my campaign for free: he is supporting her financially right now because the only work she can find in her field of study is an unpaid internship.
She’s not the only one.
Young people in this state are graduating with record levels of student loan debt, and they can’t find jobs.
Not only has unemployment in Maine doubled since 2000 from 3.5% to 7.7% in 2012, but unemployment for young people ages 20 to 24 is in the double digits at 12.3%, up from 6.7% in 2000.
We need to invest in our young people and in the next economy.
We need to stop spending billions of dollars on a surveillance industrial complex we can’t afford and start investing in entrepreneurs. We can’t afford to be the world’s policeman anymore.
We need to stop propping up big businesses that are too big to fail and start investing in local economies.
We need to eliminate the sweet-heart deals that protect large corporations and stop writing new rules that block entry for small entrepreneurs and farmers.
When I think about Maine’s economy, it’s those small entrepreneurs and farmers who are critical to our success.
Young people are staying in or returning to Maine to farm in record numbers. The local food and economy movement – built in our communities, not in Washington, is thriving.
We can learn from this model and bring rural innovations to the rest of the country.
Politicians in Washington have failed to be forward thinking in their approach to the economy, so our communities here have picked up the pieces and thrived where Washington has failed.
We need to bring this fresh energy and entrepreneurial approach to our federal economic policy debates.
The local approach is not only economically sustainable but environmentally sustainable as well.
In the last two decades, politicians in Washington have wrought an environmental crisis that threatens Maine’s economic future.
Anyone who gardens, farms or fishes can tell you that Maine’s climate is warming.
Politicians in Washington occasionally talk a good game, but they have done nothing substantive to address the looming environmental crisis.
And as we all know, in Maine our economy and our natural environment are fundamentally connected.
We have brilliant minds working in the environmental movement here in Maine to protect land for future and also promote and grow local economies.
If elected, I will advocate and organize support for a power shift in our approach to energy and environmental policy.
We need to have a debate about the best ways forward to fix environmental crisis. The politicians might say that solving climate change is impossible, but it’s too important not to try, and we cannot wait.
Today is the beginning of my campaign for the United States Senate. And for the next year, I will work every day to convince voters that we don’t have to be content with the status quo.
I know what’s coming and that this won’t be easy.
But I’ve seen what good people, working together, can do.
As Helen Keller, who triumphed over blindness and deafness to be an extraordinary leader and successful advocate, said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can change the world. The future starts now.
Link to video of her address to supporters in Lewiston.