State of Maine: Authenticity trumps spending on the campaign trail 

In a fire hall in BoisdaleCape Breton fiddler sat in a metal folding chair ripping out tunes for the dancers. Never mind that he happened to be the Nova Scotia premier; nobody much cared. At one point, fiddle in hand, he got to his feet and showed some steps of his own. The crowd roared its approval, and a gnome-like little man with a pint in his hand hollered out: “That’s what I voted for!” 


Right there is the difference between how we vote and how politicians think we vote. There is enough money pouring into political campaigns to rescue COVID-afflicted businesses, pay all out-of-work employees and provide health care to the uninsured.  


Add in the salaries of political gurus who advise candidates, ad writers who come up with the mind-numbing drivel with which we will be assaulted for the next four months and the manufacturers of hats, signs, brochures and T-shirts and you could likely increase pay for teachers and nurses rather than just giving them the clap (in England that’s what they call the nightly tribute to frontline workers  really they do). 


Campaigns could save their money if their candidate could just muster a moment of genuine authenticity. In Hancock County, we have a perfect example of “That’s what I voted for!” It’s a photo of Rep. Genevieve McDonald of Stonington on the deck of a boat hoisting a halibut for the camera. In the entire country, it may be the only photo of a legislator at work that involves a halibut. 


Coastal legislative wannabes may don Grundens and grin over a lobster trap for the cameras, but this is no opportunity shot. McDonald holds the fish, which comes up to her chin, with the assurance of one with prior experience.  


Commercial fishing is not her only qualification for office, though in the waterfront district she represents, it helps. Living on her own since the age of 16, she got a GED and then, last spring, married with twin babies, a degree from UMaine, graduating summa cum laude. According to a UMaine News article, McDonald focused her university studies on “skills necessary to facilitate communication between people earning a living on the ocean and the scientific community.” That’s sorely needed if fishermen are going to protect their livelihoods. 


She is running for a second term in the Maine House, opposed in the July 14 primary by fellow lobsterman Julie Eaton of Deer Isle. Eaton got a taste for politics while leading the charge to protect the lobster industry from yet another round of whale rules. She was a prime mover behind the Stonington rally a year ago that brought out the state’s congressional delegation, many coastal legislators and a wharf-load of fishermen. 


Eaton is tough and fearless. As a young adult, flying was her passion until a major auto accident and subsequent arduous recovery eliminated that option. What it gave her instead was a ferocious determination to remaster basic life skills and then take on commercial fishing, first scallop diving, then lobstering, neither one of which is for the faint of heart.  


Eaton and McDonald share a passion for their occupation, and both are superb advocatesbut they differ in their approach to elected office. Eaton is straight up fishing, pedal to the metal. McDonald takes a broader policy view. Fishing comes first for her too, but her first term in office has expanded her vision; she co-sponsored a bill to open primary elections to independent voters. 


The challenges facing commercial fishermen are increasing. Both candidates are prepared to take them headon, but with one term under her belt, McDonald has the edge. She has mastered the steep learning curve of process and politics, giving her better field position for both fishing issues and other problems facing the state, recovery from the pandemic being the biggest. 


The other Hancock County legislative races with primaries are for two Senate seats. For Senate District 7, Republicans Brian Langley and John Linnehan are vying to unseat incumbent Democrat Louie Luchini. Primary prediction: Langley, who formerly held the seat, by a country mile. 


In Senate District 8, both parties have primaries. Larry Lockman, termed out of the House, is taking on popular two-term incumbent Kimberley Rosen. Lockman is favored by the right  the far right — but has gone a bit too far, even for members of his own party, with some of his statements about women and immigrants.  


Odds are Rosen will win the primary and would be favored in November over whoever wins the Democratic primary, where last election’s Bev Uhlenhake is up against Trudy Scee, both of Brewer. Uhlenhake got some good exposure in her first run and looks good for the primarybut Rosen can likely hold her off in the fall 





Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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