Text of the speech delivered by state Sen. Cynthia Dill at the Maine Democratic Party convention, Augusta Civic Center, Augusta, ME, on June 2, 2012. The speech was a collaborative effort between Sen. Dill and I, and garnered more YouTube page views than the speeches of any of her Democratic rivals for the U.S. Senate nomination.
Thank you, Senator Hobbins and everyone who has made this weekend a success. …. It’s great being at a convention where candidates actually get to speak.
Have you heard the rumor?
Some people are saying the race for the US Senate in Maine is already over!
We should just fold up their tents and go home.
Yeah, another so-called independent millionaire has come to town on the heels of the 2010 gubernatorial election — and he is banking that Democrats will run and hide in fear of a Paul LePage do-over.
This self-anointed king expects that he will take Maine’s seat in the US Senate, and that we will stand down.
My name is Cynthia Dill and I am a Progressive Democrat running for the United States Senate, and I urge each and everyone of you here today: stand up!
Stand up for working families!
Stand up for seniors, children, health care and the environment!
Stand up for communities, small businesses and the common good!
And stand up for the Democratic Party!
In this historic election, If we concede this seat out of fear, fear will forever guide us, and we will no longer be the party of hope.
The party of FDR, Kennedy, Muskie and Mitchell.
The party of the People.
If we succumb without a fight to the misnamed “independent” candidate, we will become irrelevant …. and ordinary working Maine families will lose their voice in Washington.
Don’t let it happen!
So who am I, and why should you listen to me?
Some of you know me from our work together in the Maine Legislature. Some of you know me from the campaign trail. Some of you even read my blog.
Today I will tell you a few things all of you should know, if you are going to consider giving me your vote on June 12th.
I am a 47 year old wife, mother, civil rights lawyer, college instructor, former Sunday School Teacher and state senator. With me today is my husband Tom Clarke, my two great kids, Harrison and Isabel, and our hard-working campaign team and fabulous supporters.
My Italian family is full of storytellers. I have been hearing the same stories my whole life — over and over.
I want to tell you one of my stories.
When I was a student at the University of Vermont in 1985 I gave up a good job waiting tables to take a better job bartending down the street.
The new job lasted about 15 minutes. It ended when the owner walked in to the place, saw me behind the bar, and demoted me to cocktail waitress.
He wanted a man behind the bar.
I objected. Politely.
He screamed at me, and then he fired me, and then he threw me out.
I was 20 years old, and I was very upset at losing my job. I needed the money.
I sat crying on the curb for a while.
Eventually, one of my professors walked by and asked me what was wrong.
I told him. He told me to sue the guy.
I did sue the guy, and I won.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
I went to law school and became a civil rights lawyer. I graduated 22 years ago, and have been fighting for justice ever since.
I’ve brought cases against the United States Gov, the States of Maine and New Hampshire, corrupt police departments, and big corporations like American Express, and Merrill Lynch.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I am not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone.
Even guys with big money and a big name.
Okay, I want to tell you a little bit about my family.
My father is a successful small businessman who still works hard every day. He put nine children through college and stands tall in his community. He is kind, generous … and an old-school conservative.
My mother comes from a family of Italian immigrants. Her mother, my 93 year-old grandmother, was a member and secretary of a labor union at an aluminum factory where she worked the night shift in Bristol, Rhode Island, for many years.
After working all night, my grandmother would go home and sleep and then get up and take care of me and my sisters and brothers. She did that so my mother could work after my parents divorced.
Why is this relevant?
These people helped shape my character and my career.
They taught me to value family, community, country and hard work.
These are the values of the people of Maine. These are the values we need to bring to the United States Senate.
Which brings me to my politics.
I am a progressive Democrat, and I believe in core Democratic values.
These include the dignity of earning a living wage, equal opportunity to succeed, economic and social justice, quality public education, a healthy environment and access to affordable, effective health care.
And I believe in the two-party system.
Our opponents say the two-party system is broke and that Republicans and Democrats are responsible for gridlock in Washington.
But we know the truth.
It is not Democrats who are failing this nation, nor is it we who should back away from our platform.
Instead, we must rise up, together, and hold high the torch of justice and the promise of common wealth, so that every American who is without a job, without food, in need of health care or living on the street can see our beacon of hope.
These are not independent values, or Republican values. These are Democratic values!
The Republican Party is unhinged, unreasonable and responsible for DC gridlock. And we must stick together to defeat them.
And we can … if we champion the hopes and values of the American people.
No, the two-party system is not what ails our families and communities.
Our problem is that our neighbors don’t have a job, and too many of our children are living in poverty .
Our problem is that the top 1% of Americans take in a quarter of the nation’s riches, and continue to see their fat incomes grow, while 99% of us watch our income and quality of life fall off a cliff.
Our problem is that our kids can’t afford college, or are saddled with college debt and graduating into an economy that offers them nothing.
Our problem is climate change, and what big business is doing to our environment.
Our problem is the attempted coup of our democracy by special interests and Super PACs.
Our problem is the national debt and deficit caused by unfair tax policies, the deregulation of Wall Street and unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our problem is that our sisters and brothers are without health insurance and facing bankruptcy as a result.
These are our collective problems.
We Democrats have answers.
And what we need are people in the US Senate with the courage and strength to bring these solutions to the table.
Let’s invest in public research and development and put people to work building public roads, bridges, bike lanes, and schools.
Together, we can shoot for the stars.
Look at SpaceX: with the boost of public money, this private enterprise is putting people to work in the far reaches of the galaxy.
Let’s support unions, because we know unions raise the standard of living for middle class families.
Let’s tackle income inequality by repealing the Bush Tax Cuts, and fixing our tax laws so everyone pays their fair share.
In America, public education should start before kindergarten. So let’s direct our tax dollars away from military budgets and war, and toward our public schools.
Let’s make college affordable and hold those who prey on our kids with shady loans accountable.
Let us, as Democrats, never back away from protecting our environment.
We do not want the Keystone Pipeline to scar America’s landscape.
We don’t want oil drilling off the coast of Maine or Alaska.
Let’s instead increase fuel efficiency standards, limit carbon, and provide incentives to be efficient and conserve energy.
And we don’t want cancer-causing chemicals in everything we eat, grow and touch.
Let’s fight back against the corporate behemoths who make money by poisoning us, our stuff and our farms.
And finally, for the unlucky Americans who are sick and facing bankrupcty; the kids born with a medical condition who will need a lifetime of treatment; the seniors faced with the choice of taking their medication or having a meal, let’s be grateful for the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats.
It’s good…but it’s not good enough.
We need universal health care and a single payer system!
Yes, there are answers out there. There are laws waiting to be passed in Washington that can make a real difference:
The DISCLOSE Act that will address money in politics.
The Violence Against Women Act, will protect women including our native American friends.
The DREAM Act will remove the shackles from young people seeking America’s promise of opportunity.
The Safe Chemicals Act will give us information about the safety of the products we use.
The Employee Free Choice Act that will protect union members’ rights to bargain without harassment and intimidation.
The Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act sponsored by Chellie Pingree that will help Maine’s farmers and the production of locally grown food, or the bill sponsored by Mike Michaud to ensure that Veterans Homes have the resources to care for our heroes.
What we need are votes in the US Congress to pass these common sense measures – not personalities.
We know the Republicans will oppose all bills that represent the hopes of the people over powerful special interests.
What we don’t know is where the so-called “independent” stands.
Because he won’t tell us.
Democrats must not reward a candidate who refuses to be straight with Maine voters on where he stands, or which party he intends to caucus with.
Democrats must not reward a candidate who as governor vetoed a minor increase in the minimum wage,
and vetoed a minor expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act that would give parents 24 hours of unpaid leave to take a sick child to the doctor.
We must not reward a candidate who weakened unions and passed laws to kick the most egregiously injured employees out of the Workers Compensation program.
And we certainly must not reward a candidate who boasts of business acumen, and yet asks tax payers to back loans to put industrial wind turbines on every pristine mountain in Maine, and left the state with a $1.2 billion deficit as governor.
Maine voters deserve a candidate who states clearly where she stands, and will speak up loudly for our common wealth, our collective well-being and America’s promise of freedom and opportunity.
Without a true champion of small business, working families, women and the most vulnerable on the November ballot, the debate will be all about tax cuts for the wealthy, and austerity measures for the rest of us!
Without a strong Democrat on the ballot, we know Republican and so-called centrist candidates will fight about who can shrink government programs the most, and dismantle the safety net and public institutions the fastest.
It is Democrats who can stop this race to the bottom.
We must nominate an advocate with a bold vision of peace, shared prosperity and social mobility, and a willingness to fight for it.
Now, some say a working mother from southern Maine can’t appeal to voters in the north.
But just as you don’t have to be a woman to support women’s rights, you don’t have to be from northern Maine to support families and small businesses across our great state. As Maine’s next United States Senator, everyone from Madawaska to Kittery will have a voice.
And just as Maine people from the north and south did not judge our President by the color of his skin, but rather on the content of his character, no Democratic candidate should be judged by her zip code rather than the strength of her qualifications to serve.
What sets me apart from my colleagues in this race — on top of my resume and my record — is that I am not afraid to fight.
(Being the second youngest of nine kids might have something to do with this.)
From day one, I have publicly stood up to the current Republican administration in Augusta unlike anyone else running in this race.
I’m not afraid of bullies.
I am not afraid to join Congressman Michaud and Common Cause in supporting repeal of the filibuster rule.
I am not afraid to support deep cuts in nuclear arms, and to say publicly that war is not the answer.
I am not afraid to support the reasonable regulation of guns especially when it comes to protecting women from domestic violence.
And let’s be clear, I am not talking about hunting or the Second Amendment — two things I fully support.
I am talking about giving police officers the right to seize firearms when they make an arrest for domestic violence.
Too many Maine women are being murdered by abusers with guns, and we need to protect them and their children!
I am not afraid to vote against spending public money to study a for-profit, private East West Highway that will degrade our environment;
And, I am not afraid to support a feasibility study for a Maine Woods National Park, the proposed gift of 70,000 acres of private land — less than 1% of Maine’s forest — plus $40 million, to diversify a one-industry economy.
The Republican Party opposes this, but I believe in making decisions using facts and science.
This is about jobs and economic opportunity in an area of our state with staggering unemployment and virtually no options for women and young people.
Let’’s get the facts.
Progressives do not fear change. We are about making progress.
I have traveled across Maine for years, and have friends in every corner of the state.
Everywhere people want the same things: jobs, quality education, affordable health care, a clean environment and the prospect of a bright future for their kids.
And In two weeks, Democrats will go to the polls with a solemn question to answer: What do we stand for?
I’ve told you who I am, and what I stand for.
Will you stand with me for economic and social justice?
Stand with me for universal, single payer healthcare!
Stand with me to make smart public investments to create jobs.
Stand with me to reject the false choice of “economy versus environment.”
Stand with me to protect what’s important in this great country.
It is time for a new generation of leadership in Washington!
Please stand with me on June 12th.
Thank you. God bless Maine, God bless the Maine Democratic Party, and God bless the United States of America.