Saturday, August 30, 2008

The personal appeal of local politics

I love following politics. Always have, and probably always will. There's something about the horse race that hooks me and keeps me interested. Certainly the national presidential race, despite two less than stellar candidates, IMHO, has had me hooked since the field was full of kooks, wannabes, and also-rans.

National politics tends to grab the lion's share of attention and interest, even among those who self-identify as junkies. Sadly, too many of these same folks ignore paying attention to local and state matters, which I think are more important, and affect voters more directly. There's an adage which says that "all politics is local." I'll go one step further and offer that rather than just local, "all politics is personal." Many people don't plug into local and state matters until they touch their lives in some way.

In the community where I live, we're served by Maine House District 105. Our incumbent, Mike Vaughan, is a staunch conservative, and will be running for his fourth term. That, in and of itself, ought to be reason to take notice. Three terms in Augusta is more than enough time to learn the ropes (term 1), and get something done. The second term, and a third, are more than enough time to have some tangible items of accomplishment. To my way of thinking, Mr. Vaughan has accomplished very little, other than towing the party line, and mimicking everything that troubles me about conservatism as it stands in 2008.

Vaughn is being opposed by a gentleman named David Van Wie, who hails from New Gloucester, which is one of the towns making up District 105 (the others being Durham, and parts of Lisbon). I don't know Van Wie, but he did stop by on Sunday, as he was out knocking on doors. Unfortunately, I was out back doing yard work and didn't hear him drive in. I did find his pamphlet tucked into our front door, with a note saying he had stopped by. Mr. Vaughan has never knocked on my door, asking for my vote. Part of the reason may be that I know Mr. Vaughan from my days of being a member of the Androscoggin County Republicans. When I left the party, he and I had a long discussion. I'm sure that he knows that his efforts to stop by would result in a discussion where he wouldn't find an agreeable, compliant constituent, so for him, it's not worth the effort. Legislators like Mr. Vaughan like to spend their time with people that agree with them, like most of the crowd over at As Maine Goes. He seems to enjoy regaling his fellow conservatives with his witty repartee, which consists of the usual Maine conservative blather about cutting taxes, making Maine more business friendly, blaming Governor Baldacci and Democrats for all that's wrong with Maine, etc. I actually find AMG worthwhile, at times, and a good source of Maine news, since we no longer have a statewide paper that serves that purpose.

In addition to not asking for my vote, Mr. Vaughan also hasn't responded to any emails I've sent him over the past six years, relative to issues and votes, as well as thoughts and opinions I've shared with him. Obviously, he is all-knowing, and doesn't need constituent input to get in the way of his right-wing agenda.

In my workforce position, I've had cause to contact him in a professional capacity. Last March, while attempting to raise awareness about the importance of middle-skills for Mainers, I set out to contact a good portion of Maine's house and senate delegation. I sent a well-written email to him, as part of my effort at building support for an important initiative that will move Mainers forward. Once again, Mr. Vaughan could not extend the courtesy, as a fellow professional, of acknowledging my email and ideas. Even worse, he once again ignored one of his constituents, which seems to be his modus operandi. Since he thinks so little of me, and my thoughts, opinions, and ideas, should he be getting my vote? [In all fairness to Mr. Vaughan, out of 75 communiques that I sent out to key legislators, community leaders, and other influential Mainers, I received one response, from a legislator from Auburn, Mark Paul Samson (D-Auburn)-JB]

His opponent, Mr. Van Wie, had a guest column in Sunday's Lewiston Sun Journal (Aug. 24), talking about Maine needing an energy strategy. I concur with that. In fact, I've been writing quite a bit about energy at my workforce blog, opining that Maine has an opportunity to get out in front on the energy issue. This post, and my post from yesterday, are examples of issues I've been highlighting, which I think our legislature ought to be thinking about.

Mr. Van Wie had some good points in his column, including the following;

"...we need to support investments in energy efficiency, wind power and in-state renewable energy, so we can keep our dollars working in the Maine economy. Our state must support small businesses and entrepreneurs in Maine who can help make it happen."

There were some points in his column that concerned me. Since I take issue with Mr. Vaughan's party line adherence, I'll also say that some of Van Wie's points seemed like so much of what's being spouted by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, "Dingy" Harry Reid, and other Democrat comrades. Still, Van Wie's private sector experience, as well as having served under one of Maine's best governors, Angus King, make him a candidate worthy of consideration.

Simply, what I'm looking for in a local representative is someone who has a mind of his/her own, understands the issues affecting Mainers, and is the kind of representative that is responsive to constituents, especially constituents that are knowledgeable about issues affecting the Pine Tree State.

I'll probably contact Mr. Van Wie to raise some of my concerns, and find out a bit more about him and his thoughts on representing the good people of our district. As a voter, I refuse to be ignored any longer. I also refuse to support candidates that are so filled with hubris that they think they know more than their constituents.


Anonymous said...

One of the issues you overlook when dissing Rep. Vaughn is that he is a member of the minority party and therefore has littl;e clout in the legislature. The liberal party in power rules with an iron hand and even their own members are limited in their own personal opinions and votes.

One of the reasons why a legislator might not try to communicate with their constituient is that they already know that constituent well enough to know that to do so would be futile and perhaps walking into trouble. If that is the case I do not fault Mr. Vaughn. Civility is a virtue not well used these days.

Jim said...

Politics is a sport for big boys (and a some tough girls). Mr. Vaughn was treated with much more kindness in my post than he usually exhibits in some of his own responses at a well-known conservative news site. Know the one I'm talking about?

Go back and read the post and the link to the issue I refer to. I think what I sent Mr. Vaughn (and several other legislators, state leaders, etc.) was non-partisan. In fact, I viewed this as a courtesy in reaching out to him (and others) with some information that could move the state ahead, IMHO. I'm far from the only one that is touting middle-skills training as the approach we should be adopting.

Mr. Vaughn and I haven't had a conversation of any length in several years, so how does he even know it would be futile. Are legislators only supposed to represent those that can pass a 10-point ideological litmus test? I am a registered independent and don't bow down to either of the two parties in our one-party (or is it 1 1/2?) system. Does Mr. Vaughn only represent the Republicans in District 105? One of the best representatives we have had in our area was Mike Fitzpatrick, who happened to be a Democrat. I regularly called Mike to chat about issues. We didn't always agree, but he listened to what I had to say. Prior to Mr. Vaughn, Bill Schneider, a Republican, represented District 105 well. Once again, we butted heads on issues, but if you want to talk civility, that's what prevailed.

In my role as a workforce professional, I have to interact with those in both the private and public sectors, many of whom don't always see eye to eye with me in how to boost the skills of our regional workforce. Instead of tucking tail and running away, I've adopted a pragmatic approach and try to find at least a point or two of common ground, in hopes that we might at least establish a point of contact.

In my opinion, you choose to see things the way you want to see them, filtered through your ideological screen. You also intimate that I might be contrary towards Mr. Vaughn because of my own ideology. Here's something to consider. Our State Senator, Lois Snowe-Mello, is a proud conservative. Lois and I have had many a passionate conversation on issues. She's a peach, in my opinion, because she works hard, responds to constituent emails and phone calls, and consistently outworks Democrats every election cycle. I've supported her in the past, and see no reason to not continue. My issues with Mr. Vaughn are about representing the people of my district well, and less about ideology, my friend.

I will say this about Mr. Vaughn. In posting, and writing opinion pieces, Vaughn always signs his name and owns what he writes, rather than hiding behind anonymity. I can respect that.

Anonymous said...

I've known Mike Vaughn for well over a decade from the days he and his brother were blues musicians.

I am also heavily involved in crafting alternative energy solutions using Maine's native renewables---primarily microhydro power and 'energy-to-waste' anerobic digesters; and do alternative energy site assessments.

I've always found Mike to be the 'best man for the job' whether it was running a blues band, keeping his bike with sidecar running, or working with his constituents on various legislative issues.

He's 'sharp', well informed, and passionately concerned. He speaks for the remaining Natives, and has even won the respect of diehard liberals like Ken Altshuler, of WGAN and a constitutent of Mike's

My guess is this a character shot based on the 'blogger's' distaste for Mike's views as expressed on AS MAINE GOES; but definately not based on a survey of how his constituents view his service to them.

As an entrepreneur, I've run into self-proclaimed 'workforce professionals' who don't have a clue about the hiring and training the kind of people who make a small business thrive.

I'd like to see a list of the businesses he's created, and endorsements from former employees before he starts judging others using their commentary on a blog, instead of their accomplishments or the view of their 'customers'.

I also find the timing of his comments coming during an election cycle, rather curious and his support of Mr. Vaughn's opponent a violation of the conditions of the various government grants he works under.

Perhaps he should do a little research into the history of 'HATCH ACT' and the snafu BATES got into several years ago, before someone does some research into his source of funding and finds out he posts from work using taxpayer supplied computer systems.

After all, he is a 'Workforce Professional'; or did he get a license to violate these restrictions.

Jim said...


You seem like a bright guy, at least the credentials on your website indicate that you are. You have some interesting alternative energy ideas--I'd love to talk to you about them, as I have an interest in alternatives to oil. Better yet, if you're creating jobs, I have some potential employees that would benefit from the abundance of living wage jobs you are creating. Think of the net gain to the state by getting them off welfare, and into productive employment.

You obviously have an interest in agriculture. I believe that Maine needs to support this sector as much as possible, as agriculture is one three wealth-producing sectors.

BTW, I allowed your anonymous comment and attack on my work (even though you know very little about me) to be published. In the future, I will no longer post them. Why should I allow someone to post something baseless about me, without other readers at least having a sense about why, or what your motivations might be?

If you have something to add to the conversation (which I believe that you do), then refrain from ad hominem attacks, projecting previous experiences with others onto me, and first and foremost, have the fortitude to own what you write. I do.