Maine AFL-CIO Convention
June 17, 2006
My name is Jean Hay Bright. I am the Democrat running for U.S. Senate, for the seat now held by Olympia Snowe.
I am also known around here as Landslide Jean. If you were following those election results Tuesday, you know I won the primary by 600 votes, out of 44,000 cast. It was a real nail-biter all Tuesday night and all day Wednesday, as the results trickled in.
My opponent, Eric Mehnert, was very gracious when he called me late Wednesday night to concede. He said he would not be asking for a recount. I want to congratulate him for his impressive campaign. He and I will be getting together soon to compare notes.
Right now he's on a fishing trip with his family in northern Maine, where he's probably gotten more sleep than I've been able to.
I'm proud to be on the November ballot with John Baldacci, Tom Allen and Mike Michaud. I've known John since he beat me in the 1994 Congressional primary. That same year Tom Allen was running for governor in a crowded field, and our paths would cross time and again on the campaign trail. And of course, I'm proud to claim Mike as my own Congressman in the Second District
We will be a good working team when I get to Washington, the governor, the Congressmen and me. It will be interesting to see how Susan Collins reacts to all that camaraderie. Remember, I wrote the book called "A Tale of Dirty Tricks So Bizarre: Susan Collins v. Public Record."
Anyway, I want to thank all of you here. I see so many familiar faces, people who worked on my campaign and who voted for me last week. I also want to welcome all of Eric supporters to the campaign to come. We will all need to work together to unseat Olympia Snowe.
That's what was positive about the primary campaign. Both Eric and I focused on the goal we shared, of putting a Democrat in that seat and sending Olympia Snowe into retirement. We had similar positions on a lot of issues. Many people told me they would like to see either or both of us in Washington. I think for many people the choice in the voting booth came down to style.
But now I can build on the foundation that Eric and I established, our mutual drumbeat that Olympia Snowe is not a moderate, that she has voted with the Republican Party and the Bush Administration 82 percent of the time by one tally, and that, for labor in particular, Olympia Snowe is not our friend.
So, I'm the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. I'm Landslide Jean. I am also a union member. National Writers Union local 1981, UAW. Thank you Peter Kellman. Think about it - a U.S. Senator from Maine who is a union member. That couldn't hurt.
I also want you to think of me as your Labor Saving Device.
Some of the labor I will be saving you, once I get to be a U. S. Senator, is all the time and effort you have put in over the years, simply getting Olympia Snowe to support our issues. The phone calls, the letters, the emails, the rallies, all that stuff. That's a lot of work.
And lately, even that has not been enough on some issues.
It didn't work with the women's groups who wanted Olympia Snowe to vote against Judge Samuel Alito, even if her vote was just symbolic. She wouldn't do it.
It hasn't worked with all the anti-war groups who simply want her to hold a town meeting on the Iraq War, like both Tom Allen and Mike Michaud have already done. Instead, Olympia Snowe's staff in Bangor had 19 people arrested for criminal trespass.
I am telling you here the same thing Mike Michaud told the crowd at his Iraq War forum in Belfast last spring - If you come to my office to talk about your issues, you will not be arrested.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. My dad worked in a hot, noisy, sooty steel mill for 41 years. I am proud of him and of my working class roots.
Northeast Ohio in those days was also known for its corporate pollution. Remember the Cuyahoga River that caught fire in the 1960s? That was there. When a strike closed the mills for eight months one year, it was front-page news when the first live fish in decades was spotted in the Mahoning River.
It was a good example for me of the bad things corporations are capable of when left to their own devises - without government regulations to keep them in line.
It was also a good example of what life was like when a strike could actually shut down an industry. A time when the threat of a strike was enough to pull businesses to the bargaining table. We've got to get rid of these strikebreaker laws.
Anyway, at the age of 18, I married my high school sweetheart and promptly saw him off to two tours of duty in Vietnam. So I know on a very personal level what happens when loved ones are called to a far-away war being fought for reasons that have nothing to do with our national security.
We moved to Maine in 1972, to leave the war behind us, to go "back to the land." That was quite an experience. We found many kindred souls in the Hancock County community, but I don't remember any of them being Vietnam veterans.
We felled trees and built a cabin in the woods. Coming from a fully-equipped suburban environment, we did our research into the technology of the day, and put together a comfortable home with no electricity, wood stoves for heat and cooking, and "outside" plumbing. That experience, of planning a life around minimal use of electricity and non-renewable energy, is serving me well in these days of $3 a gallon gasoline. Suddenly great ideas that were not feasible when oil was $10 a barrel are cost-effective with oil at $70 a barrel.
I am not frightened about the prospect of running out of oil provided we are quick enough, smart enough to plan for it, and clever enough to develop the technology and industry to provide us with alternative, renewable, energy. More efficient appliances, better insulation, water heated with solar panels on the roof, electricity generated by hydro, tidal, wind, solar, fuels for our vehicles, ethanol and biodiesel, made from annual crops. We do not need to go back to cooking our meals in caves over open fires. But we do need to act soon.
Maine is well poised to take advantage of this situation. As a coastal state, we have the tides and the winds. As you may have noticed lately, we certainly have the water. And even solar energy is significant and can be put to good use.
The beauty of this sudden shift in people's thinking is that a move to the United States of America being energy self-sufficient has only positive ramifications. We have the cropland, we have the engineering talent, we have the technical skills like the ones in use at Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. We have the cleverness, and we can develop the industry to supply the need. And if we become even close to self-sufficient in our energy needs, just think of what that would do to our foreign policy.
I have no patience with folks who say they don't like the windmills on mountaintops because they're ugly. Windmills, or war. Take your pick.
Back to my life story. By the end of the 1970s, I had a couple of great kids, a job at the Bangor Daily News, and as often happened in that environment, a divorce. I bought a small farm in Blue Hill, across from the Blue Hill Fairgrounds, and a few years I left my job at the Bangor Daily News and I opened Hay's Farm Stand. In the early 1990s I closed the farmstand and went to work for Congressman Tom Andrews in his Portland office. Shortly thereafter I threw my hat into the ring to run for Congress in 1994, and for U.S. Senate in 1996. (Joe Brennan won that 1996 primary.) Now my second husband David Bright and I have an organic farm in Dixmont, where we raise raspberries and highbush blueberries.
But back to the late 1970s. Four months after my dad retired from his mill job in Ohio, LTV declared bankruptcy, and tried to take my dad's pension with it. It took several court orders to keep those monthly checks coming for all the retirees.
So I am keenly aware on a personal level of the importance of protecting those pension plans for all workers.
And I am also keenly aware of the need for stabilizing Social Security, since it is the only safety net many people ever have. And it can be solvent simply by lifting the upper limit, the cap on who contributes. Why should that stop at $94,000? Oh, of course, I forgot, that would be unfair to those rich folks who have their own well-endowed retirement plans.
Speaking of Social Security, I firmly believe that if you qualify for Social Security, and separately qualify for Maine State Retirement, you should get both. We need to get rid of this off-set baloney.
The bottom line here is that the workers in this country are the engine that keeps this country going. And, as you all are well aware, we need a better deal than they've been getting from the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress. And that includes Olympia Snowe.
So, what's my plan?
First, of course, we get out of Iraq. We bring our troops home, out of harms way. We also tell our corporations to get out. We turn the oil fields and that infrastructure over to the Iraqi people. If we want their oil, we buy it from them.
Next, how about we cancel those obscene tax cuts for the rich?
Then we tax unearned income from stocks and bonds the same as Earned Income, you know, the money that shows up in your paycheck. If you still get a paycheck.
Make the minimum wage what it was designed to be -- a living wage.
Next, we join the other industrialized nations of the world, and get us some national health care.
Not only would national health care energize the economy, but it would break the link between jobs and health insurance. So many union contracts have been bogged down in recent years over health care costs. Wouldn't it be a relief if that were no longer an issue?
National Health Care is a government responsibility. It's doable. It's affordable. It's time.
We tighten OSHA standards, and enforce them.
We get out of NAFTA, CAFTA, the World Trade Organization. I came out against NAFTA in 1993, before the vote, when I was a Democratic candidate for Congress. I came out against CAFTA last winter, as a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. This is a long-standing issue with me.
I've got a whole long list, but I'll stop at that. So, how do we get from here to there?
I will do my part. I am now Olympia Snowe's first woman opponent in her entire 28 years in Congress. For the first time, Olympia Snowe is facing someone who is actually stronger than she is on women's issues.
That's when Olympia Snowe's other votes come into sharp focus - On the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the Bankruptcy Bill, minimum wage, class action lawsuits, denial of habeas corpus, Judge Alito, and now, her authorship of the bill that would legalize Bush's wiretapping of American citizens. But I can't do it alone. We need to do this together. You and I know Olympia Snowe is not a moderate. We know she is a Bush-enabler. We need to get that word out.
To change what is going on in Washington, to take our country back from the Republicans who are driving this great nation into the ground, we need to put Democrats back in control. In the Senate, to change the majority, we need to replace six sitting Republican Senators with Democratic Senators. In Maine, the only sitting Republican Senator we have to deal with this year is Olympia Snowe. This is our only chance this year to make a difference in the U.S. Senate.
We need to do this together. This has to be a joint project. My name just happens to be the one that will be on the ballot in November.
I'm asking for your help, your energy, and your vote. And a little money along the way wouldn't hurt either.