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Message Bruce K. Gagnon
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I interviewed Herb Hoffman this morning at a coffee shop in Brunswick about his Independent campaign for the U.S. Senate seat representing Maine. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) are the other candidates in Maine for that seat.

I've previously reported on this blog that the Maine Democratic Party has challenged Hoffman's 4,000 signatures that he was required to gather to get his name on the ballot. After witnessing the Maine Secretary of State deny the Dems challenge and give Hoffman the go-ahead to be on the ballot, the Democratic Party has now appealed that ruling to the Maine Law Court. Herb told me that the court will hear the case this Thursday and I can't imagine the court not honoring the decision by the Secretary of State to authorize ballot status for Hoffman. Portland Attorney John Branson is representing Herb pro bono to defend his right to be on the ballot in November. John is a long-time highly respected Democratic Party activist in Maine - but he is also a peace activist and an honest man.

I asked Herb why the Dems were working so hard to put him through so many hoops. His response included these points:

  • The Dems wish to bleed him financially
  • They are trying to intimidate him
  • They want to tie him up in court so he won't have any time to campaign

Herb said, "I think they have made a strategic error. I could never have gotten the kind of media coverage that I have if they had not challenged my ballot status."

Herb told me that over the past few months Tom Allen had been working hard to get him to drop out of the race. Several times Rep. Allen, and members of his staff, have called Hoffman supporters and urged them to convince Herb to quit the campaign. In one case, Tom Allen called a mutual friend of both men and tried to get this person to talk Herb into not filing his petitions with the state. When it was clear that this strategy was not working, the Democrats began to play hard ball by challenging the validity of the signatures.

Tom Allen also requested a couple of times that Herb meet with him personally at his Portland office. While there Rep. Allen admitted to Herb that he had not listened closely enough to the concerns of Maine's anti-war community. He offered Herb a position in his campaign if he would quit the race, re-register as a Democrat, and become his "bridge" to the peace community. Herb declined the offer.

This is a fascinating story to me because it fully illustrates how politicians take voters in the peace community for granted. In the case of Tom Allen he has played the peace community like a fiddle for years - always promising that "I am almost there" on issues like cutting funding for the Iraq occupation at the very time that he kept voting for war appropriations over and over again. It was only in the last two votes that he has finally begun to vote against war funding as it became clear that he would probably lose the Senate race.

Just recently Tom Allen decided to co-sponsor the Iran resolution in the House of Representatives that gives Bush the authority to put a military blockade around Iran which would clearly be the first-step in a likely U.S. attack. When a woman recently challenged Rep. Allen on this at one of his campaign appearances he denied being in favor of a military blockade.

When I was a kid in grade school we were taught that America had the greatest democracy in the world. We were told that we were better than the rest of the world because people in our country were free to stand for election and not suffer intimidation and reprisals like we see in totalitarian countries. All of these "freedoms" were enshrined, we were taught, in our Constitution - the greatest document in the history of the world.

Today, as people try to practice real democracy in America, we learn it is a different story. Those with money and power want to keep it. People who wish to challenge the existing two-party monopoly, which has a strangle hold on our nation, are given one hurdle after the other to jump over.

It should not be so. Put all the names on the ballot and let the public decide who wins. That is the way democracy is supposed to work. 

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Bruce Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.


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