The Bolt to the Blaine House ’10 – Dawn Hill (D)

Well, it was only a matter of time before Democrat Steve Rowe had some competition for the gubernatorial primary. Rep. Dawn Hill has stepped up to challenge the Dem favorite.

Dawn Hill serves district 149 (Part of York, Kittery, Wells, and all of Ogunquit). Rep Hill has served two terms in the House. While in Augusta, Hill has sponsored or co-sponsored 83 bills, orders, or resolutions. We’ll get into a few of those votes later. Having that legislative history can be a double edged sword for a politician. Dawn Hill can reference votes she has made and has political experience under her belt. She is an Augusta insider of sorts. Opponents can use Hill’s voting record as fodder. A yea or a nay on a key bill could ruin a campaign, depending on how her opponents spin it.

Let’s dissect Rep. Hill’s website. Now technically this is her House member website, but it seems to be serving some campaign purpose at this point. The site is informative with news, legislative updates, and a breakdown of her positions on education, environment, economy, healthcare, and consumer protection/animal rights. Considering some sites have already touted Hill’s challenger Steve Rowe as the Democratic front runner, Hill’s web site does little to show what she will bring to the table that Rowe can’t or wont. She says she is a “fiscal moderate and a social progressive.” I will not dispute those positions, but I will say that I don’t see how that is all that different from Steve Rowe’s stance.

Hill’s campaign is borrowing a page from President Obama’s play book. Is this page his deftly executed grassroots campaign? Or maybe his keen fundraising machine? No. Hill is choosing to ride the Change Train.

from Seacoast Online:

“All of the rules have been broken,” she said. “Look at Barack Obama. If everyone followed the people who think traditionally, he would not be there. People are looking for change. Coming up the standard ladder is not expected by the populace anymore. Party officials think that way, but the people ask, ‘Who can do the best job?’”

I may try to avoid painting myself as some rebel outsider in the political game when I clearly wasn’t. Hill would not be the first legislature who practiced law for ten years to run for governor, nor would she be in exclusive company. I one of the other candidates, who actually does come from outside this typical background, does not jump on Hill’s statement I will be surprised.

Obama did not only win on “Change”. He had a tide behind him that wanted to push out all remnants of the Bush administration. Obama also had the charisma to make people believe in change. The public opinion is against the current Democratic governor. Though I have not heard Hill speak, I would question if she has the level of charisma that President Obama does. You cannot just copy and paste Obama’s 08 campaign and hope to win an election.

Hill is not ignorant of Maine’s problems. How to we attract more and better paying jobs, how do we keep young graduates in Maine, and at the same time preserve Maine’s character? Her solutions are vague. We need to reinvent and innovate. How? Mine the collective experience of business , agriculture, fishermen, retailers, and tourist industry successes? Yes, we do need to cull advice from all those involved. I’m going to need more than that from a self proclaimed “mover and a shaker” and an “independent thinker“.

Perhaps most disturbing is Hill’s use of Maine as a “brand”. In support of protecting the environment Hill refers to the natural beauty as a brand we must market. Our special memories of Maine are a brand. Even you, presuming you are a Mainer too, are part of that brand. See what I just did there. I took something that is a clear truth and turned it sour. Of course we want tourists to come visit the natural beauty of Maine. That’s a big part of our economy. We sell that “brand” just like Tim Allen is hawking Michigan or Missouri markets Branson as a squeaky clean Las Vegas. Words are so important in politics. How something is said can make or break a candidate. Will voters warm up to the idea of being a brand? Will those who battled against Plumb Creek, Poland Spring, and Wal-Mart buy into that phrase. Even if, economically speaking, it is something we sell?

Hill is not devoid of concrete ideas on improving Maine. Hill sponsored a bill to protect Maine’s shoreline bodies of water and forests in LD-340. Hill also supported low-interest loans for geothermal heating, swifter approvals for wind turbines, and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This stance could swipe votes from Lynne Williams should Hill win the nomination. It also helps preserve that brand.

When it comes to education Hill is hardly innovative. Hill did vote against the school administrative consolidation, which is sure to sway some votes. During the legislative life of the bill, Hill fought for greater flexibility in the consolidation and fair economic burdens on each town. Hill did vote against the recent charter school bill LD 1438. The rejection of the cutting-edge virtual charter schools in such a rural state is nearly unforgivable. It’s a disappointing blow to the state, especially when we are struggling to prove we can be an innovator and a leader.

A peak at Project Vote does show some of Rep Hill’s strengths. Hill received an 80 out of 100 from the Maine League of Conservation Voters. The Maine AFL-CIO gave hill a 100 in support of labor. Hill scored high in civil rights (75) from the Maine People’s Alliance. Hill voted for LD 1020 the same sex marriage bill, giving us the only clear gay marriage stance from a candidate. Hill did not fair so well when it comes to business however. Hill scored 25 out of 100 from the Maine National Federation of Independent Business. That is a poor rating considering Hill is a small business owner.

You might think from my harsh treatment of Hill I think she has no chance against Rowe. That’s not true. She has the voting record to promote her cause in some cases. From her writing, it’s clear that her heart is in the right place. Hill understands what is wrong in the state and broadly what it needs to get there. Can she connect with voters statewide and give them some concrete examples of how she will improve the state? More importantly, can Dawn Hill convince voters she is a superior choice to Steve Rowe? Don’t underestimate Rep. Hill. If Hill can get her ducks in line she could mean trouble for Rowe. Hill has plenty of time to get her game plan together. Then again so does Rowe.

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