Candidates for governor respond with BIG IDEAS

Two weeks ago, I made an offer to all the candidates running for governor: Send me a big idea explained in 50 words or less, and I’ll share it with the world as written and without comment.

A chance to reach tens of people with words of their choosing.

My hope was that all the candidates would participate – Democrats, Republicans and independents alike – but I recognized some campaigns might not trust me to follow through on my promises.

I was sincerely hopeful that the Republican candidates would participate. But, alas, not a single one chose to submit his or her big idea for Maine.

But I am happy to report that eight candidates did participate: Unenrolled candidates Alan Caron and Terry Hayes; and Democrats Adam Cote, Mark Dion, Mark Eves, Janet Mills, Diane Russell and Betsy Sweet.

Here are the rules: Any candidate for governor who was willing could send me their best, big idea. The idea didn’t need to be their top priority. Instead, it’s just a big idea about an issue that they care about.

The Blaine House, Maine’s governor’s mansion. Carter F. McCall | BDN

Talking about one big idea doesn’t mean that the candidates don’t care about other issues. If they talk about education or the tax code, that doesn’t mean that they don’t care about abortion or the environment.

Fifty words isn’t much space, but that limit gave me a reasonable chance to print the responses, word for word.

Here’s an example that I provided: “Maine struggles with low-incomes and a lot of people – particularly children – are living in poverty. We should replace public assistance programs, including SNAP, WIC, housing vouchers, LIHEAP, with a simple cash benefit and trust people to make their own spending decisions. No cuts, just eliminate the bureaucracy. Make it simple.”

Here they are, presented in alphabetical order, starting with the Democrats who will face off in a June 12 primary and then the unenrolled candidates who don’t have a primary election.

Adam Cote“Maine lags New England and the country on job, income and economic growth. We have everything we need to close that gap and build a strong Maine economy – and thousands of good jobs – by leading on clean energy. I have 17 years of energy experience. Let’s get moving.” Read more here and here.

Mark Dion“Maine’s government must match the strength of its communities, and center priorities there, not in Augusta or Washington, D.C. The first example is my Community Protection Order firearms bill, LD 1884. Getting family and community members involved is a key step toward greater public safety, and preventing more school tragedies.”

Mark Eves:

“1. Ban assault weapons. All of them.

2. Background checks on gun sales. All of them.

3. Ban high-capacity magazines and bump stocks. All of them.

4. And keep the NRA out of Maine. Once and for all.”

Janet Mills“Maine’s competitive advantages include a solid bedrock of granite and cool temperatures. Technology data centers, built along our fiber network backbone, cooled with geothermal units and using brownfield funds to renovate old mills, could heat greenhouses and nearby businesses and bring good-paying jobs to areas hard hit by mill closings.”

Diane Russell“Foster local economic growth through a public bank that gets our treasury out of too-big-to-fail banks on Wall Street and puts the focus on small business loans, infrastructure and student loans. Modeled on the Bank of North Dakota, a public bank could increase local investment while also generating significant revenue.”

Betsy Sweet“I will offer every Maine high school graduate two years of tuition at any Maine college, in exchange for the opportunity to do one year of community service (elder care, teaching English to immigrants, trail-building). This addresses the cost of education, the opportunity of service and the building of community.”

Alan Caron“I’ve spent years working to grow Maine’s economy and bringing people together. We need a governor who believes in Maine and can unite us across party lines. I will be a champion for working people, small business innovators, a smarter government, debt-free higher education, energy independence and a welcoming state.”

Terry Hayes: “Broadband is the superhighway that our businesses need to compete globally today and tomorrow. As governor, I will work collaboratively to develop public-private partnerships with the goal to connect every Maine business with reliable high-speed Internet access. Together, we can do this.”

Thank you to all of the candidates who sent in their big idea. They are thoughtful and provocative, and from all of us voters, thank you for running and for your love of the state. It takes a lot of courage to step into the spotlight in this political environment.

We are lucky to have such a large and diverse field from which to choose.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at